Cold case detectives trace DNA to genealogy site to arrest suspect 45 years after he killed a female law clerk
74-year-old John Arthur Getreu from Hayward, Alameda County, was arrested in Palo Alto on November 20 on suspicion of murdering Leslie Perlov
A man who committed a murder 45 years ago was arrested after his DNA was submitted to a public genealogical website and came back as a positive match. John Arthur Getreu, a 74-year-old from Hayward, Alameda County, was arrested in Palo Alto on November 20 on suspicion of murdering Leslie Perlov. Perlov was 21 years old when she was killed and was last seen at the place she worked as a law clerk at around 3 p.m. on February 13, 1973.
Perlov's orange Chevrolet Nova was found the same day abandoned next to the entrance of an old quarry near Stanford University's campus. She had only recently graduated at the time when she was killed, the Daily Mail reported.
Three days after her car was found, her body was discovered by officers under a tree on the side of a mountain to the west of Stanford.
In 1973, @Stanford grad Leslie Perlov was strangled & her car abandoned in the hills above campus. 45 years later, @SCCoSheriff arrests ex-security guard - and convicted killer & rapist John Arthur Getreu. His neighbors are in shock. Sister of victim rejoices. 505,610,710p @KTVU pic.twitter.com/8tjs56i8SA— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) November 22, 2018
The 21-year-old's death was ruled as a homicide after an autopsy was conducted on her body. The ruling came from the fact that she had been strangled and also found with a pair of tights stuffed into her mouth. Her death remained a mystery all these years until cold case detectives looked into her case and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, submitted DNA evidence to a crime lab in the county.
The DNA results turned up the profile of an unidentified man who was only found when detectives teamed up with Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based DNA technology company. The organization is known to collaborate with authorities when DNA profiles do not match those that are stored on the police database. Parabon took an alternate route by looking for the suspect's relatives through the DNA as a way to trace his identity.
A statement from the sheriff's office read: "Parabon submitted a genetic data profile created from the unknown crime scene DNA sample to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding individuals who share significant amounts of DNA with the unknown subject."
Getreu was finally identified after genetic matches helped law enforcement put together a list of possible offenders before they got his DNA. It is still unclear how they were able to get his DNA but a standard procedure is to use items like a used tissue. It was reported at the time that Getreu was arrested before on suspicion of sexually assaulting and strangling the then 16-year-old daughter of a US Army Chaplain.
The man was 18 years old at the time and was living with his father, a sergeant major in the Army stationed in Germany. He was considered a juvenile during the case. Getreu faced a maximum jail term of 10 years but it is not clear how the case was resolved. Detectives are currently looking into whether Getreu is linked to any more unsolved cases.