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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: Human Sacrifice and Sexual Sadism at Stanford

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 9:52 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr
Arlis Perry was just 19 years old when her body was found under a pew, spread-eagled and naked from the waist down, in Stanford University’s Memorial Chapel on Sunday, Oct. 13, 1974.

Described by UPI as “the pretty blonde wife of a Stanford sophomore,” Perry had been raped with a white, three-foot-long ceremonial candle, inserted with such force that it snapped in two. Another candle was “shoved between her breasts with enough energy to break both bra straps,” according to a 1991 San Jose Mercury News article. Investigators also found a semen-stained kneeling pillow close to the body.

Deep bruises and a broken bone in her neck indicated that she had been strangled, but the cause of death wasn’t determined until coroners found a narrow icepick lodged deep in the young woman’s skull. The handle of the weapon was broken off and never found.

Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, then dean of the church, described the murder as “ritualistic and satanic” sparking off decades of speculation that Perry murder was part of a Satanist conspiracy. Homicide investigators at the time, however, didn’t go for the cult angle.

Undersheriff Tom Rosa told the Associated Press that the murder “seems to fit the pattern of a sexual psychopath.”

“It has no cult-like overtones,” Rosa added, “It just happened to occur in a church.”

At the time of the murder, Arlis Perry had just moved from Bismarck, ND to Palo Alto to be with her husband of two months, Bruce Perry, while he studied pre-med at Stanford. The adjustment for Arlis was a rough one that her turning to her Christian faith, often going to Stanford’s chapel for quiet prayer. Her place of sanctuary soon became the site of her utter defilement.

Around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, 1974, the Perrys quarreled over the mundane topic of air pressure in their car’s tires. Arlis went the campus church to pray. Bruce Perry later told investigators that this was not unusual for her.

At 3 a.m., Arlis hadn’t returned home, so Bruce called the police.

Arlis’ body was found in the east transept of the church at 5:40 a.m. by a night watchman. A door on the west side of the chapel was ajar, showing that the killer probably broken out of the church after it was locked up at midnight.

Police were able to identify six of seven of the reported visitors to the church that night. The seventh was a 5’ 10’ male with brown hair. The only usable print at the scene was a palm print taken off one of the offending candles. Bruce Perry was cleared as a suspect after taking a polygraph test. His innocence was further confirmed when his DNA wasn’t a match for biological evidence collected at the scene of the crime.

Stanford University offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of Perry’s killer. The reward stayed uncollected, and the case went cold.

A potential clue to the case turned up in 1979 when the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, sent a book on witchcraft to officials in North Dakota. A note in the book scrawled by Berkowitz read:

“Arilss (sic) Perry. Hunted, stalked, and slain. Followed to California. Call the Santa Clara Sheriff’s office (California. Please ask the sheriff’s (sic) happened to ARLISS (sic) PERRY.)”

Detective Ken Kahn of the Santa Clara County Sheriffs flew out to New York to interview Berkowitz in Attica State Prison, but the infamous killer refused to provide any details on the case. Kahn later told the Mercury News that he believed Berkowtiz was just toying with detectives. Kahn also cleared prolific serial killer Ted Bundy of the Perry murder in 1989.

While cold case detectives have harnessed new DNA technology and palm print databases in the hopes of finding Perry’s murderer, the theory that the young bride was killed as part of a satanic conspiracy just won’t die.

In the 1987 book The Ultimate Evil, former New York Post reporter Maury Terry theorizes that Perry crossed a cult of devil worshippers in North Dakota who had her killed by fellow cultists in California.

Palo Alto’s own James Franco produced a 2015 YoutTube series based on The Ultimate Evil, further cementing the occult angle into the public’s perception of the tragic case.

Despite YouTube movies and conspiracy theories, the murder of young Arlis Perry is still unsolved. If you have any information on the Perry murder, please contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff at tips@sheriff.sccgov.org 


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Bob Calhoun

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