(CNN) — A 75-year-old man was arrested last week and charged with the 1982 rape and murder of Karen Stitt, a California teenager, after DNA connected him to the scene, authorities announced Tuesday.
Karen Stitt, 15, was last seen by her boyfriend as he dropped her off near a bus stop in Sunnyvale, California, on the night of Sept. 2, 1982, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. The teen, worried about getting in trouble with his parents for being home late, left after seeing Karen walk to the bus stop, according to a criminal complaint.
The next morning, the girl’s body was found near a concrete block wall about 100 meters from the stop. Investigators determined that she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times, according to the complaint.
The trail was lost for decades until a tip led investigators to Gary Ramirez, who was arrested at his home in Maui, Hawaii, on Aug. 2 and charged with murder, according to prosecutors.
Karen Stitt in an undated photo.
Ramirez was expected to appear in court Wednesday for an extradition hearing to bring him to California for an arraignment, the statement said. CNN has not been able to identify an attorney for him at this time.
Investigators were able to connect Ramirez to Stitt’s death by comparing a DNA sample from her son to DNA evidence found at the scene of Stitt’s murder, according to the complaint.
It all started with the help of advances in DNA analysis, which allowed investigators to create a DNA profile of an unknown suspect in the year 2000 using DNA from blood and other samples found at a crime scene, says the complaint. DNA analysis allowed them to officially rule out Stitt’s boyfriend as a suspect, but the profile did not match anything in available DNA databases, according to the complaint.
It wasn’t until Detective Matthew Hutchison received a tip in 2021 that he began investigating Ramirez and his siblings as possible suspects and finally zeroed in on Gary Ramirez, according to the complaint. He did not state what led to the lead on Ramirez’s family.
Earlier this year, using a DNA sample obtained from Ramírez’s son, a laboratory concluded that there is “very strong statistical support” that the DNA found at the crime scene belonged to Ramírez, according to the complaint. .
The operation to arrest Ramirez took “months of planning and was a coordinated effort” between Santa Clara County, Maui law enforcement and federal authorities, according to prosecutors. The effort was largely funded through a US Justice Department grant awarded to the district attorney’s office to help investigate and prosecute cold cases, the office said.
— CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.