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John Arthur Getreu charged with murder of Janet Ann Taylor

1970s california murder solved usa

On the 24th of March 1974, 21 year old student, Janet Ann Taylor, visited her friends near Stanford University in Palo Alto, in the San Francisco bay area. The pretty brunette wasn’t enrolled, but her father, Chuck Taylor, was the school's athletic director and she worked for a maritime information center in the area. Janet studied just 6 miles away at Cañada College in San Mateo County and since it was no more than a ten minute drive between campuses she would often hitchhike between the two places to meet up with friends.

John Arthur Getreu charged with murder of Janet Ann Taylor

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On the night of March 24th, after hanging out with friends on Gerona Road, the 21 year old was seen walking along Junipero Serra Boulevard. As part of the major state highway and the quickest route to the Golden Gate Bridge and I-80, Junipero Serra saw a healthy traffic flow. An eyewitness saw the young woman walking along the boulevard at around 7:30PM that night, in what would tragically be the last ever sighting of Janet alive.

The next morning her body was found by a delivery driver. She had been dumped by a wooded area close to a bridge just off Sandhill road. Taylor had been strangled to death and although there were no signs of sexual assault the police believed the crime was “sexually motivated”. Her clothing was preserved and although police investigated to the best of their abilities, they could not come up with a suspect.

This wasn’t the first time a young woman had been murdered within the vicinity of Stanford University, California. Around 4 others had been cruelly slain by an unknown assailant between 1972 – 1976. You may remember an older post from several months ago on the murder of Arlis Perry, who, just 19 years of age at the time, was murdered on campus while praying inside Stanford memorial church in 1974. Advances in DNA testing lead police to pin the perpetrator 44 years after the crime. He was identified as Stephen Blake Crawford, a janitor on campus at the time Perry was killed. (Read the whole story here<<) Although her murder eventually went on to be solved, other local cold cases remained unsolved.

One of those cases was that of the murder of another young woman in February of 1973- Leslie Marie Perlov. Perlov, a Graduate of Stanford, was just 21 years old when her body was found beside a large oak tree in the hills of Palo Alto. She had been strangled to death with her own underwear and was found in a state of undress with her stockings stuffed into her mouth. Just like Janet Taylor, Leslie Perlov worked in Palo Alto, where she was employed as a law clerk. She was last seen leaving the office, presumably, go home.

John Arthur Getreu charged with murder of Janet Ann Taylor

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The case went unsolved for decades until late 2018, when police arrested a senior citizen in his seventies named John Arthur Getreu. Getreu, who was residing in Hayward at the time and had been working as a carpenter, was arrested for the rape and murder of Perlov. Police couldn’t help but the notice the similarities in Modus Operandi and tested the DNA found on Janet Ann Taylor’s clothing with that of John Arthur Getreu. It was a match. Already in police custody, he was charged with the 1974 murder of Janet Taylor. Investigators had always been suspicious that the cases were connected, but were unable to provide any evidence until they submitted the DNA from the Taylor crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs, the results of which pointed straight back at John Arthur Getreu.

John Arthur Getreu charged with murder of Janet Ann Taylor

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Disturbingly, at the time of the murders Getreu had been working as a medical technician at Stanford University. The victim’s families believe that their daughters had no prior connection to their killer.  

Further investigation revealed that Getreu had a dark criminal past, including a prior conviction for rape. When Getreu was just a teenager his father, a sergeant major in the military, was stationed at a military base in Bad Kreuznach, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It was there that 18 year old John Getreu raped and murdered a 15 year old girl named Margaret Williams as she was leaving a church event. Her body was later discovered in an isolated area nearby. He was slapped with a ten year sentence and served 8 years before being released back into the world. The German courts handed him a lesser sentence as he was classed as a minor in the eyes of the law. Prison clearly could not reform Getreu as he would go on to subject several more women to the same fate. So far he has been charged with three counts of murder, but police suspect there may be more and are working on potentially connecting Getreu to unsolved homicides in San Francisco bay and surrounding areas.

His record showed that he was also accused of another rape in Santa Clara County in 1975. Police remain hopeful that they can solve the remaining cases. 

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