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The Murder of Arlis Kay Perry Finally Solved?

cold case murder solved

On the night of October 12th 1974 in Stanford, California, a nineteen year old woman named Arlis Kay Perry made her way to the Stanford Memorial Church after a row with her husband, Bruce. The newly-wed couple had gotten into an argument about the tire pressure on their vehicle and in order to cool off, Arlis decided she’d make her way to the local church to pray in the peaceful surroundings. She was a staunch Christian and had been her whole life.

The Murder of Arlis Kay Perry Finally Solved?

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The young married couple had met while attending Bismarck High School in Bismarck, North Dakota. Arlis was sweet, kind natured and trusted people easily. She was innocent and optimistic and left her hometown for the sole purpose of joining her high school sweetheart. 

Arlis relocated to California to be with Bruce and got a job as a secretary at the Spaeth, Blasé, Valentine and Klein law firm after completing high school. Bruce continued to study as a pre-med student at Stanford University with dreams of eventually becoming a doctor. The pair lived together on a university student housing complex in Quillen House, EV.

On the night of the argument, Arlis had taken off on foot, alone, at around 11:30pm. She often took walks around the campus and enjoyed doing so, which is likely why Bruce didn’t follow her after their trivial argument.

When the young woman neglected to return home, Bruce became worried. He drove around campus looking for her, but she was nowhere to be found. At 3AM he picked up the phone and officially reported her missing to local police who were quick to execute a search of the area. The Stanford Memorial Church was their first port of call, but on arrival it was obvious that they building had been locked up for the night. Then, 2 hours and 45 minutes after Arlis had been reported missing, a campus security guard made a grisly discovery inside of the church.

The description of the state that the victim was found differs across the many reports and articles of the time. If we were to take all of them into account we’d be presented with something like this:

Arlis’ body was found on the floor next to the altar at the back of the building. She was discovered her back with an ice pick protruding from the optical bone of her skull, on the left side of her head near the back of her ear. She was only partially clothed, the bottom half of her body was nude and she had been violated with large candle presumably found in the church. Her trousers had been removed and reportedly laid on top of her legs in reverse to the way they’d be normally worn. Investigators believe this was done in an attempt to create something of a pentagram or a thelemaic unicursal hexagram.

 Her shirt had been pulled open to expose her chest and another candle had been placed between her breasts. DNA evidence was reportedly found at the scene in the form of semen on a nearby kneeling pillow.  

According to some articles it also appeared as though she had also been choked.

The Murder of Arlis Kay Perry Finally Solved?

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However, if we look at this black and white crime scene photograph from the mercury news, we see a chalk outline of the victim that suggests she was lying down on her back behind some church pews. A dark puddle is present near the head and a smaller one around the pelvic area.

This report states that police may have moved the body, but it seems strange they would move the victim and outline the body in a different place to where she was initially discovered.

The Murder of Arlis Kay Perry Finally Solved?

Suspicion initially fell on two men- the victim’s husband, Bruce Perry, and the security guard who found her, Mr. Stephen Blake Crawford, who was also responsible for locking the church that night.

When police showed up to interview Bruce he was covered in blood. He claimed he had a stress induced nosebleed and this was later proven to be true.

Stephen Crawford was also interviewed and told police his version of events from the night. He claimed to have locked up the church at midnight and called out into the building to make sure he didn’t shut in any late night worshippers. When he received the news that Arlis was missing he claimed to search the building and discovered the door was unlocked and had been forced open from the inside. He then found the victim’s body.

He claimed that he saw Arlis go into the church just before midnight and that he also saw an unidentified man go in after her.

For over 40 years the case remained cold, until recently when police obtained DNA samples from Stephen Blake Crawford. They claimed that recent advances in technology had allowed them to make a link between Crawford, who they had always pegged as the main suspect, and the crime. Search warrant in hand, they showed up to his studio apartment on Kooser Rd & Camden Ave in San Jose, California and knocked on the door. Suspicious that Crawford was attempting to stall them, they let themselves in with a key to find the suspect sitting on his bed with a gun in his hand. The officers retreated when they saw the firearm and heard a single gunshot as Crawford turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.

A search of the man’s apartment turned up a rambling suicide note dated two years prior and a copy of “The Ultimate Evil: An Investigation Into a Dangerous Satanic Cult Book” by Maury Terry. Reviews for the book on Amazon reveal that the opening chapter is about the unsolved case of Arlis Perry.

 “The opening chapter detailing the horrific murder of newly-wed Christian evangelist Arlis Perry is truly bone-chilling. The links between the Manson family and the Process church wackos are the stuff of nightmares” a customer writes.

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