Convicted ‘Stanford killer’ John Getreu dead in prison at 79

Getreu was convicted in the 1970s killings of Leslie Marie Perlov and Janet Ann Taylor

STOCKTON, ONTARIO — The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Wednesday that a Bay Area man convicted of rape and multiple murders, including two 1970s slayings of women near Stanford’s campus, died in prison while serving two life sentences.

John Arthur Getreu, 79, rose to prominence in the region after being arrested in connection with the 1973 murder of Stanford University graduate Leslie Marie Perlov, breaking a 45-year cold case.

“Getreu was a deviant sex offender and serial killer who escaped justice for far too long,” San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said in a statement. “We are thankful that we and the Santa Clara DA’s office were able to bring closure to the Perlov and Taylor families for their immense loss and to deliver some measure of justice to an extraordinarily violent man.”

Prosecutors and law enforcement attributed Getreu’s November 2018 arrest, which led to his 2023 conviction, to advances in DNA genealogy analysis technology. In a January hearing, her sister claimed that the 21-year-old victim’s likely attempts to fight Getreu landed some of his DNA inside her fingernails. In January, Getreu admitted to the murder as well as an attempted rape of Perlov.

Following her death on February 13, 1973, the body of Perlov, a Stanford graduate working at a local law library, was discovered face down beneath an oak tree west of her car parked off Old Page Mill Road.

“Today before the court to be sentenced is a serial killer,” said Deputy District Attorney Michel Amaral in April. “For nearly 50 years, this defendant has evaded justice.” He had escaped justice since murdering Leslie in 1973 until his arrest a few years ago, during which time he had lived a free life.”

While Perlov’s murder was being investigated in Santa Clara County, authorities named Getreu as a suspect in the 1974 murder of 21-year-old Stanford student Janet Ann Taylor, the daughter of former Cardinal athletic director and football coach Chuck Taylor.

Taylor was discovered strangled in a ditch by a truck driver on Sand Hill Road west of Interstate 280 on March 25, 1974, just one day after she was reported missing. Getreu was named as a suspect again after DNA testing revealed a match between him and material found on Taylor’s clothing.

In September 2021, he was convicted of Taylor’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. This April, he received a second life sentence for the murder of Perlov.

Getreu was a security guard in Palo Alto at the time of both murders.

Getreu had been convicted of rape twice before the Stanford killings, as well as another murder when he was a teenager in Germany. Getreu was convicted at the age of 18 in 1964 of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in Germany while both were the children of Army officers.

He returned to the United States after serving a short sentence following his juvenile trial.

Getreu was also convicted of rape in Palo Alto in 1975. Due to a lack of standardized DNA testing, he was not linked to the two Stanford murders committed in the previous years.

According to his attorneys, Getreu was incarcerated in the California Health Care Facility in Stockton at the time of his death due to health issues.

Attempts to contact officials at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton were futile. There was no mention of a cause of death.

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