The Murder of Arlis Kay Perry

On October 12, 1974, Arlis Kay Perry, 19, was murdered in the Stanford University’s Memorial Church in Stanford, CA. Campus security guard, Stephen Crawford, found her. In 2018, DNA analysis determined that Crawford was linked to the crime. Stephen Crawford committed suicide before the police could arrest him for Arlis Perry’s murder.

Arlis Kay Perry

According to her obituary printed in the Bismarck Tribune on October 16, 1974, Arlis Kay Dykema was born on February 22, 1955 in Linton, North Dakota, to Marvin and Jean (Van Beek) Dykema. She grew up in a loving, supportive, Christian family and graduated from Bismarck High School in June 1973. After graduating high school, she attended Bismarck Junior College for one year before marrying her high school sweetheart, Bruce Perry, on August 17, 1974. The couple moved to Palo Alto, CA so that Bruce could attend the Stanford University Pre-Med Program. Arlis began working as a receptionist at the local law firm of Spaeth, Blase, Valentine, and Kleir in Palo Alto, CA.

On the night of October 12, 1974, while they were walking on campus, Arlis and Bruce had a minor argument. Arlis told her husband that she needed to get away for a few minutes to clear her head and was leaving to pray at the Stanford Memorial Church, which was something that she did regularly. She left at around 11:30 p.m. When Arlis had not returned by 3:00 a.m., Bruce notified authorities. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputies went to the church and found the doors locked.

The Investigation

At around 5:45 a.m. on October 13, 1974, Campus Security Guard Stephen Crawford reportedly found the body of Arlis Perry in the east transept, near the altar. She was lying on her back with her arms folded on her chest. Her pants were off and laying on top of her legs in a diamond shape. An ice pick, with the handle missing, had punctured the back of her head. There was an altar candle laying between her breasts. A second altar candle, approximately 3 feet long, was inserted into her vagina. She also showed signs of strangulation. Investigators found semen on a kneeling pillow near her body. They also found a partial palm print on one of the candles.

Arlis Perry’s husband, Bruce Perry, was initially a suspect. Investigators ruled him and Stephen Crawford, the campus security guard who had found her out as suspects. Seven people were determined to have been in or around the church during the estimated time of her death. All the people were ruled out except for one man. Despite the witness’s description of the seventh person, he was never found.

The day after Crawford discovered Arlis, Stanford University offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the murderer. The reward did not generate any leads.

Arlis Perry’s Case Goes Cold

Over the years, detectives of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office regularly revisited Arlis Perry’s case. Every lead was followed up on, but to no avail. There had been several lines of thought that Perry had possibly been the victim of a satanic ritual. Investigators had also looked at her as being a potential victim of the “Son of Sam ” serial killer, David Berkowitz. No evidence proved either of those theories.

Stephen Crawford is Linked to Crime

Then in 2018, with the development of more technical and sensitive DNA comparison testing, a DNA match was discovered with the samples that had been carefully preserved from the 1974 crime scene.

Authorities immediately obtained a warrant for the arrest of Stephen Crawford, the Stanford campus security guard who had initially discovered Perry. On June 28, 2018, 43 years after Perry’s murder, police attempted to arrest Crawford at his studio apartment in the Del Coronado apartment complex in Santa Clara County, CA. He locked himself in his home and committed suicide by firearm before an arrest could be made.

Arlis Kay Dykema Perry was laid to rest in Sunset Memorial Gardens, Bismarck, ND. Several years later, Bruce Perry became a renowned child trauma expert and settled in Houston, TX.

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