In 1974, Arlis Perry was just a newlywed that had moved from her small-town in Montana to be with her husband in Palo Alto, California. After an argument with her husband, Bruce, Arlis walked to the nearby Stanford Memorial Church, where her body would be found hours later.
March 25th, 2016 Micheal Whelan
Saturday, October 12th, 1974. The season has begun to change to fall, but the weather outside is still rather pleasant, at least here in Palo Alto, California. The previous night, a Saturday, had been a bit brisk but was still rather nice. It was the perfect kind of evening to go on a late night stroll throughout town, perhaps with a loved one.
Imagine that you're a security guard, working on one of these nights. It's a Saturday, and most of the people you know are enjoying themselves in some small way. Maybe they're out-and-about, enjoying the college lifestyle of the Stanford University you work at, or perhaps enjoying a quiet night in. Maybe they're finding a way to celebrate the 13-13 tie football game, the second tie in a rather disappointing season for the university's Cardinals thus far. Either way... it's a Saturday night, and you're left to work the overnight shift.
You're probably not going to give the job your all, are you? You might not slack, so to speak, but you're definitely not going to give it 100%. It's a Saturday night, and no matter how much you enjoy your job, you're going to wish you were somewhere else. So as you go around the Stanford University campus, making the rounds of your detail, you might rush through certain parts of the job. Or, at least, not give certain things your full attention. If you're a less-than-dedicated security guard, you might even just choose not to perform certain duties. I mean, what's the harm? It's not like anything is going to happen tonight, anyways.
If you're security guard Stephen Crawford, this might have been your night. You might have been tired, lethargic, pissed off at the world for having to work on the weekend, or any such series of emotions, but you might have just skipped parts of your job. Not out of any nefarious nature, but simple because you've been working this job for months - or even years now, and you're used to skipping corners whenever you can. You know that bad things don't happen here, so this is just another night, devoid of any excitement or seriousness.
But then, making the rounds again before the end of your shift, hours later, you make a discovery that will shake the foundation of your life forever.
Bruce Perry and Arlis Dykema were both natives of Bismarck, North Dakota. They were born and raised in the quiet, sleepy town in the American Midwest, and attended Bismarck High School, where the two met.
By all accounts, they were an all-American-type of couple. Bruce was every bit of the bookworm as he was an athlete, setting many local records for his track-and-field exploits while also succeeding as a scholar, and Arlis was the conservative, religious-minded cheerleader who was also very bright and kind.
The two met during their time at Bismarck High School, where they soon became smitten with one another. They began to court each other and date, even though, by now, Bruce was committed to attending Stanford University, which was over 1500 miles away.
The two decided to continue seeing each other, even though the distance would keep them apart for at least a year. As someone who's done the long distance thing before, I can understand their trepidation at doing so, but at least I was comforted with the existence of cell phones, Skype, and modern technology. Back in 1974, you had to endure a long distance relationship through a landline or writing letters, which is not a process I would envy of those that lived through this period of time.
Bruce, now attending Stanford as a pre-med student, had his work cut out for him. This is no easy feat on its own, but trying to balance a long-distance relationship while also being in a foreign environment so far removed from anything you've ever known? It sounds downright impossible.
And it's true. Stanford University, located in Palo Alto, California, was very different from anything Bruce had ever known in North Dakota. This was in 1974, just after the flower power era had taken over California, and Bruce had gone from conservative-minded North Dakota to tech-savvy, liberal California in an instant. Life was different here, but Bruce hardly notice it from behind his medical textbooks.
In their long distance relationship, Arlis Dykema began to focus herself on work, and her church. In the year after graduating high school alongside Bruce, she attended Bismarck Junior College. She also worked for the Duncan Perry dental office, saving up money for a major life-changing decision.
Notably, Arlis was also an ardent Christian, and she worked with many organizations for the church, including Young Life and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Bismarck. In fact, when she wasn't studying for his community college classes or working, she was most likely spreading the word of her church as a missionary or participating in other church events.
Bruce's first year at Stanford was taxing on both of them. Each regretted not being able to spend time with one another, so throughout that year the two of them reached an agreement of sorts: they would get married, and then they wouldn't have to spend time apart from one another.
In the summer of 1974, the young couple married in their hometown, at the Bismarck Reformed Church. It was a beautiful, picture-worthy affair, celebrated on August 17th.
For the next week or so, the young couple took a small honeymoon to a cabin owned by Arlis' parents, but then began their trek out to California, where their new life would begin together.
Now Bruce and Arlis Perry, the couple moved into an apartment in Quillen Hall, a residence reserved for married couples. It wasn't anything special, but the couple began to make it into a small home for themselves.
Just weeks after their wedding, Bruce was back at his pre-med workload, spending most of his waking hours in class, studying, or preparing for some upcoming test. Arlis tried to busy herself with becoming a homemaker, but soon landed a job as a receptionist for a nearby Palo Alto law firm.
Throughout much of her spare time, Arlis would go for walks or jogs around the Stanford campus. She eventually found the Stanford Memorial Church, which was huge and as grand as anything she had ever seen. She became a frequent visitor to this church, which is very understandable... if you look up images of this church online, you might be in awe. It's beautiful.
One of the only drawbacks to the recent move was Arlis Perry's supposed loneliness. She recounted, in letters and phone calls to family and friends back in Bismarck, that she felt incredibly lonely.
"Friends are hard to find here," she wrote to a friend in North Dakota. "Many times I've been tempted to go knock on doors asking if anybody needs a friend. But I guess we just have to appreciate each other and trust the Lord for new friends, too."
Arlis would also write to her friends how excited she was to enjoy the California weather, and how life was beginning to fall into place when she got the job at the law firm.
Things were starting to look up for this young couple, but fate, as always, works in mysterious ways. Something was afoot, and would eventually unfold just weeks after their wedding.
On the night of October 12th, things were relatively normal on the Stanford campus. The football team, which had enjoyed a huge upswing in popularity over the past few seasons, had been having a less-than-stellar season, and just tied its second game in the season against rivals UCLA, en route to an 0-3-2 record.
Many students were out and about, some of them partying (as college students are want to do), but things were relatively quiet. It was a soothing night, as summer made way for fall, so it wasn't unusual that Arlis decided to go for a walk. According to Bruce, this wasn't an unusual activity for her, and on this night, Bruce decided to join her. He set down his medical textbooks for a short while, and accompanied her out into the night air.
The two walked for a short while, aiming for a mailbox in the distance. Arlis had a bundle of letters to deliver to her friends and family in North Dakota, even though the post wouldn't be picking them up until Monday morning. But Bruce figured that this would be a good jaunt for the two to spend time on, and things were going fine for a while.
Eventually, a fork in the couple's conversation led to a small bickering match. It's hard to know how this came to light, but the couple began to argue about which one of the two was responsible for putting air into the couple's vehicle. A silly argument, but I'm sure that each of us can empathize. I remember some ridiculous argument with my own wife that started with the subject of whose shampoo was being used, so I get it.
But at the tail end of this small argument, taking place on the Stanford campus just before midnight, Arlis requested for her husband to give her some alone time. They were nearby the Stanford Memorial Church, a place she frequented on her own and with Bruce, and Bruce was more than willing to let the two find cooler heads on their own. He headed back to the couple's apartment at Quillen Hall, roughly half a mile away, while Arlis went inside the church to pray.
When Arlis went into the church, there were two people inside that noticed her entrance. She sat up at the front of the church, on the left hand side, and knelt down to pray. The two silent worshipers, sitting in the back of the church, took note of her presence before they themselves left, just moments later.
As the two young worshipers were leaving, they noticed a young man entering the church. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five years old, with parted, sandy blond hair and a medium build. The witnesses only remember him as looking youthful, and wearing a short-sleeved, blue shirt.
While Bruce returned home and began mentally preparing for his argument with Arlis to continue in a short while, something else was unfolding. Something dark and terrifying.
At the beginning of the podcast, I had you, the listener, imagine yourself as a overnight security guard that worked on the weekends. That was the job description of Stephen Crawford, who worked on the Stanford campus in the 1970s.
Stephen was working on the night in question, October 12th, 1974. He was responsible for going around and ensuring the buildings were all closed and locked up at the proper times, and he was responsible for closing up the Stanford Memorial Church on the night Arlis Perry stopped by.
The church closed at midnight, which is just minutes after Arlis was last seen by the two eyewitnesses. According to his testimony, Stephen briefly entered the church, and gave the following message, which echoed off of the church's reverberant walls:
"We're closing for the night. The church is being locked for the night now. If anyone is here, you'll have to leave."
This was shortly after midnight, as Stephen was running just a few minutes behind on his shift. By his account, it was roughly 12:10 AM when he locked up the Church with that message, seeing nobody in the Church. Not Arlis, not the later eyewitnesses, nor the sandy-haired gentleman seen entering the church just minutes earlier. According to Stephen, he then locked up the church, leaving whatever secrets were unfolding to themselves.
Bruce Perry was waiting alone at their apartment for a short while, waiting for his young, petite wife to return home after a few minutes alone at the church. They only lived half a mile away, which isn't too far, and by 12:15, fear began to linger at the back of Bruce's mind.
According to him, he left the apartment and began to head up to the church. Hoping to at least encounter Arlis along the way, Bruce was surprised to make it all the way up to the Memorial Church and find the doors closed, locked, and the lights turned off. He traveled to a side door, and even to the back of the church, finding nothing of note and no doors opened.
Bruce then began to comb the campus, looking for any sign of Arlis. It wasn't like she had any friends or family to call or visit, since she had only been in California for a matter of weeks and constantly reminded Bruce that she knew no one in the area. Also, with her rather conservative nature, the odds of her stumbling upon a party were slim to none. So he decided to look around, double-checking their route home, and hoping to run into her on the way there. Or, God willing, find her already back at their cozy apartment.
There was at least one witness, walking by the Stanford Memorial Church, that reported hearing an obscure sound, but that wouldn't be reported until later. On this night, it could have been anything, but no one would assume that it would be hostile or scary in nature.
Bruce Perry returned to the couple's apartment, and found himself facing an empty home. He began to resign himself to the hopes that Arlis was just upset and decided to go on an extended walk, or somehow fell asleep inside of the Church and would be returning home any minute now.
At around two o'clock in the morning, security guard Stephen Crawford was making another round around the Stanford campus. His job required him to make a visit through the church and make sure that there were no intruders or stragglers, and he supposedly did just that. The doors were closed and locked, and he reported that he saw and heard nothing while doing this.
It wasn't until three in the morning, over three hours since she had last been seen, that Bruce Perry decided to phone the police and report his wife as missing. Nothing would keep her away for this long duration of time, no matter how serious their argument about tire pressure had gotten.
Bruce told the dispatcher that he was worried she might have fallen asleep inside of the church, and been locked inside as a result.
Stanford security officers responded to the call, heading to the Memorial Church. It seems that these security officers didn't do much digging, as they found the church doors locked, and reported that it was unlikely for there to be anyone inside. Despite the large nature of the church itself, there was no way for them to see inside and they reportedly decided not to follow up on this lead.
The truth about Arlis Perry wouldn't be discovered until hours later, by the same security guard that had locked up the Stanford Memorial Church the night before. And, unfortunately, what he found was the stuff of nightmares.
It was a short while after five-thirty in the morning, and Stephen Crawford was making another sweep of the campus. He was walking by the Memorial Church, checking to make sure that the doors were locked and secure, when he noticed that a side door had been opened. Police would later find that it had been forced open from the inside, leading to many theories about what had happened on that fateful night.
Investigating the open door on the side of the church, Crawford proceeded in with trepidation. He looked into the church, and found the alter to be untouched. Nothing of value had been stolen from it or the area, so it must have crossed Crawford's mind that it was nothing serious: petty kids looking for a place to be alone, or something similar. I'm not sure how Crawford's mind was working on this night, but he continued into the church, investigating the source of the open door.
On the left-hand side of the church, among the front row of the pews where she had last been seen alive by the two eyewitnesses hours earlier, Crawford would find Arlis Perry's body. She was naked from the waist down, with her pants draped across her lower half, almost in a ritualistic fashion.
Sadly, Arlis Perry's last moments had been brutal and terrifying. She had been beaten and choked, to a serious degree but that wasn't what had killed her. Whoever her killer was had come prepared, and brought with them an ice pick, which was then lodged into her skull from behind her left ear.
However, that wasn't the end of it. Either before she had been killed, or even after her brutal death, her body had been arranged and abused in a sadistic manner. Her blouse was ripped open, and her cold arms were held across her chest, holding close an altar candle placed between her breasts.
Worst of all, and a warning to all of you, this is terrible: a large, 30-inch candle had been forced into her vagina, as a final gory desecration of her body.
Obviously, Crawford had to struggle with that mental image for the rest of his life. He immediately called his superiors, who got in touch with the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department, who held criminal jurisdiction over Stanford University.
Before long, police officers and detectives were on the scene, and the planned Sunday mass was moved to the back area of the church, where Reverend Robert Hammerton-Kelly's service took on a much darker tone.
Reverend Hammerton-Kelly was a witness to the crime scene, which he personally described as "ritualistic and satanic." He wanted to continue with the Sunday mass because, in his words, he "wasn't going to let evil triumph."
Now that the fate of Arlis Perry was known, it was time to find her killer, or killers. And that began by delivering the horrifying news to her now-suspicious husband, Bruce.
As far as investigations go, they generally start from the inside-out. You investigate the suspect's spouse and immediate family, then follow it up by secondary family members and close friends, then coworkers, etc. etc. I'm sure by now you all know the drill.
Almost immediately, the police headed to the Perry couple's apartment at Quillen Hall. There, they were surprised to find Bruce Perry answering the door, covered in blood.
According to Maury Terry's book, "The Ultimate Evil," the detectives that made this house call wanted to arrest Perry on the spot. Here he was, covered in blood, and his young, pretty wife had just been brutally murdered hours beforehand.
However, the blood that Perry was covered in was his own. He claims that he gets chronic nosebleeds when he is stressed out, a thing that I am very, very familiar with. I'm the same way, and my nose gets very sensitive around the change of the seasons. This happening in mid-October, as summer gives way for fall, is pretty explainable for me.
So, as suspicious as he originally was to investigators, based on the rather newfound nature of their relationship and his suspicious appearance to early investigators, police weren't able to find much evidence linking Perry to the crime. The blood that he was covered in was tested and determined to be of the same type as his own, which I'm assuming was different than Arlis Perry's blood type, and he passed a polygraph test quite easily.
Of course, polygraph tests are now known to be very fickle in nature, and not at all a good measure of truth, but back in 1974, the tests were seen as gospel for criminal investigators. For them, this was enough to eliminate Bruce Perry as a suspect.
From the get-go, detectives were focusing on finding a suspect that was a sexual deviant, or a criminal that focused on sex-related crimes. It appeared that Arlis Perry hadn't been raped by her killer, but there was the matter of the candle found inside of her, and there was a church pillow found nearby the body, which had semen on it.
Speaking of the candle found in Arlis' vagina, the police were able to lift a palm-print from the surface of the candle, a palm-print that didn't match either Bruce Perry or the security guard who discovered the body, Stephen Crawford. They focused on finding a match for the print, but didn't have any luck in the one-hundred-plus suspects they took a peek at.
The investigation had a rough go of it early on, but it wouldn't get any easier.
Police began to determine that Arlis had been murdered at roughly midnight, meaning that Stephen Crawford, the Stanford security guard, had likely not swept through the Memorial Church after 2:00 AM like he said he had. If he had indeed done a search of the church at this time, then it implied that Arlis was still alive and being kept hidden by her attacker, at least in some way in some way.
This would bring about a darker theory, indeed... it's possible that whoever had murdered Arlis Perry had done so deliberately and slowly. She might have heard Stephen Crawford's pacing of the church, his rushed checking of the outer doors, and she might have even heard her own husband's pleas for his wife to come out shortly after midnight.
Police would determine that the side door, which Stephen Crawford found ajar, had been forced open from the inside. This would imply that if the police and Stephen Crawford had checked this door on separate occasions before three o'clock in the morning, then whomever had been inside had been in there for hours, alone with Arlis. It's very likely that this killer remained inside of the church until the Stanford security officers arrived after Bruce Perry's panicked 3:00 AM 911 call, and then decided to get out while they still could.
Either way, it's likely that Arlis Perry's death was not only brutal, but she had to endure much before she met her eventual fate. Seeing as Arlis didn't know anyone in the surrounding area other than her husband, the question began to be asked: who would do such a horrendous, violent thing to a complete stranger inside of a church?
The memorial service for Arlis Perry was held just a few days after her murder, on October 15th. Morbidly, it took place at the Stanford Memorial Church where she had been found just two days earlier.
Bruce Perry was joined by his father and other family members at the front rows of the church, just feet away from where Arlis' body had been found.
Sadly, there was nobody there that truly knew Arlis other than Bruce. She hadn't been in California long enough to make any friends, but they would hold a separate ceremony for her back in Bismarck.
But before her funeral would take place in North Dakota, something interesting happened at her memorial service at the Stanford Church. A coworker of hers that worked at the Palo Alto law firm was in attendance, and he was surprised to see Bruce Perry. Not because of Perry himself, but because he originally thought that Bruce Perry was another man entirely.
According to this coworker, Arlis had started at the law firm just two weeks before her untimely murder. During this time period, she had not wanted Bruce to visit her at work, just because she wanted to establish herself as a worker and a valuable employee before bringing in personal friends or family members. So Bruce never paid her a visit while she was working, but another man had, on the day before her murder.
This man, the coworker told the sheriff's department later on, was whom he had imagined Bruce to be. He was in his early twenties, with regular-length blond hair and he stood about five-foot-ten. According to this coworker, this blonde-haired young man was a bit stocky on the athletic side of things, but looked relatively normal. Hence why the coworker mistook them for Bruce Perry, pre-med Stanford student.
According to this coworker, this young man paid Arlis a visit on Friday, October 11th, which as I stated was just the day before her murder. Apparently, the conversation between this young man and Arlis had been rather serious in nature, lasting for close to fifteen minutes, hence the coworker's reluctance to ask her about it.
Surprisingly enough, the detectives investigating the crime at the time didn't do much digging into this potential suspect. Despite the fact that this general description matched up with the young man seen entering the church shortly before Arlis' murder, the investigators didn't do much following up with it.
It's possible that looking for a well-groomed, sandy-blonde haired young man in 1970's Palo Alto was just too much of a stretch. And I can't really blame them... that must have described half of the Stanford populace back then, and maybe still does. But there is surprisingly little follow-up about it, which may perhaps be uncovered because this still is, decades later, an open case.
On Friday, October 18th, less than a week after her grisly murder, Arlis Perry was returned to her home of Bismarck, North Dakota.
A funeral took place for her at the same place she had gotten married to Bruce Perry less than two months earlier, at the Bismarck Reformed Church. Her friends and family were outraged, and rightfully so... their daughter, a young woman dedicated to her faith and to her family, had not even been gone for a quarter of the year and she had been horribly murdered by an unknown assailant.
The horrid details of her murder weren't publicly released for some time. Thankfully, all that her family and friends knew of her murder, at the time, was that she had been murdered. They didn't know about the candle, they didn't know about the ice pick, they didn't know about the church pillow... they were saved those horrible details, at least for some time.
Arlis Perry was buried in a local plot, in the North Dakota town that she had loved to call home. She was finally home among her family and friends, but the circumstances were as dour and depressing as possible.
Things could finally start to heal, for her friends, her family, and for her husband, now a widower. But while things could now begin to heal, so many questions were left unanswered.
At around Halloween, less than two weeks after Arlis had been laid to rest, a temporary grave marker at her burial site was stolen. This was seen as cold and heartless by those close to her, but also very suspicious by those critical of the investigation.
To these critics, this was a telltale clue that her killer - or killers - resided in Bismarck. None of the other grave markers at the cemetery were disturbed, just Arlis Perry's, which led many to believe that those responsible for the crime had claimed it as some kind of sick, morbid prize.
This seemed to somewhat fit in with what the Santa Clara detectives had released, that there were at least two of Arlis' personal items stolen from the crime scene. Perhaps the killer had come back for another, a trophy of their dastardly, sick act.
But, of course, this theory leads to something rather far-fetched. If the killer WAS from Bismarck, would they really have stalked Arlis all the way to the California coast in an effort to get at her? Such a thing would not only be a surmountable task, but a costly and noticeable one.
The detectives at the time of the murder have been criticized over the years and decades for not doing enough follow-up, especially in the Bismarck area. While unlikely, it is very possible that Arlis Perry's killer hailed from this North Dakota town, and followed her all the way to Stanford in an effort to exact some sort of perceived revenge, or to simply lash out at her.
In Maury Terry's book, "The Ultimate Evil," he alleges that a rumor started by Bruce Perry's parents involves Arlis trying to reach out to some Satanic cultists in the Bismarck area, in the year before she moved out to California. In this book, he theorizes that perhaps some of these cultists took the initiative to track her down, states away, and stage some kind of Satanic ritual involving her inside of a church.
I not only find this theory far-fetched, but also highly unlikely. In the same book, which I did get a lot of the details about the crime for this episode, Terry tries to make the assumption that this was just one of many murders perpetrated by a nation-wide Satanic cult, whose members include the "Son of Sam" murderer David Berkowitz and even Charles Manson.
This book came out in 1987, amid the United States' Satanic Panic heyday, and grasps at a lot of straws to make the connection to this being a religious-fueled crime. While one finds it hard to ignore the religious imagery of the crime, especially when it comes to the location of the murder and the state of which Arlis Perry's body was found, it's hard to connect the dots to this being part of a nationwide conspiracy theory involving human sacrifice.
David Berkowitz himself was the one who jump-started these rumors, back in 1979, when he sent a book about witchcraft to North Dakota officials, with a hand-written side-note which read: "Arlis Perry - hunted, stalked, and slain, followed to California, Stanford University."
If you're not familiar with David Berkowitz or the Son of Sam slayings, they were a rash of murders that took place in New York City in 1976 and 1977, ultimately killing six and wounding seven others. I won't go into full detail on them, but David Berkowitz was eventually arrested and admitted to the crimes, claiming that he had been given orders from his neighbor's dog to commit the murders. He was found to be mentally competent enough to stand trial, and was sentenced to serve six life sentences in prison for the crimes.
During this time, he wrote many inflammatory letters to police and other authorities, and seemed to enjoy the near-celebrity status he obtained by doing so. Eventually, there were laws passed that stopped criminals from profiting off of their crimes, known as the "Son of Sam Laws" in his honor.
He began to circulate the Satanic cult rumors shortly after his arrest, and after already admitting to the crimes. Most considered the rumors to be silly - perhaps just Berkowitz trying to keep his fifteen minutes of undue fame lasting longer than possible - but there were others that were intrigued enough to dig into the rumors, and some that bought into them, hook-line-and-sinker.
It's not my job to tell you what to think. I try and avoid that on this podcast. But I personally find it hard to believe that Berkowitz wasn't responsible for all of his own crimes, which he alleged in these initial rumors. He claims that the same nation-wide satanic cult that killed Arlis Perry was responsible for other murders around the country, and that he was a member of this cult. He tried to tie other notable serial killers into this cult, such as Charles Manson and Otis Toole, but years of digging by journalists and investigators have uncovered only soft pools of evidence, linking the crimes only through violent acts. There is little to no evidence suggesting a legitimate nation-wide cult that practices in human sacrifice, which is why I find the theories so hard to swallow.
It's also worth noting that many FBI investigators and profilers have gone on-record, calling Berkowitz' later claims bogus. Psychologists and forensic anthropologists have gone on-record, stating that these are most likely fantasies constructed by Berkowitz in his extended imprisonment, where he has been for now over forty years.
Now going on 42 years, the murder of Arlis Perry is still an open case. Her murderer has never been found, and her family has had no sense of justice.
"I guess I would like to see it solved," said Arlis Perry's mother, Jean Dykema. "But there's somebody greater than us that's going to punish that person. We don't have to worry about that. And it won't bring her back."
Bruce Perry would eventually graduate with an MD and a doctorate's from Northwestern University, and go on to become a internationally-recognized children's mental health expert. He specialized in working with children that have suffered through serious trauma. He has become recognized for his work in helping aid children that suffered through the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco massacre, and the Columbine shooting, and has appeared on multiple TV shows to explain his work and his goals. He's even written a couple of books about childhood trauma. Since 1974, he has remarried, and not surprisingly, has spoken very little about Arlis Perry and her murder.
Stephen Crawford, the security guard that was patrolling the Stanford campus around the crime-scene on the fateful night of October 12th, 1974, was arrested in April of 1992 for theft. Apparently, in the years following the Arlis Perry murder, Crawford stole hundreds of objects from the Stanford University campus, a crime spree that had been documented for years. He was 46 at the time, and had hundreds of objects on display in his Gilroy, California home, including books and items personally given to the school's founder, Leland Stanford. Little is known or can be found of what his life was like after this arrest, but I can only assume that he had nothing to do with the murder of Arlis Perry.
Only time will tell whether DNA evidence recovered at the crime scene, found at a time before the technology existed but hopefully preserved, can be used to find Arlis Perry's killer. Whether or not it was part of a Satanic cult ritual, happening on the birthday of the deceased Alister Crowley's birthday, can only be guessed at... but there are still hopes that justice will be served after these long, dark years for her family and widower.
Just like all of the stories that I cover on this podcast, the murder of Arlis Perry is unresolved.
Update (June 29th, 2018)
Arlis Perry, born Arlis Dykema, had lived in Palo Alto, California for a short period of time when she was murdered in 1974.
Earlier that year, she had married her high school sweetheart, Bruce Perry, who was attending Stanford University. Before his sophomore year, the two married, and Arlis joined him out in the Golden State - which was a far cry from her hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Arlis, who was very religious, struggled to adapt to her new environment. She began working for a Palo Alto law firm, but struggled to make new friends, and ended up spending a lot of time at a church nearby the dormitory she lived in with her husband, Bruce. It was the Stanford Memorial Church - an epic, grand-looking cathedral that was just a short walk away.
Arlis had lived on the Stanford University campus for only eight weeks, when - on the night of October 12th, 1974 - her and her husband Bruce got into an argument. After arguing for a short period of time, she set off for the nearby Memorial Church, at around 11:00 P.M.
Hours began to pass, and Arlis didn't return home. Bruce, who had been studying and napping on-and-off throughout the evening, called police at a little after 3:00 AM, but Arlis wouldn't be found for hours.
At around 5:40 in the morning, the security guard that had closed up the Stanford Memorial Church - named Stephen Crawford - allegedly discovered a side-door of the church which had been forced open from the inside. He later told investigators that he looked into the strange sighting, which led him to discover the gruesome scene inside the Memorial Church.
Arlis Perry had been brutally murdered, her body laid out in a grotesque, demeaning manner. Early reports would indicate that there was some kind of occult relationship to the crime, while others noted that it had simply been the work of a violent, sexual offender.
Investigators theorized that Arlis had been killed with an ice pick, having been stabbed in the back of the head. They were able to lift a palm print from a church candle, as well as semen from a nearby church kneeler, but neither led them to the killer. After all, forensic testing in the mid-1970s was very primitive.
Both Arlis' husband, Bruce, as well as the security guard, Stephen Crawford, were suspected. Bruce was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, but Stephen Crawford remained linked to the case... however, police admitted that they had very little evidence against Crawford, especially when preliminary forensic testing seemed to rule against him.
As 1974 came to a close, the case began to grow cold.
Rumors began to allege that Arlis had been involved in some religious feuding, and a North Dakota cult had followed her from her hometown to commit the heinous murder. Years later, the Son of Sam himself - David Berkowitz - hinted at some involvement. When the Satanic Panic craze of the 1980s kicked off, everyone was trying to find related cases to link to this high-profile murder, but none seemed to fit.
That's because the answer was much simpler than anyone expected. And now, years later, investigators believe that they have solved the tragic murder of Arlis Perry.
Stephen Blake Crawford, who often went by his nickname of "Steve," was a veteran of the United States Air Force.
In 1971, Crawford began working for the Stanford Department of Public Safety, as a police officer who carried a firearm with him. A year later, though, a new police chief began to completely revamp and reorganize the department, forcing many of his officers to re-apply for their positions, as well as their firearm qualifications.
Over 75% of the officers were then forced out of their current positions, and - as compensation - were then offered jobs as security guards.
Crawford was one of these officers.
He became a security guard for the Stanford Department of Public Safety, eventually landing a position that put him in the background of the lives of Arlis and Bruce Perry. When Arlis stormed off to the Stanford Memorial Church to clear her head, it was Steve Crawford who locked up the church, and eventually discovered Arlis' body the following morning.
Two years after the terrible murder at the Memorial Church, Steve Crawford left the Stanford staff. However, he had seemed to hold a grudge against the school, and would be later linked to the university forever.
In my original episode, I mentioned that Stephen Crawford fell into some legal trouble in 1992, years after leaving the staff. He was arrested and charged with stealing several items from Stanford collections, including Western-style bronze statues and books - items numbering in the hundreds. He had been stealing from the multiple buildings he had access to, as well as from the offices of faculty and staff members themselves.
This event was just something that I discovered during my research for my original episode - which came out over two years ago - but I found it odd.
If he had been committing petty crimes like that for years, what else had he gotten away with?
Santa Clara investigators, to their credit, also found it odd. They had never dropped Steve Crawford from their list of suspects, but had never obtained enough evidence against him. They had struggled to make a case in favor of his guilt, due to the rudimentary means of forensic testing available in the 1970's.
Sheriff Laurie Smith, who began working for the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office shortly before the murder of Arlis Perry, has long been obsessed with the case. In the years since, she has worked her way up to the position of Sheriff itself, and mentioned that Crawford was always at the top of their list of suspects.
"Nothing ever cleared him. There was just not enough evidence to charge him with a crime."
Following his arrest in 1992, Crawford spent a short amount of time in jail, and was back in the real world shortly thereafter.
In 1993, he moved to San Jose, California, in an area just off of Highway 85, at the 5200 block of Camden Avenue. He moved into the first floor of the Del Coronado apartment complex, where he had lived in Apartment #185 ever since.
Neighbors and tenants say that Crawford, who often wore a cowboy hat and walked with the assistance of a cane, was quiet and kept to himself. His landlord says that Crawford hadn't worked in some time, and lived off of either social security or retirement.
In recent months and years, DNA testing has progressed significantly, and investigators began revamping their investigation into the murder of Arlis Perry. They began experimenting with new testing methods, which would allow them to turn evidence found at the scene into results.
Matt Braker, a prosecutor in the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, stated:
"This case has been looked at for years by members of the Sheriff's Office and the DA's office. Multiple heads of our cold-case unit advanced the case."
Due to these advancements in testing methods and procedures, investigators were growing much more confident that they would could figure out the perpetrator of this brutal crime relatively soon. As such, they began reviewing old components of their case, and that led them straight back to security guard Stephen Crawford: the man who had discovered the body of Arlis Perry, and had presumably been the last person to see her alive. Crawford was brought in for a series of interviews, over four decades later.
Within the last week, their DNA evidence became conclusive enough to obtain a search warrant of Crawford's San Jose apartment.
On the morning of Thursday, June 28th, 2018, Santa Clara Sheriff's deputies and San Jose police officers knocked on the apartment door of Stephen Crawford. They announced their presence at around 9:05 A.M., and from there... things did not quite go as-planned.
A statement from the San Jose Police Department reads:
"During the execution of the search warrant, sheriff's deputies made verbal contact at a closed front door with an occupant in the apartment. As deputies made entry, they observed an adult male with a handgun, and the deputies immediately backed away. A short time later a gunshot was heard. No deputies discharged their weapons. Deputies eventually entered the residence and discovered an adult male with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The male was pronounced deceased at the scene. No one else was present or injured."
Stephen Crawford, who had become aware of law enforcement's increasing interest in him as a suspect, decided to take the coward's way out, instead of face responsibility for his actions.
Later in the day, a press conference was announced. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith spoke, and announced their findings:
Stanford University released a statement of their own to the press, which read:
"We extend our gratitude to local law enforcement for their efforts over decades to try to resolve this disturbing case. It remains a heart-wrenching memory at the university. Stanford has been cooperating with investigators over many years, and we know they've been working tirelessly to try to bring this case to a conclusion."
In my original episode about Arlis Perry, which came out over two years ago, I tried to detail the many moving parts and characters from Arlis' final days. One of those was Stephen Crawford; who I then-viewed as a sympathetic figure that stumbled upon events beyond his control.
I now regret doing so, and feel naive for being so optimistic of his story.
Police are continuing to put together their case against Stephen Crawford, and will undoubtedly have more information to release as their case comes to a conclusion. At this point, they feel confident that Stephen Crawford is the culprit of this terrible crime, and his suicide only cements what investigators believe is a guilty conscience.
They are also exploring other potential crimes that Crawford may have committed over the years, and will release those details in due time.
Bruce Perry, the once-widower husband of Arlis, has since remarried and had children and grandchildren of his own. He lives in Texas, where he has become a noted author and expert of childhood trauma; after almost every school shooting, his expertise is called upon, and he has become a constant presence on national news every few months.
The family of Arlis Perry are hoping that this news will bring about resolution for their daughter and sister, whose case has been unsolved for almost forty-four years. Her parents, Marvin and Jean, continued to live in North Dakota, and eagerly awaited any news from investigators.
Jean Dykema, Arlis' mother, said in an interview yesterday:
"It's been horrible and my husband wanted to know so badly and he died three months ago."
Arlis' father, Marvin Dykema, had been waiting for over four decades to find out who had killed his little girl, and passed away just three months before the likely answer was revealed.
According to the strong religious faith of the Dykema family, however, he is now celebrating in the afterlife with his daughter, who has finally received some much-needed closure.
As for Stephen Crawford: the alleged perpetrator of this crime? Well, Arlis' mother, Jean, has some thoughts about him as well.
"I know there is someone far greater that will punish this person. I don't have to do that."
As of this episode's recording, it seems like the story of Arlis Perry might actually be resolved.
Sources and further reading
- Wikipedia: Murder of Arlis Perry
- "The Ultimate Evil" by Maury Terry
- The Stanford Daily - "Murder at Memorial Church remains unsolved 40 years later"
- Donna R. Gore - "An Unsolved Murder - The Mystery of Arlis Perry"
- Find A Grave: Arlis Kay Dykema Perry
- Bizarre And Grotesque - "The Newly-Wed Allegedly Murdered by a Satanist with the Same Name of Her Husband"
- Neighborhood Watch - "Arlis Perry: Ritualistic Slaying" (Blog)
- The Stanford Daily - "Arrest made for '70s theft of art objects"