Murder of Arlis Perry

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Murder of Arlis Perry
Born (1955-02-22)22 February 1955
Linton, North Dakota, US
Died 12 October 1974(1974-10-12) (aged 19)
Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University, California, US
Body discovered Rear of Memorial Church’s east transept, near the altar
Occupation Receptionist
Partner(s) Bruce D. Perry

Arlis Kay Perry (née Dykema; February 22, 1955 – October 12, 1974)[1] was a 19-year-old newlywed murdered inside Stanford Memorial Church (within the grounds of Stanford University) on October 12, 1974. To date, the case has not been solved.


Arlis Perry grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, where she and Bruce D. Perry were high-school sweethearts.[2] The pair married in August 1974, and Arlis moved to Stanford University with her husband, who was a sophomore pre-med student. At the time of her murder, she'd been working as a receptionist at a local law firm. The couple had been living at Quillen House, Escondido Village.[3]


Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Around 11:30 p.m. the night of October 12th, 1974, the Perrys had an argument about their car's tire pressure. Arlis told her husband she wanted to pray alone inside the church, and they parted. That was the last time Bruce ever saw Arlis alive.[3]

Bruce became concerned when his wife hadn't returned home by 3 a.m. He called the Stanford Police Department and reported her missing. Officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office went to the church and reported all the outer doors were locked.

Church security guard (and Stanford Police officer) Steve Crawford found Arlis Perry's body around 5:45 a.m. October 13th, in the church's east transept, near the altar.[4][5] She was found face-up; an ice pick was sticking out of the back of her head. There were also signs of strangulation.[6] Police noted Perry was naked from the waist down. A three-foot-long altar candle was in her vagina, and another between her breasts.[7][8]


Security guard Crawford told police he'd locked up the church a little after midnight. He'd rechecked the doors around 2 a.m. and found they were still locked. When Crawford visited the church at 5:45 a.m. to open it for the day, he said he found the west side door open. It had been forced from the inside.[3]

Investigators found semen on a kneeling pillow near Perry's body. They also found a palm print on a candle. Neither the semen nor the print matched Bruce Perry or the security guard. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office also ruled out any links between the murder of Perry and three previous murders dating back to February 1973.[9]

At least seven people were in the church during the night of October 12 and the morning of October 13; among them were Perry and the security guard. The other persons were identified; a seventh was not. A passerby noted this young man was about to enter the church around midnight. He had sandy-colored hair and wasn't wearing a watch; was of medium build; and stood about five-foot-ten.[2]

Bruce D. Perry was an initial suspect, but was ruled out.[4]

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department says the case is open and active. To date, it remains unsolved.

Alleged Son of Sam link[edit]

David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer from New York City, mentioned the Perry murder in a few letters, suggesting that he heard details of the crime from "Manson II", the alleged culprit. In the San Jose Mercury News, Jessie Seyfer noted that "investigators interviewed Berkowitz in prison and now believe he has nothing of value to offer..." regarding the Perry case.[10]

Bruce Perry[edit]

Perry's widower, Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, is a clinician and researcher in children's mental health and the neurosciences, and an internationally recognized authority on children in crisis.[11] [12]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b Terry, Maury. The Ultimate Evil-The Truth about the Cult Murders Son of Sam and Beyond (7th ed.). Bantam Books. ISBN 0553276018. 
  3. ^ a b c "Murder at Memorial Church remains unsolved 40 years later". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Stanford Student's Wife Found Slain In Church" (16). The Stanford Daily. 14 Oct 1974. Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  5. ^ "Stanford offers $10,000 reward in coed's death". Lodi News-Sentinel. UPI. October 15, 1974. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  6. ^ Snyder, Jessie. "Detective searches for 1974 Stanford church killer"
  7. ^
  8. ^ Herhold, Scott; Hazle, Maline (August 11, 1991). "Murder in Stanford Church Remains a Mystery". San Jose Mercury News. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Terry, Maury (1987). The Ultimate Evil: An Investigation into America's Most Dangerous Satanic Cult. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-23452-X. 
  11. ^ Bogira, Steve (July 2, 1992). "Child Abuse on the Brain". Chicago Reader. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  12. ^ Perry, Bruce Duncan; Szalavitz, Maia (December 5, 2007). The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook - What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing. Basic Books. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-465-00392-1. Retrieved January 26, 2016.