Maui man arrested for brutal 1982 murder of teenager in California

Gary Ramirez was arrested at his Makawao home last week.
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 11:06 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:15 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MAKAWAO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 75-year-old Maui man has been arrested for the brutal cold case rape and murder of a teenager in California four decades ago.

Gary Ramirez was arrested at his Makalani Place home in Makawao last week Tuesday at around 5:30 p.m. Police officials said he was taken into custody and transported without incident.

He is expected to appear in court for extradition proceedings Wednesday at 8:00 a.m.

Authorities said once extradited, Ramirez will be arraigned on murder, kidnapping and rape charges.

The Santa Clarita District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that Ramirez was arrested following an extensive investigation into the 1982 murder of 15-year-old Palo Alto resident Karen Stitt.

She was last seen walking toward a Sunnyvale bus stop around midnight.

The next day, her naked body was found behind a blood-stained wall. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times in the neck, chest, abdomen and back.

“A delivery driver found her body dumped over a wall and situated near bushes. She was found nude with her blouse and jacket bounding her wrists and legs together,” said Fabian Monge, Captain of Special Operations and Public Information Officer for Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.

Gary Ramirez, pictured here in 1979, has been arrested in the brutal stabbing of a 15-year-old...
Gary Ramirez, pictured here in 1979, has been arrested in the brutal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl in 1982.(Police)

“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “The mystery of Karen Stitt’s death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective that would never, ever give up.”

Authorities said the killer left behind both his blood and bodily fluid.

“Based on the evidence at the scene, we believe that the motive was sexually based,” said Matt Hutchinson, a Sunnvale Public Safety Detective.

Investigators say it’s unclear at this time if the two knew each other.

Based on the DNA evidence, police cleared Stitt’s boyfriend and searched for another suspect.

GRAPHIC: Read the felony complaint against Gary Ramirez

A break in the case came in 2019, when a detective got a tip that Stitt’s killer was likely one of four brothers from Fresno. Ramirez was identified as the likely source of blood and bodily fluid in April, California police said.

And the Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab confirmed the identification last week.

Ramirez grew up in Fresno and served in the Air Force in the 1970s.

After leaving the military, he lived in San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado and Hawaii. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.