Serial killer pleads guilty to 1973 murder of Stanford law librarian

Jan. 12, 2023, 10:36 p.m.

This article contains graphic descriptions of violence and references to sexual assault.

Former Stanford medical technician and convicted serial killer John Arthur Getreu pleaded guilty to the murder and sexual assault of Leslie Marie Perlov ’72 on Tuesday, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office. Perlov was 21 years old and a Stanford law librarian.

Getreu, now 78, has been convicted of three murders between 1963 and 1973, as well as several accounts of rape and sexual assault. Sharon Lucchese also accused him of attempting to murder her in 1969. At the time of Perlov’s murder, he was working as a cardiology technician at Stanford hospital. Getreu was charged with Perlov’s Feb. 1973 murder in 2018 after his DNA was matched to that found under Perlov’s fingernails.

Perlov, a Stanford graduate and aspiring law student, was described by her sister as “the smartest of the siblings” and “a loving and caring person” in a Palo Alto Online article. She was twenty-one years old when her body was found strangled to death with a floral scarf in the hills that overlook Stanford’s campus.

Serial killer pleads guilty to 1973 murder of Stanford law librarian
Perlov’s body was found in an open space between Page Mill Road and Junipero Serra Boulevard, according to the District Attorney’s office. (Courtesy of Google Maps.)

Getreu’s violence began when he was 18 years old. At a military base in West Germany where his parents worked, he raped and strangled 15-year-old Margaret Williams. He was sentenced in juvenile court in Germany but was released and deported back to the US in 1969.

Getreu was also convicted in September 2021 for the March 1974 cold-case murder of 21-year-old Janet Ann Taylor, daughter of the University’s then-football coach and athletic director. Taylor was also strangled, and her body was found in an area near Sand Hill Road known now as the Dish.

In January 1975, Getreu was convicted for the rape of a 17-year-old Girl Scout whose troop he led. He received a sentence of six months in jail but was released after 30 days.

During the period of his crimes between 1971 and 1975, Getreu lived in the Midtown neighborhood of Palo Alto. In the late 1970s, with his second wife, he moved back to Newark, OH, where he was born. There, he joined another Scouts troop, despite his criminal record. Getreu moved back to the Bay Area in the 1980s, where he has lived until being apprehended in 2018.

Getreu is currently serving a life sentence for Taylor’s case in the California Health Care Facility, a state prison in Stockton, where he receives dialysis weekly.

According to prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney Michel Amaral, Getreu’s sentencing is based on 1973 guidelines, which makes him eligible for parole in 2025. However, Amaral told The Daily that because Getreu “is a literal serial killer,” the possibility the parole board releases him is very low.

Several other violent crimes occurred on Stanford campus around the time of Perlov’s murder, one of which still remains unsolved.

In September 1973, 20-year-old Stanford junior David Levine was stabbed to death outside Meyer Library when returning home from his physics laboratory in the middle of the night. His case is now cold.

In October 1974, 19-year old Arlis Perry was stabbed to death with an ice pick in Memorial Church. In 2018, new DNA evidence led Santa Clara County sheriff’s investigators to suspect former Stanford security guard Stephen Blake Crawford, who took his own life when investigators arrived at his home with a search warrant. The triple murders of Perry, Taylor and Perlov were documented in a 2021 episode of the TV show 20/20, “The Stanford Murders.”

Sentencing for the Perlov case will take place at 9 a.m. on April 26 at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice.

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment.

Oriana Riley ’25 is a News Managing Editor at The Daily. Every once in a while, she drops an iconic Campus Life article. Outside of The Daily, Oriana enjoys running a lot of miles and eating a lot of food. Contact Oriana at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Caroline Chen '26 is a Vol. 265 News Managing Editor. She is from Chapel Hill, N.C. and enjoys vegetable farms and long walks. Contact cqchen 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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