Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies were prepared to make an arrest for a gruesome 1974 murder when they knocked on the door of their primary suspect on Thursday morning in San Jose.
The suspect, Steve Crawford, told deputies he needed time to get dressed. But when they opened the door with a key a few minutes later, they found him sitting on his bed with a gun.
The deputies quickly left the room, according to sheriff’s officials, but heard a gunshot and moments later found Crawford dead with what they believe to be one self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Sheriff Laurie Smith Friday said that she began working for the department in 1973, and was only a couple years older than the victim of the murder, 19-year-old Arlis Perry.
Perry was killed in Stanford University’s Memorial Church on Oct. 12, 1974. Smith confirmed that Crawford was the security guard at the church, and the one who locked its doors for closing that night.
Detectives narrowed down suspects after interviewing everyone who was in the church that night. Smith said deputies were ready to arrest Perry after a test found new DNA evidence on Perry’s belongings.
After Crawford’s death, deputies searched Crawford’s studio unit at the Del Coronado Apartments at 5255 Camden Avenue. They located a box filled with important documents in a binder and the cover of a book about serial killers titled “The Ultimate Evil.”
They also found a suicide note dated for 2016 that was difficult to make out but did not include mention of the murder, Smith said. This was the same year that Detective Sgt. Rick Alanis made contact with Crawford.
Detectives are now investigating whether Crawford was involved in any other murders during the same time period. Smith was not able to confirm whether he lived in Palo Alto at the time of the crime.
Deputies are searching Crawford’s car, which was located at the apartment building. They are also determining whether he had any prior criminal record.
“He’s been a person of interest from the beginning, there just wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him. … We look at this as closure.”