Serial killer who walked free for four decades after murders dies in prison

Serial killer John Arthur Getreu, who avoided capture for four decades after a string of murders has died in prison. ( Santa Clara County DA’s office)
Serial killer John Arthur Getreu, who avoided capture for four decades after a string of murders has died in prison. ( Santa Clara County DA’s office)

A California serial killer who avoided capture for four decades after a string of brutal murders has died in prison.

John Arthur Getreu was finally caught in November 2018 and died at the age of 79 in the state prison in Stockton, California, on 22 September, the California Department of Corrections confirmed to The Independent.

“CDCR can confirm Mr Getreu died on September 22, 2023, of natural causes,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Getreu’s first victim was a female high school student whom he raped and murdered at a US Army base in Germany.

Margaret Williams, 15, a US Army chaplain’s daughter, was killed outside of a dance on the base where both of their fathers served.

Getreu, who was 18 at the time, was sentenced to 10 years in prison but served just six years for the slaying and was released in 1969 when he came to California and continued to kill.

Investigators eventually used DNA evidence to link him to the murders of two young women with connections to Stanford University. He was arrested at his home by authorities in 2018.

In November 2021 he was given a life sentence in San Mateo County Superior Court for the murder of Janet Ann Taylor on 25 March 1974.

Leslie Petrov and Janet Taylor (Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office)
Leslie Petrov and Janet Taylor (Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office)

Taylor was the daughter of legendary Stanford football coach Chuck Taylor.

In April, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge sentenced him to life imprisonment for the February 1973 strangulation of Leslie Marie Perlov. Her body was found near what is now the Stanford Dish hiking area.

Getreu pleaded guilty to her murder in January 2023.

Both women were 21 years old when they were found strangled in open areas on Stanford University’s land.

“The long nightmare of John Getreu is over,” said District Attorney Jeff Rosen after Getreu’s sentencing.

“I hope this brings some measure of peace to the loved ones of the people he preyed upon. And I hope that I never have to say his name again.”