Arlis Perry was a 19-year-old woman from Bismarck, North Dakota who moved to Stanford, California to live with her husband Bruce Perry, a sophomore student at Stanford University. On the night of October 12, 1974, Arlis and Bruce got into a small argument about their car’s tire pressure while walking around campus. Arlis decided that she wanted to be alone for a while and walked to the Stanford Memorial Church by herself. She went into the church shortly before midnight. The security guard, Stephen Crawford, closed the church a little while after. He came back to check the doors at around 2 am, and found them all locked.
Bruce, meanwhile, was starting to get worried. Arlis still hadn’t come back yet. After driving around campus looking for her, Bruce called the police at 3 AM. They checked the church, but found that the doors were still locked. At about 5:45 AM, Crawford returned and found one of the church doors opened. As he walked inside, he discovered Arlis’s body under a pew. She was laying on her back, naked from the waist-down and with her legs spread apart. She hadn’t been raped, but she had been sexually assaulted with a candlestick. Another candlestick was pushed in between her breasts. Her death was caused by blows to the back of her head with an ice-pick, which was found lodged into her skull.
A palm print was found on one of the candles, and a trace of semen was discovered on a kneeling pillow. Neither pieces of evidence were matched to Crawford or Bruce Perry, and the case remains as cold as it was 40 years ago. Seven other people were seen entering the church that night, but one of them, a young man estimated to be 5’10 and of medium build, has never been identified.
Because of the location of the murder, and the strange position of Arlis’s body, some suggest that she was killed as part of a satanic ritual. Journalist Maury Terry, in his 1987 book “The Ultimate Evil” theorized that an associate of serial killer David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam, was the murderer. Berkowitz has claimed that his murders were part of a Satanic ritual, and that several other people participated in them.
Terry believes that the killer might have been a local man named Bruce Perry. Not her husband, mind you, but a different man with the exact same name. Arlis saw the man’s name in a phonebook, and mentioned it in some of the letters she sent to her friends back home. After her murder, the second Bruce Perry disappeared. Rather than writing it off as an odd coincidence, Terry thinks this other Bruce was ordered to kill Arlis by a satanic cult she allegedly met before moving to California.
Authorities, however, have long dismissed this theory. “It has no cult-like overtones- It just happened to occur in a church,” remarked one investigator at the time of the murder. Furthermore, Berkowitz’s clique of fellow murderous satanists has never been proven to exist, and investigators are skeptical that he knows anything about Arlis’s murder. The only other possible lead comes from an attorney who practiced at the law firm where Arlis was working as a secretary. The day before her murder, the attorney saw Arlis arguing with an unfamiliar man he assumed was her husband. The man turned out not to be (Arlis’s) Bruce Perry, however, and has never been identified.
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