010 - The Bizarre Murder of Arlis Perry

[Case Evidence]

Arliss Kay Dykema was born on February 22nd, 1955 in Bismarck, North Dakota.  She attended Bismarck High School where she was involved in many school activities and organizations.  Arlis was a devout Christian, and during her time at Bismarck she met her future husband, Bruce Perry.  Arlis was described as an optimistic woman who saw the bright side in everything.  She was kind, caring and compassionate.  She was also described as being very trusting, and this was perhaps due to her sheltered upbringing.  She spent her life living in Bismarck, and had never ventured beyond its borders.  Her father, Marvin Dykema, when asked about Arliss, said “She had never been away from home before.  She trusted everybody.  That was the whole problem right there.”

After graduating from Bismarck High School, Bruce moved across the country to attend Stanford University pursuing a career as a doctor.  Arlis still had a year left in High School and it has been reported that during this time, while Bruce was away, Arlis spent her time spreading the Gospel and proselytizing to non-believers.  One of the groups that Arlis allegedly approached and attempted to convert was the Process Church.  The full name of the group is the Process Church of the Final Judgment.  Established in London in 1966 by Mary Ann Maclean and Robert de Grimston Moore, two former scientologists who were expelled from the church.  During the late 60’s and early 70’s “The Process” as it’s often called began to spread into the United States.  Some have defined it as a satanic cult, others have called it a new religious movement.

Over the years, the Process was suggested to have been linked to several crimes.  Alleged cult-like activity and satanic ritual led to authorities initially linking the Process to the Manson Family and the shocking Tate-Labianca murders.  However, as the years progressed, no specific evidence could be discovered which made a direct connection between the two groups.  During questioning, Charles Manson was asked if he knew Process co-founder Robert De Grimston Moore, to which Manson responded “You’re looking at him.  Moore and I are one and the same.”

Members of the Process visited the District Attorney and emphatically denied that the group had any involvement in the murders.  Some have separated the Process from what is currently defined as Satanism as it has no direct ties to the teachings of Anton Lavey, founder of the Church of Satan, and if anything, was its own breed.  The Process began to fade in the 1970’s and by the mid 70’s it was all but disbanded.  The group has also been accused of having links to both David Berkowitz, who in the mid 1970’s would commit six murders, coming to be known first as the .44 caliber killer, and later, as the Son of Sam as well as the illusive Zodiac Killer.

Arlis continued her relationship with Bruce from afar.  Brad King, a dentist in Bismarck, who attended High School with both Arliss and Bruce, defined their relationship as a pure example of “young love.”  Arlis attended Bismarck Junior College and in August of 1974, she and Bruce married.  Shortly after the ceremony, Arlis packed up to leave Bismarck for the first time, heading to Palo Alto, California, where she would live with Bruce while he attended Stanford.  Arliss reportedly loved her new surroundings, and would take long walks around the Stanford campus.  Several times, Arlis took her walks around campus at night, but Bruce advised against this.  He was worried about her walking at night by herself and told her to constrain her walks to the day time.

Despite her love for the area, Arlis felt somewhat alone.  Bruce was busy with his studies, as well as working a job to support the couple.  Arlis wrote letters home to friends and family, explaining that the area was lovely, but that she had a difficult time making friends.  The newlyweds lived in a dorm specifically designated for married couples, and in order to alleviate some of her loneliness and to help support them, Arlis began looking for a job.  Not long after she began searching, Arlis got a job as a receptionist at the Spaeth, Blasé, Valentine and Klein law firm.

On October 11th, 1974, Arlis received a strange visitor at work.  At the time, her co-workers believed the visitor to be her husband, but this was later proven to not be the case.  The man was described as being in his early 20’s, standing five foot ten inches tall.  He had curly blond hair and was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt.  Co-workers later stated that the visit seemed to shake Arlis, and she was visibly upset after the man left.  To this day, the identity of this mystery visitor has never been ascertained.

The next night, on October 12th, Arlis needed to mail some letters and was going to take a walk across the Standford campus to a nearby postal drop box.  Bruce decided to tag along with his wife and the two left the dorm around 11:30pm.  Somewhere along the way, the couple got into an argument, reportedly about their cars tire pressure.  Arlis is alleged to have told Bruce that she wanted some time alone, and walked off.  This would be the last time that Bruce would ever see his wife alive.

Bruce later said that Arlis was going to take a walk over to the Stanford Memorial Church where she planned to pray and calm herself.  Arlis left Bruce at approximately 11:50pm.  Arlis was spotted by Stephen Crawford, a security guard, entering the Church just prior to midnight.  Two witnesses who exited the church shortly after Arlis arrive also reported an unidentified male entering not long after Arliss did.  Shortly after Crawford saw Arlis, he checked the church and found it vacant.  According to Crawford, he shouted into the Church informing anyone who may be inside that the church was closing for the night, and they needed to leave before he locked up.  No one responded, and no one came forward.  Crawford would claim he looked through the church, making sure no one was inside at the time.  It’s somewhat difficult to swallow this tidbit, as authorities would later state that there were indeed at least two individuals inside at this time, one of them being Arlis and the other the unidentified person who would murder her.  As was his normal routine Crawford then locked the church for the night.


                The Stanford Memorial church is located on the main quad of Stanford University.  The Church began being built in 1898 and was dedicated in 1903.  The Church was built in a Romanesque style, inspired by churches in Venice.  It is adorned with large stained glass windows and mosaics based on religious paintings.  It is a multi-denominational church and Arlis often referred to it as “oh so beautiful.”  It was a place of comfort for Arlis who found it a picturesque location to explore her faith.

Bruce arrived home and waited for Arlis.  He began to become worried when, as the hours passed, she failed to walk through the door.  He got into their car, and began driving around campus, looking for her.  When he didn’t see her anywhere, he went by the church.  Bruce attempted to enter the church, but found the doors locked.  Assuming that he must have missed her, he drove back home, but Arlis was still not there.  When 3AM arrived, and Arliss still had not come back, Bruce could no longer contain his concern, and he contacted the police.  Police responded to the call, and when Bruce explained the evenings events to them, they, too, went to the church.  When police arrived, the Church was still locked, and they felt that she must have run into trouble somewhere between the church and the dorm on her walk back.

At approximately 5:45am, Stephen Crawford returned to the church to unlock it for the day.  Much to his surprise, he found one of the Church doors unlocked.  Later investigation would show that the door had been forced open from the inside.  It was then that Crawford made a grisly discovery.  According to Crawford, as he entered, he found Arlis Perry’s body.  According to reports of the time “Police said she was on her back, spread-eagled, in the church’s east transept.  Her jeans and underwear were off and two 24 inch altar candles had been used to sexually assault her.”  One candle, described as being thirty inches long, was still partially inside of her when the body was found.  Police were able to ascertain the cause of death relatively quickly.  The handle of an ice pick was seen protruding from Arlis’ head, just behind her left ear.  The blade of the pick was five and a half inches long and had been jammed into her skull.  Police believe that the presence of the ice pick shows premeditation, as most people do not carry an ice pick with them to a church in the middle of the night.  That being said, the question becomes, was this to be a random crime, or did someone expect Arlis to arrive at the church that night?  The answer to that cannot be known for sure.


                Despite the candles being used as devices for sexual assault, there was no evidence that Arlis had been defiled any other way.  There were no signs of rape, although a kneeling pillow found next to the body did have traces of semen on it.  There are some different descriptions of the scene, with many accounts saying that he body was found partially under a church pew, nude from the waist down with her legs spread apart, and in addition to the candle that had been used to sexually assault her, a second candle was found pushed up between her breasts.  In yet another variation, it is said that her body was in fact discovered on the central altar of the church and that police themselves moved her body to beside a pew in order to retain the sanctity of the church and reduce the desecration.

Interestingly, some accounts report that Arlis’ jeans were open and spread out, with the bottoms touching Arlis’ calves.  It has been said that, from a birdseyeview of the crime scene, Arlis’ legs and the inverted jeans make a diamond shape and it is believed this imagery was done on purpose.  Some believe that the shape being attempted was not a diamond, but a pentagram, although that is purely speculative. It is also stated that Arlis’ blouse was torn open, and her arms were folded across her chest.  It has also been said that in addition to the ice pick, Arliss was violently beaten and partially choked.

Regardless of which variation is more accurate, it was without debate that Arlis had been attacked and murdered by a vicious killer.  The motive for the murder would become hotly debated in the press, as well as within the police department itself.  Investigation of the scene found a palm print on one of the candles, in addition to the semen on the pillow.  Investigation revealed that seven different people had entered and exited the church that evening, in addition to Arlis.  One of the men who entered the church was never identified.  The two witnesses who exited the church shortly after Arlis arrived described him as being approximately five foot ten inches tall, and of medium build and with sandy hair.  Interestingly, this description fits that of the unknown man who visited Arlis at her job the day before her murder.


                Police closely scrutinized and investigated both security guard Stephen Crawford, who had discovered the body, as well as Arlis’ husband Bruce Perry.  The police went to notify Bruce of their discovery, and when they knocked on his door, he answers and they noted that he was covered in blood.  Bruce would claim that the blood was his own, and that he got severe nose bleeds when heavily stressed.  He immediately became a key suspect in the minds of the police.  When investigating, the evidence found at the scene did not match either Perry or Crawford.  A blood typing was done, and it was Bruce’s blood type on his clothes and not Arlis’.  Also, Bruce submitted to a polygraph test, which he reportedly passed without incident.  Based on the evidence and investigation, both men were cleared of involvement in the crime.  Initial theories involved the possibility that Perry had been murdered after rebuffing her killer’s sexual advances, and that the scene had been staged in response to that rejection.  Others took the point of view that the staging of her body was some part of a satanic sacrifice, or was at least ritualistic in nature.  Some have even tried to link her murder to the Freemason’s.  There were connections alleged to the son of sam, accusations against the Process Church and even theories that this had been perpetrated by the famed Zodiac Killer.  One theory calls back to Arlis’ last year in Bismarck, and it has been supposed that during her time trying to convert members of the Process, she angered one of its leaders, and he followed her to Palo Alto with the intention of stalking and murdering her.

An autopsy was conducted on Arlis, and it was determined that her time of death was approximately 12am.  This is a disturbing piece of information for several reasons.  Stephen Crawford was locking the Church up at this time, which means that it is incredibly likely that Arlis was already lying dead inside the church when he locked the doors.  This also adds a great deal of doubt to the idea that he thoroughly looked through the church before locking it up.  In addition, the police arrived shortly after 3am to check for Arlis, and found all doors to the church locked and that it appeared vacant.  Since Crawford finds a door open at 5:45am, this would mean that the murderer was still inside of the church when police were outside.  He could have been posing her body during this time, masturbating and leaving his semen behind on the pillow, or perhaps even, just looking at the horrible thing that he had done.  Either way, it appears that the killer didn’t vacate the premises until sometime between 3am and 5:45am.

Police did not initially release too many details about the murder.  They wanted to keep the description of the scene itself under wraps for investigative purposes.  Police will often withhold details of a case in order to verify information from suspects, or to use those details in interrogation.  Santa Clara police took this very seriously, and tried hard to maintain control over the flow of information.  Rumor and speculation began to arise, and questions were raised regarding a possible cult or ritualistic link to the murder.  In response under Sheriff Tom Rosa stated “It has no cult-like overtones.  It just happened to occur in a church.”  For what most people knew at the time, Arlis Perry had been murdered in the Stanford Memorial Church, but that was about all they knew.  In the time since, it has also been reported that the killer took two particular items from Arlis’ body that night, perhaps as proof of what he had done, or as trophies.

On October 15th, a memorial service was held for Arlis in Stanford Memorial Church, the sight of her murder.  Reportedly, not many people attended the service.  Arlis has not had the time to meet many people, although several employees of the law firm where she had begun working a few weeks earlier did attend.  It was at this memorial service where one of her co-workers were surprised when he met Arliss’ husband, Bruce.  The co-worker recounted the story of the man who had come into the office the day before Arlis’ murder.  According to him, Arlis and the man got into some kind of an argument and when the man left, Arlis was visibly upset.  He apologized to Bruce and explained to him that since Arlis was a new employee, and they didn’t know her well, they had previously assumed that the man she was arguing with had been her husband.

Shortly after the memorial service, Arliss’ body was sent back home to Bismarck, North Dakota.  Her family and friends held a funeral for her there, but still at this point in time, none of them knew the true details of how her murder occurred.  According to her obituary, Arlis left behind her husband, parents, a brother, a sister and her grandparents.  The service was sorrowful, but for the conservative Christian family, it was also a time to celebrate her life and her moving on to heaven.  When asked about the unsolved murder of her daughter, Arlis’ mother Jean Dykema was quoted as saying “I guess I would like to see it solved.  But there’s somebody greater than us that’s going to punish that person.  We don’t have to worry about that.  And it won’t bring her back.”  Sometime after the funeral, there was a temporary marker erected as they waited for delivery of Arlis’ tombstone.  Allegedly, within days of the service, someone entered the cemetery and stole the temporary marker.  Some people have pointed to this act as being linked with the theory that Arlis fell victim to someone who had tracked her from North Dakota to California.  Others brush it aside and chalk it up to troublesome teenagers out causing a ruckus.

Over the course of the next forty three years, not much changed in terms of the status of the case.  Bruce Perry, Arlis’ widower went on to become a world renowned mental health practicionor focusing on trauma in children and was even called in following the incident with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas to offer treatment and services to the children involved.  Since the time of her murder, Arlis has remained in the thoughts of the Santa Clara Sheriff’s department, who still list the case as open and unsolved.  Many theories would be purported over the years, and suspects would be shuffled in and out of consideration for having perpetrated this heinous crime.  I must admit, the so-called rabbit hole goes quite deep when it comes to theories about this case.  Theories span the gamut from totally logical to oddly fantastical, but in the interest of full disclosure, and in order to give this case the attention it deserves, I will touch on many of the major theories.

In 2016, a new witness would come forward with an account of what allegedly occurred in the Stanford Memorial Church the night Arlis Perry was murdered.  His story would discuss a possible suspect, and an alleged link to the notorious killer, David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam.


                64 year old Brian McCracken came forward to police and told them what he saw and experienced the night that Arlis was murdered.  According to McCracken, he left a coffee sop and was walking past the church at approximately midnight.  He claims to have heard what he describes as “strange flute music” coming from the church, and being curious, chose to investigate.  McCracken states that he entered the church and “this guy is up at the lectern, a young skinny white guy and he has an afro wig on, a light colored large agro wig, looked very striking, and he’s playing a flute, a large silver flute.  To the right of him on the altar was this nude girl lying on the altar.  She has candlestricks burning, one on either side of her.  As I walked down the aisle, he looked at me – he doesn’t seem happy to see me, and then she is lying flat on the altar, and she is looking straight up to the top of the church.  She turns her head to the left and smiles.  By this time, I am within twenty feet of the flutist and her on the altar.  I had the feeling there was no danger to the girl.  It didn’t look serious.  The girl looked comfortable.”  According to McCracken, the man gave him a “menacing” look which made him feel ike whatever was going on here, he wasn’t invited.

At that point, McCracken left, and never thought much else about it.  He felt the two were involved in some kind of a black mass, devil worshipping kind of game or reenactment and that there wasn’t much more to it than two people screwing around and acting ridiculous in a church late at night.  McCracken would say he didn’t speak to police about what he saw, and that he only recalls seeing one story about the murder in the papers.  He reportedly had a very busy travel schedule for his business, and didn’t give the incident much thought after the fact.

Around 2011, McCracken was having a conversation with a local police officer who was retiring.  They got on the subject of weird things the officer had seen while on the job, and according to McCracken, this jogged his memory about what he had seen in the church that night.  He informed the police officer about the strange incident, and was told that the crime which occurred that night had never been solved.  It was at this point that McCracken put it all together, and realized that he may have seen Arlis and her murderer in the church that night.  McCracken would claim that this wasn’t the only time he had seen the man with the flute.  According to McCracken, he had seen the unidentified man as part of the Stanford marching band.

McCracken began researching the man, and was able to ascertain his name.  He arranged to meet with the Santa Clara Police and in a recorded interview with Sgt. Herman Leon and retired detective turned private investigator Randy Bynum he told the story, and gave all the information he had.  This meeting took place on December 15th, 2011 in Morgan Hill, California, at a local Chili’s restaurant.  Interested in what he had to say, and thinking that this may be the first real viable lead in the case, investigators were drawn in, but wanted some way to confirm his story.

That opportunity came in February of 2012 when Bynum asked McCracken to go along with him and pose as a pair of reporters who would get an interview with the man, using this as a way to ask him questions about his past and to gain any details they could in regard to his whereabouts and activities during the early part of October, 1974.  During this interview, it is alleged that the musician admitted tossing away the agro wig he used to wear while he was in the Stanford marching band.  The very afro wig which McCracken had reported to have seen him wearing that night in the church.

By the end of the interview, McCracken felt vindicated, stating that discussion of the afro was “confirmation to me that he was the guy I saw at the church with the girl lying naked on the altar.”  McCracken would later say that the girl looked very similar to a photo of Arlis Perry.  The man being interviewed, though, began to feel uneasy and expressed his disinterest in ever returning back to California.  According to McCracken, the man “said specifically that he would never come back to California to perform again.”

When asked, James Jensen a spokesperson for the Santa Clara sheriffs department, stated “at this point, we are leaning toward him not being a suspect.    Investigators followed up on all leads and fully investigated McCracken’s claims.  If DNA evidence comes along, we will re-evaluate the case.”  Mr. Jensen would not confirm whether or not the Sheriff’s department had gained any new information from the musician, nor if they had even interviewed him in the first place.  When the press reached out in response to this, the musician stated “I’ve never been involved on anything criminal in my entire life.  I’ve been very lucky that way.”  Despite my sincerest efforts, I’ve been unable to locate the full name of the musician, but at this point he is not considered a suspect, and other than McCracken’s account, no other persons nor evidence has come to light to support his claims about that night in Palo Alto.

Another theory which has caught fire in the years since the murder is that the David Birkowitz, the Son of Sam, was involved with the murder in some way.  In a Stanford Daily article published on November 29th, 1984, it is stated that “Police have established theories which link the murder both to New York’s ‘Son of Sam’ killer and to a satanic cult in North Darkota.”

The article reveals several new details about the case, and shines a light on the alleged connections to the Son of Sam and a satanic cult.  According to the article “Based on autopsy reports, police characterized the killer as a ‘sexual psychopath.’  Physical evidence, candles, perhaps the murder weapon, and other articles bearing fingerprints were sent to the FBI for tests.  Santa Clara Sheriff’s Captain Frank Mosunic, chief of detectives, called this evidence ‘the key to the case.”

The article further states that there were over 125 fingerprints retrieved from objects found in association with Arlis’ body, and that a composite drawing had been developed based on the statements of witnesses in and around the church that night.  Reportedly, the Sheriff’s Department managed to track down and interview the man who was depicted in the composite, but through evidence comparrisons and interrogation, the suspect was ultimately cleared of involvement.  If this is true, and the composite does indeed represent the man who both visited Arlis and work, and then was seen in the vicinity of the church, if this it is the same man in both instances, then the prime suspect in the case at the time it occurred has been officially cleared.  All of this changed, though, in 1979, some five years after the murder took place.

Allegedly, Felix Gilroy, a legal aid attorney suggested a possible link between David Berkowitz and the murder.  In addition to these statements from Gilroy, police came into possession of a book about witchcraft which had been written in.  The writing is claimed to be that of David Berkowitz, and it reads as follows:  “Alis Perry – Hunted, Stalked and Slain. Followed to California.  Stanford University.”  According to testimony, prior to committing his own series of murders, Berkowitz had joined a satanic cult in Minot, North Dakota.  Minot is 110 miles away from Perry’s hometown of Bismarck.  Berkowitz was questioned by police and stated that he had been present at a meeting in which a member of this satanic group claimed he was responsible for the death of Arlis Perry.

There is a specific set of files written by Sgt. Kahn of San Jose met with and conducted an interview with David Berkowitz.  This interview took place on December 3rd, 1979.  According to the files:  “During the interview with Berkowitz, he advised that the only information he had concerning the Arlis Perry murder is from what he had readin newspaper articles sent to him by an individual named Dee Channel, however, later Berkowitz stated that he had heard about the murder from someone.  Berkowitz denied being involved in the Arlis Perry murder.”  It was at this point that the police began questioning Berkowitz in regard to his possible involvement with a satanic group in Minot, North Dakota.  According to the report “Berkowitz denied being a member of any such group, however, it appeared to us that he did have considerable knowledge of the occult activities.  Berkowitz became very nervous during the interview when we asked him whether or not he had talked to the individual who allegedly killed Arlis Perry.  Berkowitz evaded answering the question and would not confirm nor deny having this knowledge.”


                Shortly after this line of questioning began, Berkowitz revealed he was concerned about being labeled a snitch.  Allegedly he felt that he had talked to the police for around thirty minutes, and if he were to stay longer, other prisoners would think he was an informant and he would be in danger.  He spoke about being concerned for the safety of his living family members, and wanting to go back to his cell.  In conclusion, the report reads “It was learned that the anonymous newspaper clippings sent to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office from New Orleans had been mailed by Dee Channel.”

In a phone interview with the Stanford Daily, Tom Beck, another officer from San Jose who was present during the Berkowitz questioning, tells the newspaper that he and his partner do not believe that Berkowitz was responsible for the murder, but that they believe he knows who was.  Captain Raoul Niemeyer of the Stanford Police Department disagrees.  In relation to Berkowitz interview, Niemeyer stated “I frankly don’t believe it.  Berkowitz liked to play games.”  Contrarily, Captain Mosunic of the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department, when asked about Berkowitz, stated that he thinks he “probably has some knowledge.”  Unfortunately, these leads appear to have gone nowhere.  When asked for the status of the case, Niemeyer explained that they had a set of prints and once they found the man who went to them, they would have their killer.  Asked if they were now closer to solving the murder, Niemeyer responded “We are probably further away.  We try to solve a case within the first 48 hours.”


                 Maury Terry, a former reporter, wrote a book titled “The Ultimate Evil” which examines possible cult connections to the murder of Arlis Perry.  In his book, Terry claims that the book of witchcraft which Berkowitz allegedly wrote on was mailed to the Bismarck police by Berkowitz himself, and rather than being a mundane book on witchcraft, it is a book about practicing witchcraft which is used by the Process Church.  In 1997, twenty years after his confession of the Son of Sam murders, Berkowitz began to put forth a theory that he was only one of several people involved in the crimes.  He would claim that in he had gone to Untermeyer Park in Yonkers where there would be people getting high and conducting occult rituals, in which he became involved.  Berkowitz would state that the group was involved in animal sacrifice and the use of child pornography.  Berkowitz would claim he was often the scout, or lookout, while the shootings took place and that others had pulled the trigger.  Another piece of evidence which is often used to link Arliss’ murder to Satanism is the date.  October 12th in Satanic culture is a high celebrated day.  It is the birthday of Aleister Crowley, and typically referred to as Crowleymass.  Crowley is often referred to as the “wickedest man in the world” and is a very well known name amongst Satanists and black magic practicioners.

Berkowitz points to two brothers, John and Michael Carr as being triggermen.  Michael Carr died in a traffic accident years later.  His brother John, interestingly enough, died of gunshot wounds he received in 1978, in North Dakota.  According to Maury Terry, the author, and the man who in 1997 conducted this interview with David Berkowitz, the murder of Arlis Terry connects back to the Process Church sect in North Dakota, and the claims that Arlis had gone there to try and convert members to Christianity.  Terry would claim that David Berkowitz knew the killer, who he would never name, but referred to as Manson II.

Manson II had been claimed to be William Mentzer, a contract killer with ties to drug cartels and satanic cults.  He was imprisoned for murdering Roy Radin, a movie producer.  He has long been suspected of having some involvement in the Son of Sam murders, as well as being a “spiritual hit man” for the Process Church.  Due to Berkowitz statements, and Mentzer’s killings, many have considered this a confirmation that the Process Church sent Mentzer to commit the murder of Arlis Perry.  Evidence appears to end at this point though.  Mentzer was looked at for the murders, but Police have had little to say in regard to a possible link between Mentzer and Arlis Perry.

Interestingly enough, William Mentzer brings in another theory.  This theory is that the illusive Zodiac Killer who terrorized California during the late 1960’s may have been the one responsible for the murder of Arlis Perry.  Some have even gone so far as to link the two theories, saying that Mentzer himself is the Zodiac.  The links between Zodiac and Arlis Perry are very circumstancial, and require a fairly open mind to believe.

According to the theory, in January of 1974, Zodiac sends a letter known as the Exorcist letter.  In this letter, Zodiac writes:  “I saw and think the exorcist was the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen.”  The letter is believed to have been sent from San Mateo, California. In the January 12th, 1974 edition of the San Mateo Times there is a report that a man claiming to be Zodiac placed a phone call to police and informed them that he has killed a woman and her body can be found in a church.

Reportedly, police check local churches but nothing is ever located.  Nine months later to the day, on October 12th, 1974, Arlis Perry is murdered in the Stanford Memorial Church.  Although many believe it is purely coincidental, or speculative, there is the strange link between that phone call, the letter and the crime.  In the film, the Exorcist, there is a scene in which the little girl who is possessed violently inserts a crucifix into her vagina.  Many people have drawn parallels between this scene in the film, the letter written by Zodiac, and the fact that Arlis Perry had a candle inserted into her before or after being murdered in a church.

Some have gone further, claiming that William Mentzer himself is the Zodiac killer, but outside of the fact that he vaguely resembles the composite drawing of Zodiac, and had sandy hair, there is little else which links him to Zodiac, or Zodiac to Arlis Perry.  It’s a theory, and it’s often discussed, but to say it is thin is to give a great deal of credit to the theory itself.  It’s nearly invisible.  It’s certainly possible that Zodiac could be involved, but when it comes to the case of Zodiac, there is a great debate about exactly how many victims he had, and at what point he began laying claim to victims that were killed by someone else.  It is interesting, though, that the phone call and the letter came months before the crime.

Another theory, which appears as thin as the Zodiac claim, links the murder of Arlis Perry to an organization which is often the target of scrutiny and considered responsible for dark and vicious crimes:  The Free Masons.  There isn’t a lot to go on here, but it is all in the symbolism.  According to this theory, the arrangement of Perry’s body was not to make a pentagram, or a diamond, but to form the compass and square symbol which represents the Freemasons.  Of course while some have pointed this out as a direct sign that the Freemasons were involved, others have raised a logical question:  Isn’t it totally possible that someone posed the body this was to either implicate, or insult, the Freemasons?


                There isn’t enough to go on with that theory and it seems like something that came out as the result of trying to think of any reason possible for the death of Arlis Perry.  Unfortunately, even the attempted connection to the Freemasons doesn’t offer a motive, only a possible group behind the crime.  Much like connections to satanic cults, the symbolism is certainly there, if you look at it the right way, but there is one final theory which attempts to look at things from a more open perspective.  According to this theory, Perry was not murdered by a cult member, or Satanists, but a sexually sadistic psychopath.

Following this line, Arlis Perry would arrive at the church around midnight.  Two other individuals present in the church at the time exit, and note another man entering.  According to the security guard, Stephen Crawford, he looks over the church, finds no signs of anyone being present and locks the doors.  It seems apparent that at this particular time, Crawford has gone and locked Perry in the church with her killer, and according to forensics, Perry is likely already dead, or dying, at the time this happens.  It should be noted that Crawford would later run into trouble with the law, being arrested for stealing countless items from the Stanford campus over the years.  Although he was cleared as a suspect in the murder, it does call into question his statements about his security duties and behaviors that night, and casts doubt on the idea that he thoroughly checked the church as he claimed.

Police theorize it’s totally possible that the man who murdered Perry is a complete stranger to her, and either a sex criminal or mentally unstable person.  Following her murder, the police worked hard questioning sexual deviants in the area, but came out with no leads or suspects with possible connections to the crime.  Regardless, it is entirely possible that someone was either hiding in the church, or entered it without being seen, and murdered Arlis for no reason other than to do it.  The posing of her body, the way he beat and strangled her before killing her, suggests a lot of different things.  Predominantly, anger towards women and anger towards the church.  Believe it or not, in the years surrounding Perry’s murder, she was not an anomaly when it comes to victims found in or near the Stanford campus.

Just five months before she was murdered, a 21 year old named Janet Ann Taylor was found strangled near campus.  The previous year, a Stanford Junior named David Levine was stabbed to death in front of Meyer Library.  That same year, Leslie Marie Perlov, was found strangled to death in the foothills behind the campus.  This has led some to theorize that Arlis Perry was not targeted by an individual, nor a victim based on any action of her own, but yet another senseless, and frightening murder committed on or near Stanford during this time period.

It has been nearly forty-three years since the body of Arlis Perry was found in Stanford Memorial Church in October of 1974.  In that time, there have been many theories and suspects.  We have seen links to the Son of Sam, and through him, connections made to a Satanic Church or Cult, the Process Church.  Through the Church, we’ve connected William Mentzer, which in turn lead us into the possibility of the Zodiac killer.  All of these theories are complex, but require a great deal of leeway be granted to the paper thin connections.  Given the lack of any real developments over the years, little has been learned since that night when Arlis went to pray and never returned.

It was a grisly crime, grotesque and blasphemous.  For those who knew Arlis, it is a painful memory and a difficult thing to accept.  Her husband, Bruce, moved back to North Dakota shortly after the murder, and needed time to get passed the trauma.  In the years since, he has become a leading individual in the treatment of childhood trauma, and has managed to turn his own pain into a guiding light for others.  He doesn’t speak about his first wife much, the memories are still too difficult to confront head on.  Arlis was a sweet and innocent woman, devoted to her family, her husband, and her God.  She deserved more, but was murdered in a senseless act of violence, and used as a device to desecrate a church, while the church was used to desecrate her body.  It’s a disturbing scene, and a hard to imagine crime.  What makes it even more difficult is that despite fingerprints, witnesses and forty three years of investigation from Law Enforcement, private detectives, and curious reporters and citizens alike, we are no closer to answers today than we were on October 12th, 1974.

Often times, in cases where there are no easy answers, people will try to make connections to bigger things, to more complex conspiracies and networks of criminals.  Many times, in doing so, they lose track of the victim herself and it becomes more about the scale of things, than the person who perished.  Arlis Perry should not be forgotten, nor shrouded in shadow by claims of satanic churches and infamous killers.  Perhaps some day there will be an answer, and Arlis Perry’s name will become associated with justice, another cold case solved after many believed it impossible.  Until then, we can only wonder who killed Arlis Perry and why, if the twisted killer even had a reason.


[Thoughts & Theories]


The murder of Arlis Perry is one of those crimes that doesn’t seem real.  It sounds more like something you’d read in a horror novel, or one of those occult styled movies about evil groups of people who commit ritualistic killings.  The idea that someone could do this to a woman is incomprehensible, and yet there are sick and twisted people in the world who do things like this constantly.  It’s hard to ignore the apparent symbolism of the crime, and it’s even more difficult to shake the eeriness of it from your mind.  It’s even more disturbing when you come to grips with the idea that someone took a young, beautiful woman and used a sacred space as a torture room.  Arlis was a devout Christian and the church was to be her safe space, the place where she went to relax, to think things over and to commune with her beliefs.  Then a nameless man took her life, and used her body to mock her God, to taunt police and to please himself.

There is something about the way a body is treated post mortem that has always gotten to me.  In some ways, it disturbs me more than the crime itself.  Most of us have lost a loved one, and you know that feeling you have at the funeral, or the viewing.  You want your loved one to be treated with dignity, you want them to be honored.  When a criminal disrespects a body, either by posing it inappropriately, or dismembering it, it shakes me to my core and bothers me more than I can express.  In the case of Arlis Perry, the idea that this sick man could strip her down, pose her, use items from the church to violate her, and then have masturbated to this disgusting scene is absolutely heinous and terrifying.

I read a lot of cases every week, and in many ways, the one I choose jumps out at me.  It hits me in some way, it speaks to me or calls out or just stays with me.  When I read the account of Arlis Perry’s murder, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  The amount of sympathy I felt for Arlis, as well as her friends and family, was nearly overwhelming.  As soon as I began typing my first words about the case, I found myself pulled in and I simply couldn’t stop.  Maybe, in some way, I wanted the ability to try and honor her life in direct opposition to the way that she was dishonored in her manner of death.  I don’t know that I have accomplished that task, but its important that we remember what happened to her, and give her the attention that she deserves.

I was startled by the lack of attention this case has gotten, especially considering the nature of the crime.  This is the sort of thing that the media usually jumps all over.  Perhaps at the time it gained national attention, but I found out about it on an obscure website with lists of little covered crimes.  There are a lot of forums and articles about possible links between the murder of Arlis Perry and the Zodiac Killer, the Son of Sam, the Process Church and satanic cults, but in many of those reports, Arlis herself is lost in the shuffle, and its more about the theory and less about the victim.  Sadly, this is often the case.  In terms of the Son of Sam, most people know the name David Berkowitz, but have difficult naming a victim.  With the Zodiac, people remember the letters, the taunts and the films, but not much else.  In the case of Arlis Perry, most people have never even heard of her.

Arlis was born in North Dakota, and never left until she was married and moving with her husband to Palo Alto, California.  She was described by many as a sweet, kind woman who was too trusting and believed there was good in everyone.  Her own father stated that this was probably one of the issues which led to her murder, and it has been speculated that Arlis likely tried to talk to her killer, and offer support, before he committed this heinous crime.

Her time in Palo Alto was just beginning to turn around.  In the beginning, she had written letters home talking about her loneliness.  She made calls to friends and family members where she discussed how difficult it was to meet people in this new place, and how hard it was to be so alone while Bruce was busy studying and working.  It has been said that Arlis told one friend she was so desperate that she considering going door to door and asking if anyone needed a friend.  All of that began to change, though.  Arlis got a job, she felt like she was contributing, and through her job, she was bound to meet a few people and find some friends.  She was excited by the prospect, and her communications back home to North Dakota become much more positive and optimistic at this time.  Sadly, just when things were looking up for her, it was all taken away.

Arlis decided to mail some letters around 11pm, and Bruce went along with her.  He didn’t like Arlis walking around campus at night, and based on the fact that multiple murders occurred on or near campus before Arlis herself was killed, it’s understandable why.  The two headed towards a post office drop box, and somehow got involved in an argument about the cars tire pressure.  From everything I have read, this argument was about the tires being low, and each person accused the other of being responsible for taking care of it.  Following this argument, Arlis decided she needed to go to the Church to clear her mind, and to be alone for a little while.  Such a small argument, that neither of them thought much about in the moments following it, and yet it was the last time the newlyweds would share together.

According to the security guard, Stephen Crawford, he saw Arlis enter the church shortly before midnight, and when he went to lock up, he checked through the church to make sure no one was inside.  I find this really hard to believe.  There is no way that Crawford could have done a thorough check of the church and missed Arlis, let alone the man who would murder her.  I fully believe that either Crawford didn’t check the church at all, and simply locked the doors, or that he just opened the door and yelled inside.  If the murderer were in there with Arlis at this time, he could have either already murdered her, or been holding her captive and either telling her to remain silent, or perhaps even had his hand clasped over her mouth.  If Arlis were still alive at this moment, she would have heard the guard calling in, and been hoping desperately that he would come inside.

At this point in time, Crawford claims to have checked all doors and found them locked.  He then went back about his rounds, all the while Bruce was at home waiting for his wife to return.  When she hadn’t come home, he began driving around campus looking everywhere for her.  He went to the church and knocked on the doors, he called out her name.  He had become concerned that she had fallen asleep inside of the church but she never responded.  According to the autopsy, at the time Bruce was knocking on the church doors and calling out her name, she was already dead inside.  Police would arrive at the church shortly after 3am, and they would find all doors still locked.  This means that while the police were there, and while Bruce was there, the murderer was still inside.  It is during this time that he must have been posing her body and pleasuring himself.

Crawford returned at 5:45 am and found one of the doors forced open from the inside, this is the moment in which he made the discovery of Arlis’ body.  This means that the murderer was inside the church from midnight to at least sometime after 3am when the police checked the doors.  He could have left anytime between approximately 3:15-3:30am and 5:45am.  So what was he doing in the church?  We know that the killer stripped Arlis’ body from the waist down, tore open her blouse and posed her body.  He violated her with church candles, and then masturbated on the kneeling pillow beside her.   I’ve been wondering if forensic teams have ever publicly stated how much semen was found on the pillow and whether or not they believe that the killer masturbated more than once.  Considering that he could have been in the church for several hours, I can’t imagine that the posing of her body would have taken that long.  Unless, of course, he posed her multiple times in multiple ways, attempting to get it just the way he wanted it.

The entirety of this crime scene is disturbing.  The idea of this vicious killer posing her body and pleasuring himself to it is sickening.  The question is:  Why did he pose her the way he did?  That is a question that is open to a lot of speculation.  I can understand how people who assume it was ritualistic or linked to the occult in some way, but I don’t necessarily agree.  Arlis had been beaten, partially strangled and then stabbed behind her left eat with a five and a half inch long ice pick which was left in her skull.  To me, this doesn’t feel like the act of someone who is executing a calculated act of ritual or sacrifice.  It feels like an act full of rage.  Whether or not words were spoken between Arlis and her killer, and whether or not she recognized or knew him in some way, we simply don’t know, but I would have to believe she must have fought back in some way.  This might explain the beating and strangulation, if it were used as a way to subdue her, but if so, why not finish her with strangulation?  Why bring out the ice pick and of all the murder weapons to use, why an ice pick in the first place?

The murder is shocking, and many police who were on the scene say it was one of the worst crime scenes they’d ever witnessed.  They try hard to keep the details under wraps, but almost immediately there are rumors swirling about this being an occult crime, a ritual sacrifice or a satanic assault.  Despite their sincerest efforts, word leaks out and eventually, the press reports the details and Police have to address it.  The more information comes to light, and the bigger the theories become.  We find people making connections to the Process Church and the possibility that a member of that organization followed Arlis from North Dakota with the intention of murdering her.  The Son of Sam has his name thrown into the conversation, as does the Zodiac Killer.  The Freemasons are accused of murdering her for some mysterious reason, Brian McCracken comes forward 40 years later with a theory about a flute player and then there is the more so-called mundane theory that most people ignore, that Arlis was murderer in a random act of violence by a sadistic psychopath.

The first theory I’ll be examining is that the Process Church murdered Arlis Perry.  The concept is that Arlis attempted to convert members of the Process to Christianity during her last year in Bismarck, North Dakota.  It should be noted, the whole story that Arlis did this is based on the statements of one woman who was alleged to be friends with Arlis during this period in her life.  It seems like a bit of an overreaction for the Process to be so upset about a nineteen year old woman trying to convert members that they would hire someone, or send one of their own members across the county to California to stalk and murder her.  I can’t pretend to have a full understanding of the mindset people have when they’re involved in a satanic organization and believe fully in its values and the concepts of black magic, but for me, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The Process has been linked to notorious individuals such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, people obviously prone to violence and murder, so it cannot be completely ruled out, but neither Manson nor Berkowitz operated under orders of the Process.  They were already disturbed individuals who found value in an organization that revolved around the darker side of the mind.  Throughout my research, I haven’t been able to link the Process to any specific murders or actions such as these in the past or since.  Both police and journalists had tried to link the Process to violent activities in the past, but were unsuccessful in establishing any real connections outside of rumor.  Berkowitz would both acknowledge and then later deny being involved in the Process.  Manson was thought to have been involved, but later it was theorized that he had learned about the Process, and used some of their philosophies, but was never directly involved with it.

So you have to wonder, what would be the point of murdering Arlis?  I sincerely doubt that the Process only ever had that one experience with someone trying to convert them.  I don’t believe they would react by considering murder, and even if they did, I believe that once Arlis left town, they’d figure she was gone and they wouldn’t have to deal with her again.  If anything, I could see them threatening her, or trying to intimidate her, but she hadn’t done something to cause them irreparable damage so murder would be a massively escalated response.  In addition to that, Arlis was known to walk by herself around campus, she had a job she drove to by herself each day.  If they wanted to murder her, they had ample opportunity before that night.  I just don’t think the theory lines up well enough with what is most likely.

It’s entirely possible that a member of the church took it upon himself to strike out at her, without the Process being involved.  I’m sure, based on people such as Berkowitz and Manson, that the organization attracted people with sick minds as much as they drew in more or less normal folks.  That being said, it’s completely worth considering that there were members who were likely to do this, without needing the blessing of the Process itself.  If this was the case, though, whoever was responsible must have been capable of keeping his mouth shut since no one has ever come forward with an accusation or evidence.  I also believe if you’re dealing with a member of this organization who has this kind of proclivity towards violence and murder, it’s very hard to imagine he would never do any other crimes, and we know he didn’t, because his prints and DNA have never been matched, so they couldn’t have been put into the system based on other crimes.  Although I understand the theory, I just don’t believe this is what happened here.

Maury Terry, the former journalist and author of “The Ultimate Evil” linked David Berkowitz to the crimes.  It was his believe that Berkowitz was a member of the Process, and later returned to New York where he committed the Son of Sam murders as a direct result of his involvement with the church.  He would go so far as to say that Berkowitz himself was involved in the murder of Arlis Terry, while investigators on the case would either say that Berkowitz knew the killer, or that Berkowitz was simply a liar.  I have heard a great deal about Berkowitz being involved in cult activities and Satanic worship, and I’ve read extensively on the theories that Berkowitz did not act alone when committing the Son of Sam murders.  The problem with this is that in all of the years since, there’s never been enough evidence raised to truly consider another suspect as a major possibility.

Berkowitz decided in 1997 to place the blame on the Carr brothers, who were both dead at the time.  It’s oddly convenient that when he finally decides to name names, they’re the names of two deceased men who can’t defend themselves of controvert his theory.  Berkowitz is a disturbed man who commit heinous and violent acts for no reason, and it’s remarkably difficult to take his word on anything.  He has had been in prison for twenty years at the time he gave this interview and had plenty of time to come up with alternative theories.  When he was interviewed by Police previously in relation to his writings about Arlis Perry, he didn’t have a great deal to say.  He didn’t want to be involved, he didn’t want to help and he didn’t want to make any connections for them.  Berkowitz was a coward, stalking couples and lone women in the night.  He shot them and ran.  I don’t believe he has the spine to commit the kind of up close and personal murder that Arlis Perry suffered through.

Whether or not Berkowitz knew the man responsible is debatable, but I sincerely doubt it.  He may have heard whispers, or rumors.  Berkowitz always wanted to be more than he was, and what better way to do that than to insinuate himself into other major crimes, or to fantasize connections to other major players in that wicked game?  Outside of Berkowitz himself mentioning Arlis Perry, there have been no pieces of evidence which would link him to her, nor to even being in California at the time the murder took place.  Berkowitz is a galvanizing figure, and one who will forever be linked to murder and the occult, but outside of that, there is nothing I have seen sufficient enough for me to consider him a truly viable suspect in the murder of Arlis Perry.

Through Berkowitz we get the name of Manson II, which many people believe was William Mentzer, a former hitman for drug operations, and a man currently serving life without parole for two separate murders.  It has been supposed that he was involved in some way, shape or form with the Process Church, and it has even been put forth that he was the infamous Zodiac killer.  The list of possible suspects for being the Zodiac killer is a mile long, and to get on that list, a person doesn’t have to have a great deal involved with the profile of the killer.  From everything I have read, Mentzer is linked to the Zodiac because he was in California when the murders took place, is a sadistic and violent individual and almost everything else is even more circumstantial than that.  A prime example is:  The Zodiac stabbed two victims with a riveted bayonette like knife and Mentzer once worked manufacturing rivets and carried a bayonette in Vietnam.  Seriously, these are the kinds of details which are used to link this man to the Zodiac killer.  Forget the fact that police are in possession of a thumb print and DNA they believe belong to the Zodiac and Mentzer was almost certainly tested against these.

I don’t believe Mentzer is the Zodiac Killer and from what I can tell, most of the people who do have been quiet about it for a long time.  Outside of Mentzer, there is still the theory that the real Zodiac, whoever he was, murdered Arlis Perry.  We have the Zodiac letter where he discusses the Exorcist, a movie full of occult iconography and religious symbolism.  Then, the phone call, in which a caller claims to be Zodiac and says he has murdered someone in a church.  Bare in mind, both the letter and the call take place nine months prior to the murder of Arlis Perry.

The letter doesn’t mean much to me, Zodiac wrote about a lot of different things and sent them into police.  He enjoyed taunting them and playing mind games with them and if he had actually done half of the things he wrote about he’d have been a much more prolific killer than he was.  The phone call can’t be verified, I can’t find much information about it at all and even if I knew for sure the call had come in, there is no way of knowing that it was actually the Zodiac on the other line and not just a prank caller.  The entire scene of Arlis Perry’s murder is outside of Zodiac’s MO, he wasn’t a stalker and a hunter.  He was random, he struck when the opportunity presented itself.  In addition to this, Zodiac had never posed bodies, nor done anything even remotely sexual to them.  He certainly never left behind semen at any of his other murder scenes.  I think putting Zodiac into the suspect list is simply a result of a bizarre and baffling crime for which there are no easy answers, and Zodiac is a great scapegoat for these kinds of things.  It’s not to say he couldn’t possibly have done it, but at this particular point in time, I don’t see anything that links him to it.  Also, he’d have written letters taking credit for it.  He did that with crimes he wasn’t even responsible for, and the ability he’d have had to taunt police following this murder would have probably been too fun for his sick mind to ignore.

There is the idea that the Freemasons were involved in this crime.  The Freemasons tend to become the bogeymen which are blamed for anything that appears to be occult related.  I’m certainly not going to say they haven’t been involved in some darker stuff throughout the course of history, but the link here is almost impossible to see.  Many have looked at the way Arlis’ body was posed, and made a connection between her posing and the symbolism of the masons, specifically the compass and the square.  Photos of the crime scene have never been publicly released, so almost everyone is going off of statements given by one or two people.  I don’t see the connection here, and ultimately, I see no motive for the Freemasons, even if they were some dark and powerful organization, to have randomly killed a nineteen year old newlywed Christian in a church.  If you’ve got some idea about how they could tie into this, please let me know, because I can’t find anything.  I’ve included it because its out there, but for me, this is the most far fetched theory in regard to the murder of Arlis Perry.

Forty years after the discovery of her body, Brian McCracken comes forward and claims he was in the church that night and saw the would be killer.  According to him, it was a known musician who was, at the time, in the Stanford marching band.  A white man who wore a light colored afro wig and played a flute.  According to McCracken, he enters the church, sees the woman lying there naked, sees the man playing the flute, and leaves.  Then for forty years, it simply slips his mind.

Am I the only one that found this theory not only ridiculous but insulting?  I have walked in on people accidentally in a bathroom before, and that stays with me.  I’m fairly certain that if I’d walked in on a naked woman and an afro wig wearing flute player in a church near midnight, I’d probably remember that forever.  It’d be one of those weird stories you’d tell your friends about this crazy thing you saw.  I have a great deal of problems with this story, but predominantly, the facts don’t line up.  Crawford, the security guard, saw Arlis enter the church near midnight.  Two witnesses leaving the church saw Arlis and an unidentified man entering after her.  Crawford locked the church up at midnight.  There doesn’t appear to be a window of time at which McCracken could have walked into the church and seen what he alleges was going on.  The church was locked within minutes of Arlis entering, neither Crawford nor any other witnesses spot McCracken, nor report anyone playing a flute.

I also think that since the witnesses reported seeing a nondescript man with sandy hair who was around 5’10” tall, they’d almost certainly remember a flute playing man in an afro wig.  I don’t know what McCracken’s drive was behind this statement, but it doesn’t go anywhere.  Police investigated it, and a former officer and McCracken himself pretended to be reporters to get information from the man, but that’s it.  It seems like a rather ludicrous theory, and I find it hard to believe anyone in law enforcement could have taken it seriously.  It doesn’t stand up to a comparison of the facts, and it doesn’t have a basis in reality which can be established.  It’s interesting, and strange, and much like many of theories with this case, it’s definitely out there, but I can’t find anything in it that makes any real sense, or establishes any real links to the evidence.

So there is one last theory, the idea that Arlis Perry’s murder, though disturbing and spine chilling, was the act of a single individual and was random.  Some people have speculated that the ice pick being used as a weapon suggests the murder was premeditated and while I can follow that line of logic, I feel that if someone were planning this murder, they would have chosen a knife or a gun, and not an ice pick.  You can certainly use an ice pick to kill, but if you’re planning to kill someone, why wouldn’t you choose a more logical weapon that is going to make it easier for you?  I think it’s possible that this man had an ice pick on him at the time, for reasons that couldbe endlessly speculated about, but I don’t think this murder was necessarily premeditated.  Considering the anti religious symbolism and the posing of her body, I think it’s possible that the killer either saw Arlis enter the church, and decided on impulse to follow her in or was inside already.  There are several reasons that I don’t think this was premeditated.

One is the time.  This crime took place at approximately midnight, and although someone could have been stalking Arlis, it’s unlikely that the killer had the ability to follow her 24 hours a day.  I also think that had she been followed, the presence of her husband would have scared the stalker off.  In addition to this, if the crime were premeditated, it’s unlikely anyone could have known that Arlis would enter the church that night.  There would also be no way of knowing if anyone would be present inside the church, and as we have seen from Crawford, there was obviously some form of security, so to risk being caught by committing the crime that close to closing is a very brazen act that I don’t think you would plan out.  Some churches close, and others don’t, but in my experience the ones that do have some kind of a sign or indication that they lock up at a certain time.  I don’t know if this is the case with Stanford Memorial Church, but either way, assuming the crime was premeditated, wouldn’t it have made more sense to commit the crime on the dimly lit walk to the church, rather than inside?  Or, to have waited for Arlis to exit the church.

I think it’s highly possible that a transient or disturbed person was seeking shelter in the church and saw Arlis inside and decided to strike.  The idea of the ice pick also feeds into this possibility with it being the kind of thing someone could have easily found discarded or in a dumpster somewhere.  It doesn’t feel like the weapon of choice for an experienced killer.  I believe the posing of her body suggests several different possibilities in terms of the suspect.  Committing this crime within the church, and then posing her in the lewd way that he does, I think this suggests issues with women, and with the church itself.  The police labeled the suspect as a “sexual psychopath” and that’s certainly possible, but I find it strange the killer would have masturbated to the scene, and not have raped the victim.  Technically speaking he did, the insertion of the candle is considering sexual assault with a foreign object, but if this is the kind of thing that turned him on, why didn’t he take it further?  This is what makes me feel like sexual assault wasn’t the intention of the murder, but that the act of committing the murder itself is what got the killer turned on.

To me, it’s so much more likely that this was a random act of violence, sick and twisted as it may have been.  The posing was likely done as a way for the killer to revel in the scene, and to mess with whoever would find the body.  Since it took place in a church, it’s possible that the killer believed the body would found by a member of the church or the clergy and he wanted to send a message.  Of course, it’s completely possible that the killer was deranged and mentally unstable and that the entire scene and the murder itself was the result of those issues.  We just don’t know, but I think the idea of it being a random crime committed by a violently psychotic person is very likely.  Was that person the man who visited her at her job, and the one witnesses saw entering the church that evening?  Police say they found that man, and cleared him of any involvement in the crime.  If that’s true, that only leaves a total stranger to Arlis.  Or, the possibility, that police found and questioned the wrong man.  Either way, to me, out of all the theories, a random act of violence from a sick individual feels much more likely than any other theory out there today.

Arlis Perry died and no answers were ever found as to who or why.  Her family moved forward without her, her husband returned home to North Dakota, but eventually completed his studied and became a mental health professional.  Some forty three years later and we still know so little about the crime, and Arlis herself.  An innocent victim of a heinous crime, the symbolism stays with you, and the scene is as haunting as it is confounding.  Who murdered Arlis Perry?  Evidence exists, and perhaps some day a match will be made to answer that question.  Even if we find the who, the why will never make any sense, and if we ever do manage to find out why exactly this happened, I don’t believe it’s the kind of answer that will explain anything to someone with a mind that isn’t as sick and twisted as the man who murdered her.