On Sept. 5, 1992, computer engineer Laurie Houts, 25, was found dead lying in her car near a California garbage dump. Her boyfriend’s roommate was arrested in connection with the case, but two trials — and two jurors — were later dismissed by a judge. The roommate immediately moved to the Netherlands.
Over the weekend, the roommate — now the chief executive of a small software company — was arrested as he landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, according to the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney. .
John Woodward, the 58-year-old CEO and president of ReadyTech, is expected to be extradited to Santa Clara County by the end of the month, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Monday. Arriving there, Woodward is arraigned for the third time to kill Houts by strangulation.
“I was so happy and so excited,” Houts’s sister said The Mercury News. “Then you get down to that. No one can return your loved one. They are gone. Even if it feels good in a way that is fair, it won’t solve the problem. It’s not like if you win, you get your brother back.
Houts’ body was discovered by a passerby less than a mile from his Adobe Systems office in Mountain View more than 30 years ago, according to San Francisco Chronicle. A rope was tied around his neck, and there were footprints inside his windshield, called “a sign of his struggle with Woodward” by the district attorney’s office.
Forensic science at the time was able to match Woodward’s fingerprints found on the outside of the vehicle, but investigators could not prove he was inside the vehicle.
Still, when Houts’ girlfriend called, monitored by police, to Woodward shortly after the 25-year-old’s death, he “did not deny” killing Houts. Instead, according to the police summary of the matter, Woodward asked what evidence the authorities had against him and suggested to the roommate that they “meet in a parking lot” to discuss more.
Woodward, who had no alibi the night Houts was killed, was arrested the same year. Prosecutors allege that Woodward developed an “unrequited” romantic interest with Houts ’boyfriend. The theory was criticized as homophobic in Woodward’s first attempt at his defense attorney in 1995, the The Mercury News Reported Monday, and the jury deadlocked his innocence, voting 8-4 for acquittal.
A year later, despite a judge banning the romantic-opponent argument, the jury that heard Woodward’s second try hung himself again, this time ruling 7-5. The judge soon dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
But advances in DNA technology allowed detectives to link Woodward to the rope around Houts’ neck for the first time last year, Rosen said. Investigators at the Santa Clara County Crime Lab and Mountain View Police Department paired Woodward’s genetic material and fiber in his sweatpants to a “murder weapon,” police said.
Woodward was arrested after federal agents alerted local authorities of his impending arrival from Amsterdam. Dutch authorities, the district attorney, also obtained a warrant and seized several electronic devices from his home and business.
ReadyTech, which is based in Oakland and has an office in the Netherlands, did not immediately respond to an email sent by The Daily Beast to the address of the company’s general information.
“I want Ms. Houts’ family and friends to know that we never stopped her, ”Rosen said Monday. “No time or distance can stop us from seeking the truth and seeking justice.”
Houts’ family also released a statement after announcing Woodward’s arrest, recalling their daughter’s heart, laughter, and anger.
“Laurie’s way of living and treating people is a strange example of what is right in the world,” they said, according to CBS News ’Bay Area affiliate. “She was a jewel to many, but her bright life was taken from us at the age of 25. We hope justice will finally be served for Laurie and are even more grateful to law enforcement agencies that never stopped her. ”