Perlov's body was found in the hills overlooking the Stanford University campus in an open space area between Page Mill Road and Junipero Serra Boulevard. A floral scarf was found tightly knotted around her neck and had been used as a ligature to strangle her to death, the DA's Office said.
Getreu, a serial killer, is thought to have committed multiple sexual assaults of young women and at least three slayings, including two on Stanford land: Perlov and 21-year-old Janet Ann Taylor of La Honda. Taylor was the daughter of Chuck Taylor, the university's football coach and athletic director. She was found strangled in a ditch in 1974.
A San Mateo County jury convicted Getreu for Taylor's murder in 2021. Getreu was sentenced to life in prison in November 2021.
Getreu lived near Stanford and worked as a Stanford Hospital cardiology technician at the time.
The murders remained mysteries until advances in DNA technology and familial genetic databases made a match possible. Although Getreu was previously convicted of murder in a similar crime in Germany in the early 1960s, he was not in any digital database due to the age of the case and its overseas location, according to law enforcement officials.
"Justice for Leslie Perlov and her loved ones took a very long time, but it has arrived. This serial rapist and murderer will spend the rest of his life in prison," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement.
Diane Perlov, sister of Leslie Perlov, said she and her brother, Craig, were in the courtroom when Getreu pleaded guilty by video. Getreu never indicated any remorse, but she was not expecting it.
"Remorse is not a part of it, and everyone told me don't expect that. It was never going to happen," she said. But there's no excuse for his crimes, she added.
Perlov feels a limited sense of closure. "There's justice without peace; there's no peace for something like this. The least I can expect is justice and that's what we got. In court, it's very procedural and cold and clinical. That part was hard. Leslie was there for me and I wanted her name to be read and wanted her to be recognized," she said.
Perlov was concerned that Getreu would plead guilty but that she would never hear what charges he was pleading to. A simple "count 1 or count 2" read aloud in court wasn't going to address the magnitude of his crimes and the impact it had on her family and her beloved sister. But the judge read the actual charges: "You are pleading guilty to murder in the first degree of Leslie Marie Perlov."
Diane Perlov said that helped. Combined with the judge's recognition of her sister, "that felt cathartic," she said. Also, she pointed out that Gertreu chose to plead guilty rather than no contest.
"He didn't hesitate in pleading guilty. That was satisfying. (But) this is one step," she said.
Even after he is sentenced to life in prison on April 26, Getreu might still be freed after a relatively short stint in prison, she said.
"I want to make sure he stays in jail and doesn't get out on parole. Once that passes, I'm not worried. Then, I can move on," she said.
Perlov plans to speak at Getreu's sentencing and wants to make sure that her impact statement will be read into the record for future courts and parole boards to consider.
"Justice is blind and justice is cold, and it should be. That's hard for the victim's family in a way," she said. But the passion for justice by law enforcement, investigators and prosecutors "was really nice to see," she said.
The deaths of Perlov and Taylor were not the first killings by Getreu. He was convicted in Germany of murdering and raping a 15-year-old girl, Margaret Williams, a decade before Perlov and Taylor were killed. He spent approximately six years of a 10-year sentence in a German prison for the crime. The fathers of Getreu and Williams were stationed at a military base at the time and the two met at a dance. He lured her to a nearby field where the sexual assault and killing took place, according to newspaper stories from that time.
Evan Williams, the brother of Margaret Williams, was only 7 1/2 years old when his sister was killed. For decades, he has tried to track the news for any references to Getreu. He always felt that Getreu had committed other violent crimes, he said. He also testified in San Mateo County when Getreu was on trial for Janet Taylor's death.
"I am glad John Getreu has chosen to plead guilty for the atrocious murder of Leslie Perlov. My prayers are with her family. Now I ask John Getreu to come clean about any other murders," he said in an emailed statement after learning of the guilty plea in Perlov's death.
Upon returning to the United States, Getreu moved near his parents, who had retired to the Bay Area. He lived for a time in Palo Alto during the period of the Stanford killings with a wife and her child.
In 1975, he was charged with the rape of a female Explorer Scout while he was the Palo Alto troop's leader. He pleaded the charge down to misdemeanor statutory rape, according to court documents. He received a six-month sentence in county jail, a $200 fine and two years of probation. The court suspended five months of his sentence and allowed him to serve the remaining 30 days in jail on weekends.
Perlov said Getreu's guilty plea "was a victory," particularly in light of the many lives he has damaged and destroyed. He got off with a light sentence for raping the Palo Alto teen and with a light sentence in Germany. "He felt he could do whatever he wanted," she said.
Getreu is scheduled for sentencing on April 26. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. Last year alone, the Cold Case Unit at the District Attorney's Office helped solve five cold case murders and seven sexual assaults, the DA's Office said.
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