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In 1992, Laurie Houts was found strangled in her car. Her boyfriend's roommate — now a tech CEO — was just arrested for her murder.

Suspect arrested in 30-year-old Mountain View cold case slaying of Laurie Houts
Suspect arrested in 30-year-old Mountain View cold case slaying of Laurie Houts 01:06

A California tech company executive has been charged in the 1992 murder of his former roommate's girlfriend, prosecutors said Monday.  

John Kevin Woodward, the president and CEO of Readytech, was charged with the murder of Laurie Houts, a 25-year-old computer engineer who was found strangled in her car in Mountain View, the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney said in a news release.

Woodward, now 58, was arrested Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after arriving from Amsterdam.

Mountain View homicide victim Laurie Houts
1992 Mountain View homicide victim Laurie Houts. Mountain View Police Department

Officials said Houts was discovered dead in her vehicle near a garbage dump about a mile from her work. The rope used to kill her was still around her neck and her footprints were visible on the interior of the car's windshield, a sign of her struggle with the suspect. Her pocketbook was found nearby, undisturbed.  

Woodward — who was roommates with Houts' boyfriend — was arrested later that same year in connection with the homicide. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said Woodward was openly jealous of Houts, and had developed an unrequited romantic attachment to his roommate and had no alibi for the night Houts was killed. 

When the boyfriend asked Woodward if he killed her as police listened in, Woodward asked what the investigators knew. Although Woodward's fingerprints were located on the outside of Houts' car, investigators in 1992 were never able to show he was inside the vehicle.

He was tried twice for the crime, CBS San Francisco reported. The first trial resulted in a hung jury and a second trial roughly a year later also resulted in a hung jury. In the second trial, the trial judge noted that new evidence would need to be brought forward to re-try Woodward again. 

Woodward relocated after the second trial to the Netherlands, where he currently resides. Thanks to updates in DNA technology, police were able to connect Woodward to the rope used in the crime with additional evidence. 

Beginning in late 2020, detectives started to re-examine the Houts case, re-submitting items from the investigation to the Santa Clara County Crime Lab for renewed analysis. Police said DNA samples collected from evidence at the scene came back matching Woodward's DNA. Additionally, over 80 latent fingerprints that were also collected at the time of Laurie's death were re-examined by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Identification Unit, which resulted in even more fingerprints matching Woodward.

The new information, along with evidence that led to Woodward being charged and tried as the primary suspect during the original investigation, led the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office to issue a new warrant for Woodward's arrest for murder.

"This case is the culmination of incredible determination by our detectives over the decades and with phenomenal teamwork with our agency partners here in Santa Clara County and in New York," said Mountain View Police Chief Chris Hsiung in a statement. "I am honored that our agency finally gets to give hope to Laurie's family that they can see a successful prosecution carried out. It bears repeating – we do not give up on justice for victims, no matter what."

Woodward is being held in New York without bail until he can be extradited back to California. He faces life in prison, if convicted.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen praised the cooperation and assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security. Dutch authorities coordinated with the DOJ, obtaining a warrant for the search of Woodward's home and business in the Netherlands in less than 24 hours, seizing multiple computers and USB drives, he said.   

CBS San Francisco reports that the Houts family released the following statement about the arrest:

"Laurie Anne Houts was a beloved family member and friend to many.  Although she was only 5' tall, she had a huge heart and her humor and spunk were endearing to all. The way Laurie lived and treated people was a stunning example of what was right in the world.  She was a gem to so many, but her bright life was taken from us at the age of 25. We are hopeful that justice can finally be served for Laurie and incredibly appreciative of the law enforcement agencies who have never given up on her."

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