Decades after two mistrials, Tech CEO is charged for third time in 1992 Bay Area murder
Christian Martinez/Los Angeles Times (TNS)
A tech executive has been arrested and charged for the third time in connection with the 1992 Bay Area murder of a woman after new evidence emerged, prosecutors said this week.
John Kevin Woodward, 58, chief executive of online training company ReadyTech, was arrested July 9 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after arriving from Amsterdam. He is accused of killing Laurie Houts, a 25-year-old computer engineer who was found dead in her car in Mountain View, not far from her office at Adobe Systems.
Woodward was tried twice in the 1990s in connection with Houts’ death; both trials ended in hung juries, the Santa Clara County Assistant District said. Atti. Rob Baker.
A judge dismissed the case after the second mistrial, telling prosecutors it could only be refiled if new evidence was obtained, Baker said.
Nearly three decades later, prosecutors say advances in forensic technology have allowed them to link Woodward to the rope used to strangle the Houts.
On September 5, 1992, Houts was found dead in her vehicle in Mountain View, near a landfill about a mile from where she worked.
The rope was still around his neck and his footprints were found inside the windshield in “a sign of his struggle with Woodward,” the Santa Clara County District Attorney‘s Office said.
An investigation found that Woodward was “openly jealous” of Houts’ romantic relationship with his roommate, with whom Woodward had “developed an unrequited romantic attachment”, prosecutors said.
His fingerprints were found outside Houts’ vehicle, but investigators could not prove he was inside the vehicle.
Last year, new technology that was used to process DNA collected from the rope and other evidence at the scene “came back to match Woodward’s DNA,” the police department said. Mountain View in a press release.
“More than 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, resulting in even more fingerprints matching Woodward,” police said.
Dutch authorities, in cooperation with the US Department of Justice, obtained search warrants for Woodward’s home and business in the Netherlands, seizing computers and USB drives.
Woodward had moved to the Netherlands, where ReadyTech has an office, after the second mistrial.
ReadyTech, which according to its website was founded in Oakland in 1993, could not be reached for comment.
Woodward was being held without bond in New York and awaiting extradition to California. He faces life in prison if convicted.
In a statement released by Mountain View Police, Houts’ family said they hope “justice can finally be served.”
“Laurie Anne Houts was a beloved family member and friend to many,” the family said. “The way Laurie lived and treated people was an amazing example of what was right in the world. She was a gem to so many, but her brilliant life was taken from us at the age of 25.”