The Murder of Arlis Perry: Part I


The Murder of Arlis Perry


When real life intersects with crime, one would think that a person who manages a trauma academy might be somewhat more prepared for the heinous crime. Not so because in this case the heinous crime came first.

When newlyweds Arlis and Bruce Perry were still in their teens, the fact that Bruce Perry subsequently trained as a psychiatrist and is a well respected child trauma expert is mere coincidence. (Or is it?)

I was drawn to this case as it remains unsolved and has many interesting elements.

Who was Arlis K. Perry?

Arlis Dykema was a 19 year old newlywed from Bismarck, North Dakota who never strayed into new territory beyond her homeland until she married Bruce Perry.  Although Arlis was sheltered with respect to geography, her father, Marvin Dykema is quoted as saying, “She had never been away from home before,” “She trusted everybody. That was the whole problem right there.”

She got a job as a receptionist at a Palo Alto law firm just six weeks after they moved from North Dakota to Santa Clara, California.

What happened and where?

A murder occurred.  Following a disagreement about air pressure in their car tires, Arlis decided to take time to pray at the Stanford Memorial Church on the grounds of Stanford University. The “oh so beautiful church” and a stark contrast to the awful murder scene. Screen Shot 2012-09-05 at 7.46.39 PM

Arlis’ body was located partially hidden under a pew off the central aisle of the church. When she did not return home, Bruce went to the church and found it locked. He then drove around campus on his own for a few hours and called the police to join the search. (He subsequently offered DNA that did not match evidence and passed a polygraph test).


Bruce and Arlis parted company on Saturday, October 12, 1974 after “their tiff” at approximately 11:30 p.m. The night watchman, Stephen Black Crawford, joined the search and made the gruesome discovery at 5:40 am.


Arlis was surprised by her assailant and, according to sources, killed her with a 5 1/2 inch icepick thrust deeply into her brain. The ice pick had no handle when it was found.

“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. An autopsy revealed Perry had not been raped, although semen was found nearby on a kneeling pillow.”


This appears to be a rage killing of the highest magnitude!  Was the killer mad at Arlis for spurning an advance from a wayward stranger? Was the killer mad at God or a church official?  Was he angry at an employee of Stanford University? Or  did Arlis conveniently represent contempt for all women?

Historically  many man hours were put into solving this case including a theory that David Berkowitz aka “Son of Sam” serial killer may have valid information, which turned out to be a fallacy. Other leads have turned out to be dead ends.


The murder of a spouse, particularly an unsolved 39 year old murder case has to be haunting to Dr. Bruce Perry  and daunting for any detectives that chose to take it on.

In the interim, Dr. Perry re-married and has become a renowned psychiatrist specializing in child trauma. The Child Academy had its roots in Chicago and then blossomed at the Texas Children’s Hospital, affiliated with Baylor College. As of 2001, the Academy is an independent not for profit agency.


Noteworthy Accomplishments: 

1) Dr. Perry’s work with traumatized children from the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco,Texas has been recognized worldwide:

2) Dr. Perry is the author of “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog”

Finally, it hurts after 39 years.  Arlis’ mother was not as concerned about finding the answers, she focused on “punishment from above.”

In 2007, Jean Dykema is tearfully 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.” 


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  1. You should read Maury Terry’s best-seller, “The Ultimate Evil.” David Berkowitz had very valid information. Very valid.

  2. I was about 6 years old when this happened, and living in Bismarck. It overshadowed the experience of growing up there, making the outside world seem frightening, and fueled warnings from parents and grandparents about leaving ND. Our family farm is in Emmons County, not far from Linton and that added to the situation. Like Arliss, I also left Bismarck when I was 19, and was trusting and oblivious. It would have been easy to take advantage of that trust. It’s possible that Arliss was killed by a stranger. It’s also possible that her future husband changed a great deal during their year apart- he was a smart young man and given his field of study had ample knowledge of anatomy and forensic testing. Her death was the perfect launch for a career in trauma psychiatry; a tragedy that propelled a successful, somewhat high profile expert. My parents disagree with my suspicions about him (but they are still in Bismarck, and all its vulnerability and naïveté). I no longer harbor those handicaps and have long suspected his involvement.

    • I went to Bismarck High when this happened. You didn’t know these people or their families. What forensic testing was there in 1974? If you were 6, you would hardly be aware of such a thing. To insinuate that Bruce Perry killed her is beyond ridiculous. Shame on you.

  3. Just like Cindy said……they were NOT doing DNA testing in 1974. Semen was found on a kneeling cushion not on Arlis’s body or clothes. Was the seamen fresh? That seamen could have been left there by anyone at any time. Dr Perry Murdered his wife and it’s high time he paid the price. WE will bring him to justice.

    • I have first hand knowledge of the crime scene and have a number of questions regarding the case: time lines, initial argument, rage, ice pick, polygraph, surprise attack, more.
      There is much at that doesn’t stand to reason.

      Yet, there is not enough to actually the husband to the case. Lots of suspicion and, just that without substantial evidence. Has had me wondering Since 1974..and now with the tv reality shows just keeps it in the fore front.

  4. Both Arlis and Bruce belonged to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was a very respected and well liked student at our school. He DID NOT kill his wife. I can’t believe anyone from. Bismarck or North Dakota would even entertain such a horrible thought. Shame on you.

  5. This article clearly states: “(He subsequently offered DNA that did not match evidence and passed a polygraph test)”. Testing DNA from forensic evidence, even forensic evidence dated back to 1972, is solving cold cases.

  6. I agree, anybody is a suspect, since they never found the murderer and I have never met any of them, HOWEVER I have to say that the killing strikes me more as the work of a “sicko” than a contract killer. The semen stains and the unnatural rape are the trademarks of a deranged sexual-killer. Who-ever killed her was severly mentally unbalanced. Reminds me of B-T-K. A guy who told police “I am a good man, who does bad things.” He did the same kind of wack-job sexual murders for 30 years. There are these kind of sickos-freaks in every town in the world. Hard to say which one really. I have no doubt the semen stains belonged to the killer – I don’t know too many people who “get-off” in Church, do you? Sexual-killers get sexually turned on/aroused by murdering people, or fantasising about it – they are not normal. Just like this guy.

  7. Bruce Perry is the killer. It’s as clear as day. A polygraph test means nothing (and that goes both ways). And the semen can’t even directly be linked to the crime.

    • Actually, the real killer (NOT Bruce Perry) was the security guard that claimed to have found her the morning after. He killed himself upon the police trying to serve a search warrant today. They retested the DNA, which lead to the search warrant.

      • Thanks Nicole for setting the record straight. To all the haters who convicted Bruce in their minds as though they have more insight that the justice system, move on.

      • After reading Ultimate evil and all the information Berkowitz passed to Terry ,I wonder if Crawford had help,information from Berkowitz helped lead to Mentzer conviction in murder of Roy Radin

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