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.
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.
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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