California tech company CEO charged in 1992 killing of roommate’s girlfriend

A California tech company executive was charged in the 1992 murder of his roommate’s girlfriend after new developments in forensic science technology linked him to the murder weapon, prosecutors said.

John Kevin Woodward, president and CEO of Readytech, was arrested Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after arriving from Amsterdam, according to a news release by the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney.

He was charged with the murder of Laurie Houts, a 25-year-old computer engineer who was found strangled in her car in Mountain View.

Woodward, now 58, is being held without bail in New York while he awaits extradition to Santa Clara County, California. It’s not clear if he has obtained an attorney.

A passerby found Houts dead in her car on Sept. 5, 1992, near a garbage dump about a mile from her job. The rope used to strangle her was still around her neck, according to the district attorney’s office.

“Her footprints were on the windshield interior, a sign of her struggle with Woodward. Her unrifled pocketbook was nearby,” the news release states.

The investigation pointed to Woodward as the suspect. The district attorney’s office said Woodward was “openly jealous” of Houts because he had developed unreciprocated romantic feelings for her boyfriend, who was Woodward’s roommate.

Prosecutors said Woodward did not have an alibi and when questioned by the boyfriend about Houts’ death, Woodward “asked what the investigators knew,” the news release states.

Woodward’s fingerprints were found on the outside of Houts’ car but investigators could not show that he was inside the vehicle.

Twice in the late 1990s, Woodward was tried in connection to the death but the case was eventually dismissed. The first trial held resulted in a hung jury, according to Mountain View police. A judge later tossed out the case for insufficient evidence after a jury could not reach a verdict following the second trial, the district attorney’s office said.

Woodward moved to the Netherlands after the case was dismissed.

In late 2020, detectives began re-examining the case and had items from the initial investigation re-submitted to the Santa Clara County Crime Lab for analysis, Mountain View police said.

DNA samples collected from the evidence matched Woodward’s DNA, according to police. More than 80 latent fingerprints were re-examined which also matched Woodward’s.

In 2021, a crime lab and detectives were able to link “Woodward to the rope found around Ms. Houts’ neck using new developments in forensic science technology,” the DA’s office said.

The Houts family said they are “hopeful that justice can finally be served.”

“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,” the family said in a statement via the police.

If convicted, Woodward faces up to life in prison.

Minyvonne Burke is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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