A Silicon Valley executive was arrested and charged with the murder of a 25-year-old woman nearly 30 years ago after new DNA technology linked him to her death.
John Kevin Woodward, 58, the CEO of online training company ReadyTech, was charged with the murder of computer engineer Laurie Houts in 1992. Woodward was taken into custody on Saturday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after arriving from Amsterdam where he has lived in the years after Houts’ death.
On Monday, prosecutors in Santa Clara county charged Woodward with the Houts’ murder by strangulation. District Attorney Jeff Rosen credited Mountain View police for not giving up on Houts’ case, as well as federal and Dutch law enforcement for their assistance in bringing Woodward to justice.
“I want Ms. Houts family and friends to know that we never gave up on her. Neither time nor distance will stop us from finding out the truth and seeking justice,” Rosen said in a statement announcing the charges.
The case began three decades ago. Woodward, then 28 years old, had been living with a roommate who was dating Houts, who herself was working as an employee at Adobe. According to authorities, Woodward developed an unrequited romantic attraction to his roommate and he became jealous of the relationship with Houts.
John Woodward, 58, CEO of @readytech in Oakland, held at @JFKairport, charged by @SantaClaraDA w/‘92 strangulation murder of Laurie Houts, 25, jealous that she was w/his roomie, per @MountainViewPD, adding he was tried 2X w/o success but that evidence now ties him to rope in car pic.twitter.com/z6yib7IAbR
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) July 11, 2022
On Sept. 5, 1992, Houts was discovered dead in her vehicle near a garbage dump about a mile from her office. A rope was found around her neck and her footprints were visible from the interior on the car’s windshield, a sign of a violent struggle. Her pocketbook was discovered nearby, but it was intact and nothing was taken from it.
Woodward was tried twice for Houts’ killing, but each case resulted in a hung jury. A judge had ruled that a third trial could not take place absent from any new evidence that could prove Woodward’s guilt. After his second acquittal, Woodward moved to the Netherlands.
In late 2020, Mountain View police reopened Houts’ case. They re-submitted evidence from the crime scene for analysis, something that produced DNA that matched Woodward’s. On top of this, detectives discovered more than 80 latent fingerprints that were collected at the time of Houts’ death that also matched Woodward’s. This provided evidence that was unavailable in the two earlier trials that resulted in Woodward’s acquittal.
Woodward is currently awaiting extradition from New York to California and is being held without bond.