40 years later, satanic reference still tied to Stanford murder

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- The case is over 40 years old, but the details of the murder so gruesome and brutal that some people labeled it as satanic.

Now, the legend of the case has carried on a life of its own.

RELATED: Man kills self as deputies try to serve warrant in brutal 1974 Stanford murder, according to officials

Arlis Perry was 19 years old at the time of her brutal death.

Officials found her nude from the waist down in the back of the church. She was molested with a 3-foot candlestick and died by a blow from an ice pick to the head.

The theory that Perry's death was linked to a cult has been the subject of some books.

"What they're spreading is the legend of the case, and then these cases carry on a life of their own," said Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI agent who worked in the agency's behavioral science unit from 1980 until 2000.

Lanning says in many cases, the people who know what happened are the investigators assigned to the specific case.

RELATED: 1974 Stanford homicide made famous campus church a crime scene

His definition of a satanic murder? "It would have to be committed by two or more people to have some kind of a spiritual or religious connotation, you have to have multiple people involved," Lanning said.

But the satanic theory has spread in pop culture.

One book, "The Ultimate Evil" written by former New York Post reporter Maury Terry, suggests Perry was killed on instruction from "Satanists" who followed her from her hometown in North Dakota.

It also suggests David Berkowitz, the man convicted in the "Son of Sam murders," knows something about it.

With today's major break in the case, it's possible investigators could look back into those claims, said ABC News security consultant and former FBI special agent Steven Gomez.

"The investigators are going to look at a motive for why she was killed, and if there was any kind of satanic reference at the crime scene," said Gomez.

Get the latest on cold cases in the Bay Area and across the country here.

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