Tech CEO arrested in 1992 cold case
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KRON) — The CEO of a tech company has been charged with the 1992 strangulation murder of Laurie Houts in California. He could face life in prison if convicted, according to the County of Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office.
On Saturday police arrested John Kevin Woodward, 58, the President and CEO of Readytech, at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City when he arrived from Amsterdam. He was then charged with the murder of Laurie Houts—his roommate’s girlfriend—in Mountain View 30 years ago.
In September of 1992 a passerby noticed Houts dead in her vehicle on Crittenden Lane in Mountain View. The rope that had been used to kill her was still around her neck. Footprints were visible on the windshield interior, a sign that she struggled for her life.
Investigations quickly steered law enforcement towards Woodward as a prime suspect. He was reportedly jealous of Houts because he developed an “unrequited romantic attachment” to her boyfriend, Woodward’s roommate. Woodward reportedly had no alibi.
Woodward was tried twice for the murder throughout the late 1990s. The second case was dismissed by a judge citing insufficient evidence after a jury could not reach a verdict. Woodward then moved to the Netherlands after the case was dismissed.
In 2021, newly developed forensic technology was able to tie Woodward to the scene via the rope that was used to strangle Houts. The DA’s office filed a case in January of this year and a nationwide warrant was activated for his arrest.
Rob Baker, the Deputy District Attorney with the Cold Case Unit, said the process of arresting Woodward was particularly complicated because he lives in the Netherlands. Homeland Security worked with the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security to learn when Woodward would be returning to the United States. “Prior to COVID, he [Woodward] regularly returned to the Bay Area at least once a year, typically in the summer,” Baker said.
Last Wednesday, Homeland Security informed the DA’s Office and the Mountain View Police Department that Woodward would be arriving at JFK on Saturday. By Friday, investigators from the DA’s office and the Mountain View Police Department were traveling to New York to assist with the arrest. Woodward was arrested by Homeland Security when he got off the plane, and was taken into custody in New York.
Baker said that Woodward waived extradition in a New York courtroom on Monday afternoon. Mountain View Police will escort Woodward back to California and book him into Santa Clara County Jail by July 29. After he has been booked, he will face arraignment on the complaint charging him with the murder of Houts.