Decades After Two Mistrials, Tech CEO Is Charged for Third Time in 1992 Bay Area Killing


A tech executive has been arrested and charged for the third time in connection with a woman's 1992 killing in the Bay Area after new evidence was discovered, prosecutors said this week.

John Kevin Woodward, 58, chief executive of online training company ReadyTech, was arrested July 9 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after arriving from Amsterdam. He is accused of killing Laurie Houts, a 25-year-old computer engineer who was found dead in her car in Mountain View, not far from her office at Adobe Systems.

Woodward was tried twice in the 1990s in connection with Houts' death; both trials ended in hung juries, said Santa Clara County Deputy Dist. Atty. Rob Baker.

A judge dismissed the case after the second mistrial, telling prosecutors it could be refiled only if new evidence was obtained, Baker said.

Nearly three decades later, prosecutors say advances in forensic science technology have allowed them to link Woodward to the rope used to strangle Houts.

On Sept. 5, 1992, Houts was found dead in her vehicle in Mountain View, near a garbage dump about a mile from where she worked.

The rope was still around her neck, and her footprints were found on the interior of the windshield in "a sign of her struggle with Woodward," the Santa Clara County district attorney's office said.

An investigation found Woodward was "openly jealous" of Houts' romantic relationship with his roommate, with whom Woodward had "developed an unrequited romantic attachment," prosecutors said.

His fingerprints were found on the outside of Houts' vehicle, but investigators could not prove that he was inside the vehicle.

Last year, new technology that was used to process DNA collected from the rope and other evidence at the scene "came back matching Woodward's DNA," the Mountain View Police Department said in a news release.

"Over 80 latent fingerprints that were also collected at the time of Laurie's death were re-examined by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Identification Unit, which resulted in even more fingerprints matching Woodward," police said.

Dutch authorities, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice, obtained search warrants for Woodward's home and business in the Netherlands, seizing computers and USB drives.

Woodward had moved to the Netherlands, where ReadyTech has an office, after the second mistrial.

ReadyTech, which according to its website was founded in Oakland in 1993, could not be reached for comment.

Woodward was being held without bail in New York and awaiting extradition to California. He faces life in prison if convicted.

In a statement released by Mountain View police, Houts' family said they were hopeful that "justice can finally be served."

"Laurie Anne Houts was a beloved family member and friend to many," the family said. "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."