Tech CEO Arrested In 30-Year-Old Murder Case After Two Mistrials

Laurie Houts
Mountain View Police Department | Mountain View Police Department

News & Politics
Jessica Powers

A tech executive has been charged for the third time in connection with the 1992 killing of Laurie Houts in the Bay Area after new evidence was discovered.

John Kevin Woodward Is Accused Of Killing Laurie Houts In 1992

Woodward was arrested at the airport.
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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 there from Amsterdam.

Woodward currently resides in the Netherlands but is an American citizen

He is accused of killing 25-year-old Laurie Houts, a computer engineer who was found dead in her car in Mountain View, not far from her office at Adobe Systems back in 1992.

Woodward Was Tried Twice Before But The Cases Ended In Hung Juries

The two previous trials ended with hung juries.
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Woodward was tried twice in the 1990s in connection with Houts’ death, but both of those trials ended in hung juries.

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

Officials said Woodward was jealous of the relationship Houts had with his roommate, which proved to be a motive in her killing.

Authorities Found Evidence On The Rope Used To Strangle Houts

Laurie Houts
Mountain View Police Department | Mountain View Police Department

Prosecutors now say advances in forensic science technology have allowed them to link Woodward to the rope used to strangle Houts 30 years ago. At the time, police didn't have the ability to test the evidence for DNA.

Houts Was Described As 'Vibrant' And 'Kind'

Laurie Houts
Mountain View Police Department | Mountain View Police Department

Houts was found dead in her vehicle in Mountain View on Sept. 5, 1992, 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 which suggested a struggle had taken place.

In a press release Mountain View Police Department said Houts was "vibrant."

"Her brown eyes radiate from pictures as she beams into the camera. She was a beloved daughter, sister and friend," they wrote. "Laurie was an avid athlete and ahead of her time as a woman in the STEM field. Laurie was someone we all aspire our daughters to be like – kind, loyal and fun."

Detectives Took A New Look At Old Evidence From The Case

Evidence linked Woodward to the murder.
Shutterstock | 164777806

Detectives began to re-examine Laurie’s case in late 2020 and had items from the investigation re-submitted to the Santa Clara County Crime Lab for analysis. During that time, DNA samples collected from evidence at the scene came back as a match to Woodward, including fingerprints.

“This case is the culmination of incredible determination by our detectives over the decades and with phenomenal teamwork with our agency partners here in Santa Clara County and in New York,” said Chief Chris Hsiung in a press release. “I am honored that our agency finally gets to give hope to Laurie’s family that they can see a successful prosecution carried out. It bears repeating – we do not give up on justice for victims, no matter what.”

In a statement shared through the Mountain View Police Deprartment, the Houts family said

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," They wrote. "She was a gem to so many, but her bright life was taken from us at the age of 25. We are hopeful that justice can finally be served for Laurie and incredibly appreciative of the law enforcement agencies who have never given up on her."