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Tech CEO arrested in the 1992 murder of Bay Area computer engineer

John Kevin Woodward, the president and CEO of Readytech, has been charged with the 1992 murder of Laurie Houts, and this time, authorities are hoping to secure a conviction.

Back in 1992, Houts was found strangled to death in her car at a garbage dump in Mountain View, California, about a mile from Adobe Systems in San Jose, where she worked as a computer engineer. When police arrived at the scene, they found a rope still tied around her neck and her footprints on the interior of the windshield, evidence that she had struggled against her attacker. She was just 25 years old.

Woodward immediately became a suspect in the crime. At the time, he was the roommate of Houts’ boyfriend, who has not been named in news reports. According to Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Woodward “was openly jealous of Houts, because he developed an unrequited romantic attachment to his roommate, her boyfriend.”

Woodward had no alibi, and when the boyfriend confronted Woodward about whether he’d killed Houts, with police listening in on their conversation, Woodward dodged the question and instead asked how much investigators knew. Woodward was eventually arrested and charged with Houts’ murder.

However, the first trial resulted in a hung jury. Woodward was then tried again, and once again, the jury could not agree on a verdict. Though police found Woodward’s prints on the outside of Houts’ vehicle, they had no forensic evidence at the time that placed him inside the vehicle. The judge in the second trial determined that prosecutors would need to uncover new evidence if they wanted to try Woodward a third time. Shortly thereafter, Woodward moved to the Netherlands, where he has been living since 1996.

Until now. Police arrested Woodward, now 58, at JFK airport in New York City last Saturday because they recently unearthed the “new evidence” required for a third trial. Using what Rosen called “new developments in forensic science technology,” the county crime lab was able to find evidence in 2021 that linked Woodward to the rope used to strangle Houts. Rosen did not elaborate on the exact nature of the new evidence.

Whatever it is, it was enough to convince Dutch law enforcement agencies to cooperate in the investigation. In less than 24 hours, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and the U.S. Department of Justice obtained a warrant, allowing Dutch authorities to seize computers and USB drives from Woodward’s residence. He is currently in custody in NYC, awaiting extradition to California.

“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 Mountain View Police Chief Chris Hsiung in a statement. “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.”

Readytech offers online learning software and tools to corporate trainers and schools alike. It was founded in 1993, just one year after Houts’ death.