September 9, 1982. A young woman is reported missing when she doesn’t arrive for work at Eskaton Monterey Hospital (now Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula). She is a twenty six year old nurse in the prime of life with a promising career, a supportive family and a brand new fiancée. She is also a river rafting guide who friends describe as “enthusiastic about everything,” and as someone who lights up a room when she walks in. Later that same day of September 9th, the young woman’s station wagon is found in the center median of Highway One. Beneath a pile of blankets, the young woman’s dead body is found, raped and strangled. The young woman’s name was Sarah Lucy Dane and she was my Aunt.
Suspicion immediately centered on Sarah’s brother-in-law, William Perkins. The night before her murder, Sarah’s sister Meraud “Roadie” Perkins had told Mr. Perkins that she was filing for divorce. Angered by her declaration, Mr. Perkins allegedly threatened to do something that would put him in jail for a long time. He was known to have been away from his home during the time of the murder and didn’t arrive for his job at 5 A.M. that morning. In fact, he didn’t arrive on the job site until noon. However, when police investigated the crime in fall of 1982, they did not find enough evidence to prosecute Mr. Perkins for the murder. Two long years would pass before the case would be re-examined by a new investigator.
In September of 1984, the evidence in Sarah’s case was re-analyzed by state justice laboratories. It’s not entirely clear why the case was re-opened, but certainly the tireless efforts of Sarah’s mother Sally Dane to ensure that the police continued to pursue the case played a part. As a result of the re-analysis, William Perkins was again arrested. While he was being held, Perkins had a fateful conversation with his cellmate, Joseph Neuhaus, where he confessed to the rape and murder. On February 5, 1985, Perkins was tried and convicted of rape and murder. Shortly after the trial, authorities learned that the man who testified as Joseph Neuhaus had lied about his identity and was actually a man named Marty Joe Nuttall. This revelation threw the conviction and sentencing of Perkins into jeopardy, however the judge in the case decided that the conviction would stand and Perkins was sentenced to 25 years to life for First Degree Murder.
All of this information was passed along to me recently by a member of the family who was close to Sarah Lucy. Unfortunately for me, I never got to have a relationship with my Aunt. That seems strange to say since she lived only about three hours’ drive from me for the first twelve years of my life. But that has been part of the sad legacy of the broken family left behind by my grandparents’ divorce. I met my grandfather only three or four times before he died in 1979, and no one on “our side of the family” was close with him or his daughter by his second wife. This is yet another family member I get to meet only through the memories of others. I feel a responsibility to remember these relatives and pass along what little I can of them so others can remember them a bit, too.
Facts for this post were taken from articles from the Monterey Peninsula Herald regarding the murder case and trial from 9/24/1984, 10/25/1984, 1/29/1985, 1/30/1985, 2/5/1985, 2/27/1985, and 3/14/1985