July 13, 2022
Mountain View, California detectives have arrested the leader of a tech company for a murder they say he committed 30 years ago.
John Kevin Woodward, president and CEO of ReadyTech Corp., is accused of murdering Laurie Houts on Sept. 5, 1992. Woodward has already faced two criminal trials, but neither case resulted in his conviction. However, new forensic technology allowed authorities to link Woodward to the rope used to kill Houts.
Houts, 25-years-old at the time of her murder, was working as a computer engineer for Adobe Systems. A person discovered Houts dead in her vehicle, which showed signs of struggle in its interior. Those signs included footprints on the inside of windshield and a rope around her neck, according to prosecutors.
“Although she was only five feet tall, she had a huge heart and her humor and spunk were endearing to all,” a statement from Houts’ 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.”
Laurie Houts was 25 years old at the time of her death. (Source: Mountain View Police Department)
The district attorney states that investigators immediately considered Woodward their prime suspect. But a conviction never came. Both trials resulted in a hung jury. The presiding judge in the second dismissed the case, saying it had insufficient evidence. Investigators had found his fingerprints outside Houts’ car, but not inside. Woodward moved to the Netherlands afterward.
Prosecutors have framed Woodward’s motive as jealousy. They say he was romantically interested in Hout’s boyfriend, who was Woodward’s roommate.
The Santa Clara county district attorney announced Woodward’s arrest on Tuesday. Authorities arrested him at JFK airport in New York and plan to extradite him to California. A conviction could result in a life sentence.
Woodward is 58 years old.
Media outlets have pounced on the news of a tech executive facing murder charges. Houts’ family said they initially reacted positively to the district attorney’s announcement but aren’t holding their breath.
“It doesn’t really matter what happens because Laurie is not coming back,” one of Houts’ sisters told KTUV News. “We don’t get to win and get our sister back. We get to win and maybe get some justice or some closure.”
Woodward was working as an engineer at Oracle at the time of Hout’s 1992 murder. He went on to found ReadyTech in 1993 (his first trial ended in 1995). The company on its websites describes its origin story as starting in “a small loft space” in Oakland, California. ReadyTech initially functioned as a traveling IT training provider, visiting clients across the world to teach their employees.
The company in 2003 launched a hardware-based lab solution to simulate lab environments for its training. Then the company adopted cloud hosting to provide virtual training solutions to customers. ReadyTech’s clients include Sage, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Adobe.
Woodward was living in Amsterdam, where ReadyTech had an office.
The company has fielded a variety of media requests since the district attorney’s Tuesday announcement.
“The news of Kevin’s arrest was a jolt to all of us,” a statement from Readytech said. “We have the utmost empathy for the families involved.”
Woodward is not the first tech executive to flee a country while under the suspicion of murder. Now deceased security software pioneer John McAfee left Belize after the death of his neighbor in 2012.
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