General Crime

* Heather Stearns found dead in parolee John Clauer’s home in Santa Cruz

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Santa Cruz police investigators are trying to determine whether a 63-year-old parolee is responsible for the murder of a woman whose decomposing body was found in his apartment on Tuesday.An unusual smell led officers to John Clauer’s studio apartment in the 1100 block of East Cliff Drive on Tuesday night, according to police.

There, they found the body of 30-year-old Heather Stearns on a bed, covered in blankets, Deputy Chief Steve Clark said.It’s possible the body had been there for up to two weeks, he said.Clark was among the officers who responded and said he found the odor “unmistakable.”Stearns had apparently been living with Clauer at the time of her death.

“Clearly there was some degree of a romantic relationship,” Clark said. Stearns’ death appears to have resulted from significant physical trauma, according to Clark. He said detectives are treating the case as a homicide. Clauer is considered a suspect in the case, one of the reasons being that he didn’t report the death, police said.

However, charges have not yet been filed against him in connection with the homicide. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions that we’re trying to put together,” Clark said.Clauer is being held at Santa Cruz County Jail on a probation hold.

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