LVMPD’s Cold Case Team cracking decades-old cases in Las Vegas

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 11:58 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Last Thursday, Las Vegas police arrested 64-year-old Paul Nuttall for the murder of then-25-year-old Sandra Difelice. The crime happened in December of 1980, nearly 42 years ago.

Late last year, the department linked a deceased suspect to the murders of 16-year-old Kim Bryant in 1979 and 22-year-old Diana Hanson in 1983.

The 1989 murder of 14-year-old Western High School sophomore Stephanie Isaacson was solved last July with the world’s smallest sample of DNA, just 15 human cells.

Private donors are paying for DNA testing and more detectives are now combing through a huge load of cold cases.

“It is an extremely daunting task,” explained Lt. Jason Johansson. Johansson telling FOX5 LVMPD’s Cold Case Team is working on 1,200 cold case homicides and 100 missing people dating back to the 1940s.

This year, the department added more manpower: three full-time detectives and a supervisor.

“It has been game-changing for us,” shared Johansson.

They work alongside six part-time investigators, mostly retired homicide detectives going through the unsolved files seeing if witnesses can be re-interviewed or DNA evidence submitted for new testing.

“In the 80s and earlier we probably really weren’t concerned as much with the DNA evidence because we didn’t know how big it would become 40 years down the road,” Johansson stated.

“The whole reason we put more manpower in this unit is because we know that there is going to be additional cases that are solved,” Johansson added.

“There’s families, there are people that are wanting these answers,” said Ashley Dardanes-Padilla. Last year, FOX5 introduced you to Dardanes-Padilla whose mom, Camille Dardanes Dotson, was last seen in Las Vegas in September 1994.

Dardanes-Padilla says seeing the murder of Sandra Defelice solved after 42 years, thanks in part to her daughter calling Metro last year and asking them for an update, gives her hope.

“Hearing a story that is so similar, I mean she was little, something happened to her mom and she was looking for answers and I mean it is so amazing that she got the answers that she was probably looking for her whole life,” Dardanes-Padilla expressed.

Time has erased many clues as to what may have to Dardanes-Padilla’s mom but her daughter still prays for answers.

“I have hope but I don’t have faith I guess... In every situation, someone knows. It is just about finding that someone,” Dardanes-Padilla asserted.

Detectives say in addition to DNA, people coming forward is key to solving the unsolved.

They say tipsters can always remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers.

Thousands of dollars for DNA testing have come from a group of locals called the Vegas Justice League. They say the funds they have provided for DNA testing have solved five cold cases in Las Vegas so far.