Advanced DNA technology has helped solve a murder cold case from over 40 years ago.
Paul Nuttal, a 64-year-old living in Las Vegas, was arrested for the 1980 murder and sexual assault of Sandra DiFelice. The victim was 25 years old at the time of her murder on December 26 of that year.
The Las Vegas Police Department said in a statement that new evidence was submitted in the case for additional DNA testing in February 2021.
Nuttal was taken into custody last week after being charged with open murder with the use of a daily weapon, sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon, and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon.
At a news conference, Lieutenant Jason Johansson said new DNA technology was able to match Nuttal’s DNA with DNA recovered from under the victim’s fingertips.
Authorities noted that Nuttal was originally considered to be a person of interest in the murder, but he was cleared on the account that he knew DiFelice’s roommate, which explained why his fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime. This left police with no lead and no conclusion, thus declaring the four-decade-long case cold.
DiFelice’s case is not the first this year to have such a breakthrough.
In May, police in Wisconsin were able to solve a 13-year-old murder cold case of a baby by submitting DNA from the crime scene to a genealogy website, which listed numerous family members and gave police a pool to start a new investigation.
It is unclear what new technology was used in the case of solving DiFelice’s murder, or if it is just general advancements in sample size.
“Every law enforcement department throughout the country has unsolved cases that could be solved through recent advancements in DNA technology. Today, investigators who understand which evidence may yield a DNA profile can identify a suspect in ways previously seen only on television,” the National Institute of Justice explained in a report. “Evidence invisible to the naked eye can be the key to solving a residential burglary, sexual assault, or murder. The saliva on the stamp of a stalker’s threatening letter, the perspiration on a rapist’s mask, or the skin cells shed on the ligature of a strangled child may hold the key to solving a crime.”
Nuttal is currently being held at the Clark County Detention Center.