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Las Vegas police use DNA testing and genealogical research to solve 42-year-old homicide of teen girl

By Kelly McCleary, CNN

Advanced DNA testing and genome sequencing helped Las Vegas police crack the case of a 16-year-old girl who was found dead 42 years ago, investigators announced Monday.

Kim Bryant was reported missing on January 26, 1979, after she didn’t return home from school, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said in a news release.

Her body was found in a desert area on February 20, 1979, police said. Bryant had been sexually assaulted and DNA evidence from a suspect was recovered but police were unable to make an identification, Lt. Ray Spencer with the LVMPD homicide division said during a news conference Monday.

Police “investigated this case for years without being able to identify a suspect,” Spencer said noting multiple LVMPD detectives had worked to gather new leads.

DNA evidence from the case was sent to Othram, Inc., a Texas-based forensic sequencing laboratory, for testing and genealogical research following a financial donation from Las Vegas resident Justin Woo, police said.

“Ten days ago we were notified that the genological profile built by Othram labs, based on sperm recovered from the body of Kim Bryant at autopsy, revealed that Johnny Blake Peterson was the person that kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Kim Bryant,” Spencer said at the news conference.

Peterson was a 19-year-old Las Vegas resident at the time of Bryant’s death. “He was never on the radar as a suspect for this murder,” Spencer said.

Peterson died in January 1993, police said.

Bryant’s father, Edward Elliott, thanked investigators for their work in a statement read by Spencer during the news conference. “Kim was a beautiful girl with a bright future, and it makes me happy that something is being done to help solve cases such as hers,” Elliott said in the statement.

Woo, whose financial donation made the testing possible, offered his condolences to Bryant’s family during the news conference. “We hope that we provided a little bit of closure for you,” he said.

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CNN’s Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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