LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A 41-year-old murder mystery was just solved by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police’s cold case homicide team. It turns out, the suspected killer is already behind bars because of another horrific crime committed during the same period.
The story starts with a shoe that was found in a deserted area in east Las Vegas back in Nov. 1978, turned out to be a key piece of evidence in solving the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. It was found, along with the body of teenager Carol Lum, in what was then a remote spot off Hollywood near Vegas Valley.
Police said the girl had run away from home days earlier, but then sometime around 3.a.m. on the day she died she was alone on Boulder Highway, which is where detectives think she had the bad fortune to meet John Doane.
“She encountered him on the road, maybe gets picked up; whether she’s forced into the car or not, we wouldn’t know for sure,” said Ken Hefner, Metro homicide detective.
Police say when the killer removed the girl’s shoes and clothing, he left behind tiny traces of his DNA. Three years ago, cold-case detective Ken Hefner had a hunch that his partners in Metro’s crime lab could rehydrate the long-dried DNA samples and identify the culprit. They did, and the match came back to John Doane, who’s been in Nevada state prison since 1979.
Doane was not very cooperative when Metro’s cold case detectives paid him a visit in prison.
“He was screaming about his fourth and fifth amendment, didn’t want to come out of his cell,” said Dan Long, Metro homicide detective. “We had a search warrant; the judge had ordered that he give us a DNA sample, and we told him we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way, but we’re going to take your DNA.”
The fresh sample confirmed what they already suspected: The reason Doane was behind bars is because of a similar crime that happened three months after Carol Lum was killed. In early 1979, Doane picked up a 15-year-old girl near Basic High School.
“He took her to the lake where he assaulted her,” Hefner said. “He choked her out unconscious then stabbed her in the face and head with a screwdriver; left her for dead but she walked out, [and] was able to give authorities information; his first name, vehicle description, make and model and within hours, Henderson Police found him rolling on the Boulder Bighway.”
Doane has been in prison ever since, but back in June, he filed a new appeal seeking his release. That’s unlikely given the D.A.’s office has authorized a new warrant for the murder of Carol Lum. What’s more, the detectives are now looking at other unsolved murders of teenage girls during that same period.
“Now we’re wondering, are there others? So we’re going to look,” Long said.
Doane was convicted of kidnapping, attempted murder, and sexual assault of his 15-year-old victim. That teenager survived the attack but died just a year later in an accident at Lake Mead.
Both detectives credit the DNA lab for the meticulous work that helped crack the case.