Murder case solved after 42 years using DNA testing, genealogical work

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has identified the suspect in the murder of Kim Bryant, a 16-year-old girl who went missing in January of 1979 and was found dead almost a month later.

According to police, using forensic-grade genome sequencing®, Othram Inc., a Texas-based forensic sequencing laboratory, was able to link DNA evidence left on Bryant’s body to then-19-year-old Johnny Peterson, according to Homicide Lt. Raymond Spencer during a news conference on Monday.

Further testing by the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory confirmed the findings.

“Based on sperm recovered from the body of Kim Bryant at autopsy revealed that Johnny Blake Peterson was the person who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Kim Bryant,” Lt. Ray Spencer, LVMPD said.

Johnny Blake Peterson (Photo: LVMPD)

On January 26, 1979, Bryant was reported missing after she did not return home from school. She was last seen that day at a fast-food restaurant on North Decatur Boulevard, near U.S. Highway 95.

On February 20, 1979, Bryant’s body was discovered in a desert area near West Charleston Boulevard and South Buffalo Drive. She had been sexually assaulted.

Detectives now believe Peterson abducted Bryant the day she went missing, then sexually assaulted and killed her.

Peterson died in January 1993, but his identification as the suspect serves as a reminder to the families of murder victims that the LVMPD will not stop investigating these crimes, no matter how much time has passed.

Detectives selected Bryant’s case for submission to Othram.

The testing done by Othram Inc. was made possible thanks to a financial donation from Las Vegas resident Justin Woo, who approached the LVMPD to help further a cold case investigation using advanced DNA technology.

“Condolences to Kim’s family. We hope we provided a little bit of closure for you,” Justin Woo, philanthropist said.

Dr. Kristen Mittelman of Othram inc. said they take a deeper look at DNA samples.

They then look into a genealogical database used for law enforcement to link the samples to family members or family trees.

Othram performed the DNA testing and genealogical research and returned investigative leads to LVMPD detectives.

According to Mittelman, that lead is then given to investigators, in this case, Peterson’s family.

“We can take those cases that have failed all those other methods. We can still solve them. There is still hope for these families. Nobody should wait 42 years to find out who murdered their child,” Mittleman added.

It is not known if Bryant and Peterson knew each other.

This is the second cold case here in Las Vegas solved in this manner. Mittleman says they expect to solve another case here very soon.

LVMPD Homicide Cold Case detectives are constantly reviewing cases, looking at advancements in technology, and reviewing tips in order to identify those responsible for taking another person’s life.

Anyone who would like to donate to the Homicide Cold Case unit to help further the investigation of other unsolved murders may do so by going visiting this website and designating a donation for the “Homicide Cold Case Unit.”

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

8 news now breaking and daily news sign up

CONTESTS

Pro Football Challenge

Don't Miss

Trending Stories