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DNA from murder victim’s nails leads to arrest 41 years later

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DNA from under the fingernails of a woman murdered in 1980 in Las Vegas has led to the arrest of a suspect in the long-running murder case, police said Monday.

Sandra DiFelice, 25, was “brutally raped and murdered” in a house she shared with a roommate on Dec. 26, 1980, said Las Vegas Police Department Lieutenant Jason Johansson.

DNA collected under her fingernails was tested using new technology after detectives reconsidered her case, and the suspect, Paul Nuttall, was arrested Thursday, police said.

Sandra DiFelice.LVMPD via Facebook

“I’m hopeful that somehow, shape or form, this creates some sort of closure for the family,” Johansson, of the department’s Homicide Division, said at a news conference.

It was DiFelice’s daughter who sparked a review of her mother’s case last year, when she called the police in February 2021 and asked if there was an update.

The daughter was 3 years old at the time of the murder and was staying with her grandparents on the night of the crime, he said.

After the police and DNA lab reviewed the case, “they were able to determine that there was additional evidence that could be submitted for processing using new DNA technology,” Johansson said.

That led to Nuttall, now 64, police said. He was arrested on charges of murder, assault and burglary, police said, and was still living in Las Vegas.

Nuttall was held without bail Monday night, according to online prison records.

Court records list a public defender as Nuttall’s attorney, and the office was unavailable after business hours Monday. A phone number for his home could not be found.

Nuttall was seen as a person of interest at the time of the murder and his fingerprint was found at DiFelice’s home, Johansson told reporters Monday.

But at the time, there was another explanation, he said, and police believe Nuttall knew DiFelice’s roommate and may have known DiFelice casually.

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