32-Year-Old Las Vegas Cold Case Cracked With DNA Breakthrough

By Ginny Reese

July 22, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

A 32-year-old cold case in Las Vegas has finally been cracked, thanks to a breakthrough in DNA technology, reported News 3 Las Vegas.

14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson left for school on June 1st, 1989. Sadly, she never made it. Her books and belongings were discovered later that evening, along with her body.

The teen had trauma injuries as well as evidence of strangulation and sexual assault. DNA from evidence was uploaded into the national databases, but there were no matches. Fast forward to 2021, and there has been a major breakthrough.

David Mittelman, CEO of forensic laboratory company Othram in Texas said, "This was a huge milestone."

Kimberly Murga, director of laboratory services with LVMPD, said, "The equivalent of 15 cells was submitted for this testing." Mittelman said, "It was very scary to take on this project because I believed we consumed the remainder of the evidence in this case. It is, for an announced case, the smallest amount of DNA reported that’s been used to identify a suspect in a crime."

But the technology helped crack the case. The company was able to make a DNA match through a distance cousin, and the suspect was found to be Las Vegas resident Darren Roy Merchand.

Police believe Merchand killed Stephanie randomly. He died in 1995 by suicide. At a press conference, Lt. Ray Spencer with the LVMPD read a statement from Stephanie's mother. He read:

"I’m glad they found who murdered my daughter. I never believed the case would be solved. We will never have complete closure because nothing will ever bring our daughter back to us."
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