LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — In the span of a week, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have announced breaks in two decades-old cold cases.
Police say DNA evidence links Johnny Blake Peterson to the murders of a teenage girl and a young woman in the Las Vegas Valley, four years apart.
On Monday, they announced Peterson, who died in 1993, is the suspected killer of 22-year-old Diana Hanson, who was found dead in 1983.
— KTNV 13 Action News (@KTNV) December 8, 2021
Hanson was reported missing on Dec. 31, 1983 after failing to return home to her family, said Lt. Ray Spencer with LVMPD's Homicide Section. Later that day, her body was found on Spring Mountain Road, approximately one-and-a-half miles southwest of Buffalo Drive. She had been sexually assaulted, Spencer said.
DNA evidence was recovered from Hanson's body. Homicide detectives continued to work leads in the case for the next 38 years, but were previously unable to identify Hanson's killer, Spencer said.
A break in the case came when DNA testing identified Peterson as the suspected killer of Kim Bryant, a 16-year-old Western High School student who was kidnapped near her school in 1979. Bryant was found murdered a few days later, and an autopsy determined she had been sexually assaulted.
After identifying Peterson as the suspect in Bryant's murder, homicide detectives requested a comparison of his DNA with the DNA collected from Diana Hanson's body, Spencer said. That testing proved Peterson was the man who murdered and sexually assaulted Hanson, he said.
Since Peterson is deceased, no arrests will be made in this case. Spencer said the city's homicide detectives will review other cold cases for possible connections to Peterson.
"This case is yet another example of the lengths that our detectives will go to in order to bring justice and closure to the families of murdered victims," Spencer said. "The LVMPD Homicide Section will continue to investigate all unsolved murders in an effort to identify the persons responsible and hold them accountable."
Spencer mentioned the DNA testing was done in partnership with Othram Labs, a private laboratory that uses DNA technology to help solve cold cases. Local entrepreneur Justin Woo provided a donation that helped pay to test the DNA evidence in Bryant's case, Spencer said previously.