Las Vegas police announced Monday that investigators solved a cold case involving a 16-year-old high school student who was kidnapped, raped and murdered 42 years ago – but that no arrests would be made.
Kim Bryant, a student at Western High School, was reported missing by her mother on Jan. 26, 1979, after she didn’t come home from school, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lt. Ray Spencer said during a press conference. Her body was found nearly a month later in a desert area with signs of sexual assault.
Spencer said investigators recovered DNA evidence belonging to a suspect from Bryant’s body but were unable to make an identification at the time. Homicide detectives continued to investigate the case for years but were never able to identify a suspect and the case went cold.
However, a donation earlier this year from Las Vegas resident and philanthropist Justin Woo helped detectives fund a further investigation into the case using advanced DNA technology, police said.
The suspect’s DNA was sent to Othram Inc., a Texas-based forensic sequencing lab, where a genetic profile of the killer was built. The lab was able to link the DNA to then-19-year-old Johnny Peterson, Spencer said.
Peterson, who had never been considered a suspect in the case, lived in the area at the time of Bryant’s death and at one point went to Western High School, according to investigators. Spencer said it was unclear whether the suspect and victim had any interactions before Bryant’s death.
Peterson was arrested in April 1980 for a separate sexual assault in the Las Vegas area but the case was dismissed, Spencer said.
However, Peterson will not be arrested for Bryant’s kidnapping, rape and murder either, according to Spencer. Investigators learned that Peterson died on Jan. 20, 1993.
Spencer called it a “tragic case,” but told reporters that Bryant’s father, Edward Eliot, was grateful that investigators never gave up and were able to close the case after 42 years.
“Kim was a beautiful girl with a bright future and it makes me happy that something is being done to help solve cases such as hers,” Bryant’s father said in a statement read by Spencer.