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Man arrested in connection with 42-year-old homicide cold case using new DNA technology

<i>LVMPD</i><br/>DNA recovered from under the fingernails of the victim identified the suspect of Sandra DiFelice's murder as Paul Nuttall.
DNA recovered from under the fingernails of the victim identified the suspect of Sandra DiFelice's murder as Paul Nuttall.

By Jennifer Henderson, CNN

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has arrested a man in connection with the killing of 25-year-old Sandra DiFelice, nearly 42 years after her death.

Paul Nuttall, 64, was arrested on charges of “open murder” with the use of a deadly weapon, sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, police said in a statement Monday.

In Nevada, a person accused of murder will generally be charged with “open murder,” meaning a general allegation of murder which includes, “Murder in the First Degree and all necessarily included offenses. These would include Murder in the Second Degree and possibly Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter based upon the specific facts of the case,” according to Clark County’s website.

Nuttall’s public defender said Wednesday they have referred him to district court for a competency evaluation.

“There are concerns that he might suffer from dementia and may not be able to understand the process, and we want to have him evaluated by doctors appointed by the state to see if he is competent to proceed forward,” Scott Coffee, Nuttall’s attorney, said in a statement.

DiFelice was allegedly brutally raped and murdered inside her home on December 26, 1980, according to police.

In February 2021, DiFelice’s daughter — who at the time of the incident was 3 years old and at her grandparents’ house — called cold case detectives at the police department to ask for an update on the investigation.

Detectives reviewed the investigation, and “upon a review of that investigation, in conjunction with our DNA forensics lab, they were able to determine that there was additional evidence that could be submitted for processing using new DNA technology. During that processing of the evidence, DNA recovered from under the fingernails of Sandra DiFelice identified the suspect of Sandra DiFelice’s murder as Paul Nuttall,” Lt. Jason Johansson said at a news conference.

Nuttall was originally named as a person of interest during the initial stages of the investigation, police said during the news conference. Authorities said his fingerprint was found in DiFelice’s home, but it was determined that Nuttall knew DiFelice’s roommate and that explained why his fingerprint was there, police said during the news conference.

Nuttall is currently in custody at the Clark County Detention Center, according to online records.

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