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Through DNA testing, Las Vegas police solve 32-year-old cold case murder of 14-year-old girl

After several decades, LVMPD solved a 32-year-old cold case using DNA technology in the killing of Stephanie Anne Issacson.

LAS VEGAS (KVVU) — With less than 15 human DNA cells left to sample, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police submitted a 32-year-old cold case to a Texas laboratory for testing in January. Six months later, police positively identified the suspect involved.

LVMPD Lt. Ray Spencer identified Darren R. Marchand, a Las Vegas resident, as the man involved in the death of a 14-year-old Stephanie Anne Issacson in 1989. A monetary donation toward solving cold cases led to the identification.

“I’m glad they found who murdered by daughter,” Issacson’s mother said in a statement read by Spencer. “I never believed the case would be solved. It’s good to have some closure, but there is no justice for Stephanie at all. We will never have complete closure because nothing will ever bring my daughter back to us.”

THE CASE Issacson was walking from her home to Eldorado High School at about 6:30 a.m. on June 1, 1989. When Issacson didn’t return home from school that day, her father called the school and her friends and realized his daughter had never made it to school. Issacson’s father filed a police report with LVMPD.

Later that night, Issacson’s body was found on a trail not far from her walking path to school. Police and the coroner’s office determined she was sexually assaulted and died from strangulation.

DONATION TO SOLVE LVMPD said they had tested multiple samples of DNA in the case from 2007 to 2020. In 2007, a DNA profile was created from a semen sample on one of Issacson’s clothing items, but there was no match.

Police and forensics investigators got word of a donation made specifically to investigate cold cases. Las Vegas resident Justin Woo made the donation in Nov. 2020 and Issacson’s case was selected to investigate.

In Jan. 2021, the DNA sample was sent to Othram Labs in The Woodlands, Texas for analysis.

According to the Othram website, the labs analyze DNA from trace quantities of contaminated or degraded evidence to help solve criminal cases. Othram has helped solve several cases through forensic genealogy, according to the Othram website and LVMPD.

THE SUSPECT The DNA evidence sent to Othram led to Marchand, a Las Vegas resident. Spencer said Marchand was arrested in 1986 in connection to the murder of Nanette Vanderburg, a woman who was strangled in her home. Spencer said the case was later dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

Marchand committed suicide in 1995, according to police. Spencer said they believe the killing of Issacson was a random attack.

Spencer said solving the case wouldn’t have been possible without the work of the LVMPD forensic team and the donation made by Woo. To make a donation toward solving cold cases, go to the LVMPD Foundation website and designate the donation toward “Homicide Cold Case.”