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DNA from a murder victim’s nails leads to an arrest 41 years later

Sandra DiFelice was raped and killed in her home in Las Vegas in 1980. A person of interest has been arrested after DNA was matched to him, police said.

DNA from under the fingernails of a Las Vegas woman killed in 1980 has led to the arrest of a suspect in the long-cold murder case, police said Monday.

Sandra DiFelice, 25, was “brutally raped and murdered” in a home she shared with a roommate on Dec. 26, 1980, Las Vegas Police Lt. Jason Johansson said.

DNA collected from under her fingernails was tested using new technology after detectives took another look at her case, and the suspect, Paul Nuttall, was arrested Thursday, police said.

Sandra DiFelice.
Sandra DiFelice.LVMPD via Facebook

“I am hopeful that in some way, shape or form this provides some sort of closure for the family,” Johansson, of the department’s homicide section, said at a news conference.

It was DiFelice’s daughter who last year prompted a review of her mother’s case, when she called police in February 2021 and asked whether there was any update.

The daughter was 3 years old at the time of the killing and was staying with her grandparents on the night of the crime, he said.

After police and the DNA lab looked at the case again, “they were able to determine that there was additional evidence that could be submitted for processing using new DNA technology,” Johansson said.

That led to Nuttall, now 64, police said. He was arrested on charges of murder, sexual assault and burglary, police said, and was still living in Las Vegas.

Nuttall was being held without bail Monday night, according to online jail records.

Court records list a public defender as Nuttall's attorney, and the office could not be reached after business hours Monday. A phone number for his home could not be found.

Nuttall had been looked at as a person of interest at the time of the killing, and his fingerprint was found in DiFelice's home, Johansson told reporters Monday.

But at the time there was another explanation, he said, and police believe Nuttall knew DiFelice’s roommate and may have known DiFelice in passing.