Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas Metro Police solve 32-year-old and 35-year-old cold cases

Wess Haubrich
Stephanie IsaacsonLas Vegas Review Journal

Score another one for DNA

So many people flow in and out of that literal oasis in the desert, Las Vegas, Nevada.

People come there to strike it rich. Or blow some of that high disposable income they have for a weekend of partying and debauchery at bachelor/bachelorette parties and get-togethers in this massive adult fun park.

These types of people are the service workers off the Strip – all 207+ thousands of them. They need places to hang out, let their hair down; and infrastructure – like roads and schools – to build their lives and raise families.

So, there’s plenty in the way of much smaller-than-the-strip casinos, bars, taverns, clubs, and all manner of other interesting cultural paraphernalia that’s quintessential Las Vegas with places like the Mob Museum.

14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson and was one of those Vegas locals. She never made it to school that June 1, 1989, after engaging in her daily ritual of walking there.

Stephanie’s body would be found – sexually assaulted and strangled – in a nearby field off the trail she used a thousand times to walk to school and home. Her father would only know that she had disappeared that evening.

Her father went right into point – as fathers whose daughter might be in danger tends to get – when he got as many neighbors as he could to look for her.

It did not take long to find her. She was dead in the baseball field she walks through every day. She was strangled and sexually assaulted.

That last part - the little bit of biological refuse – is ultimately what put the nail in our then unknown suspect’s coffin. The DNA sample stood in the associated evidence folder for quite some time. As there were no suspects – and very little they could do with the sample considering the fact of limited forensic tools in 1989, and even in 1998 when the sample was retested. 30 different cases were plugged it into the case at one point.

Las Vegas Metro Police had nothing else, really, to go on. Ergo, the case went cold as seemingly every method of forensic investigation – not to mention every bit of evidence – is exhausted.

There was an interesting, tragic turn to this case. There was another Vegas victim not yet tied our suspect –years before Stephanie’s murder. In 1986, the same man strangled Nanette Vanderberg in her home. That case also went cold.

Darren Roy Marchand killed himself at age 29 in 1995. They could get nothing off of him then.

This case is the ultimate score for DNA and courtroom science. Only 15 – yeah, just 15 – cells are all it took to get a match for this DNA. This is officially the smallest sample of DNA in the world that caught a suspect.

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact:


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