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Man arrested after 40 years in slaying of Las Vegas woman

Updated October 31, 2022 - 9:35 pm

For more than four decades, the rape and murder of Sandra Renee DiFelice in her Las Vegas home remained unsolved.

On Monday, police said a 64-year-old Las Vegas man has been arrested in connection with the Dec. 26, 1980, slaying.

Paul Nuttall was taken into custody at his northwest valley home last week, said Metro homicide section Lt. Jason Johansson in a news briefing announcing the arrest.

“After Paul Nuttall was taken into custody, my cold case investigators had the pleasure of making the one phone call that every cold case detective wants to make,” Johansson said.

That call was to the slain woman’s daughter, who was 3 years old when her mother was killed. Now in her 40s, DiFelice’s daughter spurred the developments that led to the arrest by calling cold case detectives in 2021 to ask for an update.

When detectives looked over the case again, they realized that evidence found under DiFelice’s fingernails should be tested for DNA. The test results led to Nuttall, Johansson said.

“I am hopeful that in some way, shape, or form this provides some sort of closure for the family and ultimately results in some type of closure and justice for Sandra,” Johansson said.

A 1983 Review-Journal story remembered the killing as “one of the most savage murders in Las Vegas’ history,” in which a 25-year-old waitress was beaten, stabbed, raped and strangled.

Metro Lt. John Conner told reporters that DiFelice was found by her boyfriend lying in her bed at 1505 E. Bonanza Road. The Boise native was last seen by her roommate about two hours before she was found dead. Conner said rape was the motive behind the killing, according to the 1983 Review-Journal story.

DiFelice had moved from Boise to Las Vegas with her childhood friend, and the two were roommates in Vegas.

DiFelice’s daughter also lived in the home but was staying with her grandparents in Las Vegas on the night of the killing, according to the story.

DiFelice had been working as a waitress at Sambo’s Restaurant at East Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

In the days after the slaying, Nuttall became an initial suspect, Johansson said. The initial processing of the crime scene in the home revealed a fingerprint that belonged to Nuttall, but there was an explanation for it because Nuttall knew DiFelice’s roommate.

It appears that Nuttall, who was arrested on Oct. 27, had been living in the Las Vegas area since the killing, Johansson said. He wasn’t being looked at for any additional killings, the lieutenant said.

The house in which DiFelice was killed, at 1505 E. Bonanza, is now the Las Vegas headquarters of the Hells Angels.

The lieutenant said the arrest comes after more resources were put into the cold case unit this year. Because a supervisor and three detectives were added to the unit, Johansson said, the hope is that investigators will have more capability to review more cold cases and solve them.

Nuttall had no violent prior charges in Clark County, according to court records. His most recent arrests were on charges of felony and misdemeanor drug possession three times from 2009 through 2011 in Las Vegas.

He is being held without bail after a hearing Monday. He faces charges of murder, sexual assault and burglary while in possession of a firearm or deadly weapon.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter. Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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