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Police link dead man to 2nd cold case killing

Updated December 7, 2021 - 1:10 pm

For the second time in a week, Las Vegas police have linked a dead man to a decades-old killing.

DNA evidence tied Johnny Blake Peterson to the 1983 rape and murder of 22-year-old Diana Hanson, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Raymond Spencer said in a video posted Monday to the department’s YouTube channel.

“On behalf of our family I would like to say that we always knew that the person responsible for Diana’s death would eventually be found,” said Kevin Hanson, Diana Hanson’s brother. “We want to thank the LVPD for never giving up on Diana and other victims like her. We’d like to also thank Justin Woo, as his financial contributions greatly increase the likelihood of cases like Diana’s being solved. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are a unique and special class of people.”

Hanson was reported missing on Dec. 31 of that year and found dead on west Spring Mountain Road, about a mile and a half west of South Buffalo Drive. Hanson had been sexually assaulted, Spencer said.

Hanson was home from college for vacation when she went running around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, 1983, according to an explanation of the case posted on the department’s homicide page. She never returned to the house, located on the 6400 block of Desert Inn Road.

Police believed someone had abducted Hanson while she was running and drove her to the area where her body was found. There were signs of a struggle, and her clothing was located nearby.

But homicide detectives could not find her killer until recently, after they solved another cold case.

In late November, police announced that they had solved the abduction, rape and murder of 16-year-old Kim Bryant in 1979, linking Peterson to the crime with the use of DNA technology.

Investigators “received additional information” about Peterson’s “possible involvement” in the killing of Hanson, Spencer said. DNA evidence recovered from Hanson’s body “confirmed that Johnny Peterson was the suspect who murdered and sexually assaulted Diana Hanson.”

Bryant had gone missing on Jan. 26, 1979, last seen at a fast food restaurant parking lot near her high school campus, Western High School.

Nearly a month later, her body was found in an undeveloped area near West Charleston Boulevard and South Buffalo Drive. Police concluded that she had been sexually assaulted. DNA evidence was recovered from her body, but the case soon went cold.

Then on Nov. 29, police said they had solved the case, with the help of scientists from Texas-based Othram Inc. That helped detectives link Peterson to Hanson’s murder.

Peterson died in 1993. Police are looking at cold cases to see if there are more connections to Peterson, Spencer said.

“This case is yet another example of the lengths that our detectives will go to in order to bring justice and closure to the families of murdered victims,” he said. “The LVMPD homicide section will continue investigating all unsolved murders in an effort to identify the persons responsible and hold them accountable.”

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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