Las Vegas Sun

March 4, 2024

Metro: DNA testing helps identify Las Vegas homicide victim from 1990s

Metro Police has identified the remains of a homicide victim who died more than 25 years ago using “forensic-grade” DNA sequencing funded by a private party, officials said today.

The remains of Richard Guarro, who was reported missing after he failed to return from a trip to Las Vegas in November 1996, were positively identified by analyzing the DNA of his biological sister. They were sent to Othram Labs in October for “forensic-grade genome sequencing” at the request of cold case detectives, police said in a release.

Metro was first contacted July 7, 2001, that his remains — unidentified at the time — had been found near Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 93, near Apex Road, police said. The Clark County Medical Examiner at the time ruled the death as a homicide, but could not identify Guarro’s remains at the time of the autopsy.

Metro credited Audiochuck — an Indianapolis-based podcast company, according to its website — for funding the full costs associated with lab testing and research. Othram Inc., based in Texas, specializes in human DNA analysis to resolve previously unsolved murders and identify victims.

“Due to the generosity of Audiochuck and the work of Othram Labs, the LVMPD has been able to identify Guarro and provide some closure to his family,” the department said in a release.

This breakthrough is the latest in a string of cold cases Metro has solved since last year with the help of Othram. In November, Metro Police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer announced that the department had solved the 1979 abduction, rape and killing of 16-year-old Western High School student Kim Bryant.

About a week later, police linked the same killer — Johnny Blake Peterson — to the 1983 rape and murder of 22-year-old Diana Hanson, who was visiting her parents at their Las Vegas home while she was home for break while studying at college.

Peterson was linked to the killings through DNA collected from the bodies and a genealogical profile built by Othram. Peterson, who was 19 at the time of Bryant’s killing, died in 1993, Spencer said Nov. 29.

Investigators are “constantly” reviewing cases while looking at advancements in technology and reviewing tips to help identify possible culprits in unsolved murders, police said.

Anyone able to donate to Metro’s homicide cold case unit to help further the investigations of other unsolved murders can go to http://lvmpdfoundation.org and designate a donation for the “Homicide Cold Case Unit,” police said.