County honors philanthropist who helped solve 1989 slaying of Las Vegas schoolgirl


Courtesy of Clark County

Clark County commissioners flank John Isaacson (fourth from left), Othram Labs founder David Mittelman and Henderson philanthropist Justin Woo, Sept. 21, 2021. The commission issued a proclamation to honor Woo, who funded DNA testing that helped Metro Police solve the slaying of 14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson, who was killed three decades ago.

A local philanthropist whose donation helped solve the slaying of a Las Vegas teenager three decades ago was honored this week by the Clark County Commission, which issued a proclamation in his honor.

At the short ceremony during the regular commission meeting Tuesday, Justin Woo was accompanied by the father of 14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson, and the founder of the DNA lab that helped Metro Police crack the case this summer. 

Commissioner Michael Naft mentioned the “terrible price” John Isaacson paid when Stephanie left for school but never returned on June 1, 1989, and thanked Woo for his generous contribution. 

“I’m just glad to be able to help the family get a little bit of closure and I’m looking forward to doing more cases in the future,” said Woo, a Henderson retiree who founded the Vegas Helps nonprofit. 

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Stephanie Isaacson

Stephanie Isaacson was abducted, beaten and raped in a desert area near her east Las Vegas home the day she disappeared, according to Metro Police. 

Woo donated $5,000 to Othram Labs, a private Texas-based company, under the caveat that they look into a Las Vegas cold case. Metro chose Stephanie Isaacson’s case. 

Using minimal DNA for genome sequencing, fewer than 15 human cells, Othram got a hit that determined Darren R. Marchand was the killer, police said. The suspect, who at one point was charged for murder in the strangulation death of a woman, died from suicide in 1995. 

Isaacson’s parents didn’t speak during the ceremony. 

“This should not be viewed as an extraordinary” one and done, said David Mittelman, who founded the lab. As DNA technology improves, so will the chance to solve thousands of cold cases, he said. 

Othram runs, which highlights the cases of unsolved deaths it’s looking into, some of which still need to raise funds. Stephanie Isaacson is one of about 30 that have been solved.

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