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July 31, 2014

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Crime:

Seventeen years later, police still trying to solve Henderson slaying

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Steve Marcus

David Johnson holds a photo of his sister Diane Hietbrink at his home in Henderson Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Hietbrink, 58, was found stabbed to death in her Henderson home in 1996.

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A picture of Diane Hietbrink, 58, who was found dead of multiple stab wounds in her Henderson home on the evening of Sept. 25, 1996. Since then, no one has been charged in Hietbrink's death, police said.

It didn’t take much to please Diane Hietbrink.

The 58-year-old loved spending time with her grandchildren, playing with her dogs and taking walks. And on the day of her death almost 17 years ago, she did just that.

Hietbrink’s brother, David Johnson, picked her up and drove her to O’Callaghan Park, where the two walked and chatted as they often did. Then Johnson dropped Hietbrink off at home, not knowing it would be their last leisurely stroll.

Later that day, Sept. 25, 1996, Hietbrink was found dead in her Henderson home. The cause: multiple stab wounds.

The coroner ruled her death a homicide, triggering an investigation that to this day remains unsolved. The uncertainty troubles her family, which has watched Hietbrink’s house at 302 Nebraska Ave. be razed and nearby downtown Henderson flourish over the years.

“My sister was a really nice, sweet person,” Johnson said. “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She led a simple life.”

Last month, the Henderson Police Department resubmitted all physical evidence in the case for additional DNA testing — a move hinged on hope that technological advances would provide new clues and reinvigorate the investigation, police said.

Hietbrink’s death is one of about 20 cold cases on file in Henderson, police spokesman Keith Paul said.

“No murder case is ever closed until it is solved,” Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers said in a statement. “We want to bring the killers to justice, and we want to give the families of the victims some measure of closure. It is our hope that anyone who has any information in this case will come forward.”

The mystery began when Hietbrink’s husband returned home at about 5:15 p.m. and found his wife lying on the living room floor, covered in blood. Nearby lay a torn shirt pocket and a card with some writing, both believed to belong to the killer, police said.

Several witnesses in the neighborhood reported seeing a Hispanic man leave the rear of the house and board a bus, police said. They described him as man in his early 20s who was wearing a blue- and white-striped dress shirt.

Johnson learned about his sister’s death while attending a school orientation for his son that evening. Hietbrink’s death didn’t make any sense to Johnson — and it still doesn’t.

“Maybe it was a random incident,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know anybody that disliked her.”

Johnson is now 58, the age of his sister when she was killed. The Green Valley resident rarely visits downtown Henderson. It’s too painful. But he keeps in touch with his sister’s husband and their two children, who remain cautiously optimistic that perhaps police will locate the person responsible.

“It’s tough,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if there will ever be closure, but it would be nice to know.”

Henderson Police ask anyone with information about this case to call 702-267-4750. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or visit crimestoppersofnv.com.

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  1. Another case where TOUCH DNA database would help and save years and years of "investigation" and expense. Sounds like several samples could have produced relevant touch dna samples, maybe even Perp blood samples. BORDER SECURITY: biometrics must include dna samples. We know it would take a few years to build the database but results would start now and escalate with time. VIOLENT people must be incarcerated and NOT LET OUT.