DNA leads to arrest in 1974 murder of 22-year-old 7-Eleven clerk

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NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — A man was arrested in Las Vegas in connection with the 1974 murder of a 7-Eleven clerk in National City, police said Thursday.

Carlin Edward Cornett, 68, was arrested at his Las Vegas home 47 years after 22-year-old Christy Ellen Bryant was killed, the National City Police Department said. Bryant was working a solo shift in the early morning hours of July 31 at the now-shuttered 7-Eleven at 702 Highland Avenue in National City when she was brutally stabbed to death, police said in a news release.

Bryant originally came to San Diego in 1971 while serving in the United States Marine Corps, police said. She was working as a clerk at the convenience store after retiring from the armed services because of injuries sustained in a car accident.

She is survived by her father, Dr. N. Dale Bryant of Florida, and her two sisters, Tari Bryant of Florida and Holly Bryant of Texas.

Speaking to FOX 5 Thursday, Holly Bryant said she is glad the case wasn’t forgotten, but she doesn’t know if there will ever be closure. She was 20 at the time of her sister’s murder and moved to National City for a period after it happened.

Bryant describes her late sister as “very friendly” and “always helpful,” the type of person who was known for going out of her way to help others.

She said she and Tari still call each other each year on Christy’s birthday.

“We think of her a lot,” she said.

Even though DNA analysis wasn’t available in 1974, police collected blood belonging to the suspect from the crime scene. Throughout the years, NCPD detectives looked at the case but no firm leads were developed.

The blood was submitted to the San Diego Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory in 2008 for further analysis and entry into the Combined DNA Index System. The DNA profile remained in CODIS and was searched regularly with no hits.

In 2012, NCPD detectives requested the crime lab conduct a Y-STR analysis of the blood sample in order to perform a familial DNA search. In 2012, 2015 and 2016, California DOJ’s Bureau of Forensic Services was contacted and familial DNA searches were performed on the sample with no luck.

NCPD joined forces with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office – Cold Case Homicide Unit in 2013 to try and solve the case. The partnership and advancements in forensic technology related to DNA helped lead to the identification of a suspect, police said.

Local law enforcement and investigators in Las Vegas arrested Cornett on Sept. 14 at his house on Mariner Bay Street. Cornett will be extradited to San Diego to face murder charges, according to NCPD.

Bryant said she “at least” would like to see Cornett go to prison.

“I do want him to pay for what he did and I hope his family can accept it as well,” she said.

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