Man pleads not guilty to the murder of a store clerk in National City in 1974

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (CNS) – A 68-year-old Las Vegas man charged with fatally stabbing a National City convenience store clerk almost half a century ago pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a murder charge .

Carlin Edward Cornett, who was arrested at his Las Vegas home last month, is charged on July 31, 1974 with the murder of 22-year-old Christy Ellen Bryant.

He was extradited to San Diego and held in the downtown jail on Monday, according to county jail records. He remained in detention without bond after Wednesday’s arraignment.

Cornett faces eight years in state prison if convicted of murder, along with an alleged use of a knife in the murder. Although murder convictions currently carry a much higher potential sentence, Cornett incurs the sentence he would have received in 1974 under California law at the time.

Bryant was stabbed to death while working alone in a 7-Eleven at 702 Highland Ave., according to National City Police. A Domino’s Pizza restaurant is there now.

The case turned cold after exhaustive law enforcement measures failed to identify the suspect, according to Lt. Derek Aydelotte of the National Town Police Department. However, officers at the time took blood samples from the suspect at the scene, even though DNA testing was not yet available, keeping the case in circulation for decades.

“Over the years, different NCPD detectives have looked into the case, but no solid leads have been developed,” Aydelotte said.

This was not the first attempt by law enforcement to track down Bryant’s killer using DNA. In 2008, the blood sample was submitted to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab and Combined DNA Index System in hopes of finding the killer among a group of possible suspects.

“The DNA profile of evidence of blood remained in the system and was looked for regularly without any results,” Aydelotte said.

Then, eight years after National City Police teamed up with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and after serious advances in forensic technology, Cornett was identified through the work of an in-house genealogist from the Cold Homicide and Genealogy Research Effort, according to the district attorney’s office.