James Biela, Serial Rapist Found Guilty of Rape and Murder of Nevada Coed, Brianna Dennison/Gets Death Penalty

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Normal James Biela, Serial Rapist Found Guilty of Rape and Murder of Nevada Coed, Brianna Dennison/Gets Death Penalty

Post by NiteSpinR on Tue May 25, 2010 12:49 am

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May 24, 2010 8:03 a.m. EDT
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New York (CNN) -- The slaying of Brianna Denison was one of our first cold cases -- one that has resulted in an arrest.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Biela was significantly heavier when he was arrested in the Denison case in 2008.[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Now the murder trial of the suspect, 28-year-old James Michael Biela, a former Marine with a young son, is entering its third week in a courtroom in Reno, Nevada.

The trial began with dramatic testimony by Denison's mother, her boyfriend, and a video showing her with friends at Mel's Diner just a few hours before she was abducted during the early morning of January 20, 2008.

Denison, 19, was attending community college in Santa Barbara, California, but was visiting friends at the University of Nevada, Reno. After they attended a concert, she slept on the living room couch in a friend's off-campus apartment.

While she slept, someone crept into the apartment and snatched her, police and prosecutors say. She was sexually assaulted and strangled, and her body was found weeks later in a snow-covered field a few miles away.

Her story was featured as a cold case in September 2008, triggering a flurry of local stories. A tip emerged and two months after our story, police in Reno, Nevada, made an arrest.

"Media coverage is absolutely essential for us," Detective Adam Wygnanski, one of the lead investigators, said at the time. "We finally got the break in the case we were looking for."

Police had released a photo of a woman's panties found near Denison's body and the description of a pickup truck. The panties were not Denison's, but investigators said they believed they were looking for a serial rapist who left women's panties as his "calling card."

The tip that broke the case came from a secret witness, who pointed police toward Biela.

According to police, the tipster saw the photo of the panties, and thought she recognized the truck police had described. She came forward, telling investigators a friend's boyfriend had a truck similar to the description, and that her friend had seen women's panties inside it.

Biela, who was working construction at the time of his arrest, is charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Denison. He could face the death penalty if convicted of her murder.

He also stands accused of raping another University of Nevada, Reno, student at a campus parking lot on October 22, 2007. And he's charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a third student on December 17.

Biela has pleaded not guilty to charges in all three attacks.

At the trial, Denison's boyfriend, Cameron Wilson Done, told the jury he and Brianna had been fighting on the day she was last seen alive. He recalled how his last text message to his girlfriend, at 4:23 a.m., was full of angry words. "She was my first girlfriend," Done told the court, as he broke down and cried on the witness stand.

Bridgette Denison, the victim's mother, testified that she last saw her daughter packing an overnight bag and heading to a friend's apartment to get ready for the concert. The next morning, she received a call that Brianna had vanished. She described seeing the blood stain on the couch where her daughter had been sleeping.

The Denison murder case has been combined at the trial with the cases of two other women who claim Biela sexually assaulted them. Both testified during the first week of the trial.

One of the women recounted how she was attacked on campus. She said her assailant threatened her with a gun, raped her and took her panties as a souvenir, although she never reported it to police. Asked if her attacker was in the court room, she pointed to Biela.

The defense challenged the identification because she earlier told a friend she could not describe her attacker to police.

The second woman, a student at the university, testified she'd been abducted outside her apartment and driven to a dark area and assaulted in the attacker's vehicle. She described the vehicle as an extended cab pickup truck with a dome light and a toddler's shoe on the floor of the truck. She was also able to describe the body of her attacker, but could not describe his face.

The woman testified that her assailant asked for her panties and took them with him.

DNA obtained from the victim's rape kit matched Biela's, according to testimony. Biela's defense attorneys are challenging the DNA testing method, saying it is not accurate.

The trial is expected to last two more weeks. Still, Denison's family members feel a sense of relief that the trial is underway.

"It's been a difficult time for us, but we are hopeful that justice will be served," said Brianna's aunt, Lauren Denison.

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Normal James Biela, Serial Rapist Found Guilty of Rape and Murder of Nevada Coed, Brianna Dennison/Gets Death Penalty

Post by lisette on Thu May 27, 2010 7:28 pm

RENO, Nev. -- A Nevada man was convicted Thursday of raping and strangling a 19-year-old college coed during a string of attacks that had the city of Reno on edge two years ago.

A Washoe County District Court jury found James Biela guilty of all five counts tied to the murder of Brianna Denison and sexual assault of two other young women.

Biela showed little emotion, standing with his hands crossed in front of his waist as the verdict was read.

"It's a good verdict, well deserved," District Attorney Dick Gammick said. "Cases like this always strengthen my faith and belief in the jury system."

The same jury that took about six hours to reach a verdict now must decide whether the 28-year-old pipe fitter from Sparks should be sentenced to death.


Brianna Denison
The sexual assaults began in the fall of 2007 around the University of Nevada, Reno campus just north of the downtown casino district and culminated in Denison's strangulation in January 2008.
Detectives said it was the work of a serial rapist who stalked petite women and had a fetish for thong underwear.

Fueled by thousands of tips and calls to an anonymous hot line, a nine-month-long manhunt led them to Biela, who was arrested in November 2008 after his ex-girlfriend let police take DNA from their son.

Biela's public defenders called only one witness during the trial. A DNA expert argued there was less certainty in the DNA match than prosecutors contended partly because the samples were gone when he went to test them to verify the county crime lab's conclusions.

Biela, an ex-Marine who studied martial arts, initially told District Judge Robert Perry earlier this week that he wanted to testify on his own behalf, but then changed his mind on the advice of his lawyers.

Denison, a sophomore at Santa Barbara City College, had been home visiting friends when she was kidnapped while sleeping on a friend's couch near the Reno campus on Jan. 20, 2008.
Her body clad in only in socks was found in a field 26 days later beneath a discarded Christmas tree along with two pair of thong underwear.

The two other assault victims said their assailant took their underwear.

After the verdicts were read, Denison's mother, Bridgette Denison, said the family would have no comment until sentencing was completed. Biela's lawyers also declined to comment.

Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler began his closing arguments late Wednesday with a reference to the comment a co-worker of Biela's said he made the day Denison's body was found: "The (expletive expletive) probably had it coming."

Sattler said that comment offered "chilling insight into the mind of a killer."

"Sometimes people do get what they have coming," he said. "In this case, it's time for the defendant to get what he has coming."

Jay Slocum, one of Biela's public defenders, said prosecutors were glossing over significant differences in the three attacks that would suggest the crimes were not committed by the same person.

The first victim was raped at gunpoint in October 2007 and the second ordered to perform oral sex in December 2007 before Denison was raped and killed in the final attack.

Slocum told the jury the standard is "not did you think Mr. Biela probably did these crimes or quite likely did the crimes."

"The standard is beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "If the state has not met its burden, you are following the law to say not guilty."

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Normal Re: James Biela, Serial Rapist Found Guilty of Rape and Murder of Nevada Coed, Brianna Dennison/Gets Death Penalty

Post by lisette on Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:32 pm

Nevada jury sentences man to death by lethal injection for rape-murder of college coed in Reno
Published June 02, 2010 | Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A jury sentenced a Nevada man to death Wednesday for raping and killing a college coed after sexually assaulting two others in a string of attacks that had the city of Reno on edge for most of 2008.

The same jury that convicted James Biela, 28, last week deliberated for about nine hours before reaching a unanimous verdict to execute him by lethal injection for the 2008 rape and strangulation of Brianna Denison, 19.

Her family members burst into tears and Biela stared straight ahead as the sentence was read aloud in Washoe County District Court. Biela's sentence will be automatically appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The pipe fitter and ex-Marine from Sparks apologized Tuesday, saying he regretted that he would not be able to see his son grow up. His public defenders urged the seven women and five men of the jury to consider that he had no previous criminal record and had been abused growing up in poverty in the Chicago area.

But Denison's family and Washoe County prosecutors called death the only appropriate penalty for Denison's slaying in January 2008 during a series of assaults that began months before on the edge of the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.


"It sickens me to know my poor baby girl was with you the last moments of her life," Bridgette Denison, the victim's mother, told Biela on Tuesday. "I know that James Biela is asking for mercy. I do not believe he deserves any mercy."

Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler said he agreed with public defenders who said the death penalty should be reserved for the "worst of the worst."

But he said Biela fit that category because he strangled Denison with thong underwear.

Detectives called the slaying the work of a serial rapist who stalked petite women and had a fetish for thongs. The two other assault victims said their assailant took their panties during attacks at or near UNR in the fall of 2007.

Denison, a sophomore at California's Santa Barbara City College, was home visiting friends during winter break when she was abducted Jan. 20, 2008, while sleeping on a friend's couch near the UNR campus.

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Normal Nevada Senate Approves DNA Testing In Honor Of Murdered Teen Brianna Denison

Post by NiteSpinR on Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:54 pm

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CARSON CITY, Nev. - A bill named in honor of murdered teen Brianna Denison that calls for people arrested on felony charges to provide a DNA sample for a database to check for links to other possible crimes, was unanimously approved Monday by the Nevada Senate.

SB243 now goes to the Assembly and comes as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of such laws. A ruling is expected later this year.

Known as Brianna's Law, the Nevada bill is in honor of Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old who was kidnapped and later found raped and murdered in early 2008.

James Biela was arrested nine months later and eventually convicted and sentenced to death for killing Denison. He also was convicted and given life terms for raping two other women in late 2007, just months before Denison was attacked.

Supporters of the bill say it may have saved Denison's life if it had been enacted earlier because Biela had a previous felony arrest early in the decade that could have been used to identify him following the 2007 sexual assaults.

A similar bill died in 2011, but Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks said this year's bill addresses many concerns that led to the bill's demise two years ago.

For one thing, DNA samples would be destroyed if a person is arrested but ultimately not charged. Additionally, someone who is not convicted of a felony could petition to have their DNA sample destroyed and removed from the database.

"To my colleagues, this works," Smith said. "It keeps bad people from hurting the people in our world."

Smith said 28 states have similar laws, as does the federal government.

"Data tell us a small number of criminals in our society commit the vast majority of heinous crimes," Smith said.

She said after New Mexico passed similar legislation in 2006, the first person swabbed for a DNA sample was matched to a double homicide.

"This is a critical piece of legislation. I urge you all to support it," said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson.

The Senate erupted in a standing ovation when the bill passed unanimously as Denison's mother, Bridgette Zunino-Denison and her aunt, Lauren Denison, watched from the back of the chambers.
The bill now moves to the Assembly.
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