Reno police link missing student to earlier sex assault

RENO (AP) " Police said Sunday a positive DNA link has been established between the Jan. 20 abduction of a college student from a Reno home and a December sexual assault of another student who lived a few blocks away.

At a late afternoon news conference, Reno police commander Ron Holladay said investigators think the same unidentified white male in his 30s is responsible for the earlier assault and last week's kidnapping of Brianna Denison, 19, from a friend's house near the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

"Our chances of capturing the suspect are exponentially increased now because of the DNA," Holladay said. "He probably lives in the area. It's still my hope that Brianna is alive, and we're expending every resource possible to get her back safely."

Holladay said a DNA sample obtained from the scene of Denison's disappearance matched one found at the scene of the earlier assault.

He said the victim of the earlier case was interviewed again after the match was made and a more detailed description of the suspect was developed.

That victim, a UNR student, was kidnapped outside her home on Dec. 16 and sexually assaulted. She also was the victim of a Jan. 19 attempted burglary at her home that may be connected to the same suspect, Holladay said.

A Nov. 13 fondling of another UNR student who was walking to her home in the same neighborhood remains under investigation and may be linked to the other cases, Holladay said.

"The close proximity of the cases would lead us to believe he knows his way around the area," the commander said, adding Denison's abduction and the December crimes occurred between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

Crime lab technicians have determined a small stain on a pillow at the house where Denison vanished is the blood of Denison, a student at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, Calif., who was visiting her hometown over winter break when she vanished.

Holladay said the blood could indicate the suspect used the pillow to restrain Denison or to try to suffocate her.

"People who know the suspect may not believe that he is capable of committing this type of crime and he may not necessarily have a violent criminal history," the commander said.

Police said they plan to expand a ground search Monday into mountainous areas around Reno, including along the Truckee River and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

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