Co-workers testify against Biela in Reno murder trial
RENO (AP) – A man charged with the murder of a college student and the sexual assault of two other women said after the slain student’s body was found that she “probably had it coming,” a former co-worker testified Friday.
John Latham, a foreman with J.W. McClenahan Co., said James Biela was a good worker but his attitude changed in the fall of 2007. He even punched a wall at one point, Latham said.
“He seemed frustrated and maybe a little upset,” Latham said, adding the 28-year-old Sparks pipe fitter told him he was frustrated with his girlfriend and his son.
Latham said he also recalled seeing a child’s shoe in Biela’s truck. One of the sexual assault victims testified that she saw a child’s shoe in her attacker’s truck.
Biela’s former supervisor, Jeremy Coston, testified that Biela asked for a voluntary layoff the same day Brianna Denison’s body was found in a south Reno field in February 2008.
Coston said he talked him out of leaving earlier that month, but Biela insisted on quitting the day Denison’s body was found about a mile from where he had worked.
Biela is charged with raping and killing Denison. He also is accused of sexually assaulting two other college students near the University of Nevada, Reno campus in the fall of 2007. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Jeffrey Rolands, an FBI special agent who used to work at the Washoe County crime lab, testified that Biela’s DNA matches samples from a door knob at the home where Denison vanished and from one of the victims.
Suzanne Harmon, a forensic investigator with the county crime lab, said blood and teeth marks were found on the pillow Denison used the night she disappeared and she thinks the pillow was held over “someone’s face.”
Reno police detective Adam Wygnanski testified that Biela’s demeanor changed after he told him he was investigating the Denison murder.
“He went silent and looked straight out the window and tried to avoid eye contact,” he said. “The jovial start changed immediately to nervousness. He was starting to sweat.”
Wygnanski said he became more suspicious after Biela lied about a vehicle truck he had just traded in.
Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case Monday and turn it over to the defense. Attorneys said the case could go to the jury as early as Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.
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