More charges likely against Reno murder suspect
RENO ” Prosecutors in Reno say they’re considering additional charges against a man accused of killing a college woman and sexually assaulting another.
James Michael Biela, 27, was arrested last week. He’s charged with murder in the killing of 19-year-old Brianna Denison. He’s also charged with kidnapping and sexual assault of another woman near the University of Nevada, Reno.
Authorities early in the investigation described the suspect as a serial rapist, and said he may have been involved in at least two other sexual assaults in the Reno area.
“We anticipate filing an amended complaint in the near future,” Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler said Tuesday. Sattler is prosecuting the case with District Attorney Richard Gammick, who said his office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Investigators said DNA evidence linked Biela to Denison’s death and the Dec. 16 rape and abduction of a student from outside her apartment.
Denison was sleeping on a couch at a friend’s rented home near the UNR campus when authorities say she was kidnapped Jan. 20. Her body was found Feb. 15 in a brush-covered lot in south Reno. An autopsy showed she was sexually assaulted and strangled.
On Wednesday, forensic specialists at the Washoe County Crime Lab searched a pickup truck Biela owned at the time of Denison’s death.
Grey fibers were collected from the clothing of one of the other victims after she was assaulted last December in a pickup that matched the description of Biela’s.
On June 1, he traded that gold Toyota Tacoma pickup with grey interior to a dealership in Kellogg, Idaho for a Chevrolet model that was tan and also had a grey interior, police said.
Authorities said they are hoping clues still remain in the truck Biela traded, despite the dealership detailing the vehicle.
Detectives tracked down the truck through DMV records, and learned the vehicle was sold in Coeur dAlene, Idaho. Lt. Robert McDonald said the new owner modified the truck, adding a hard cover to the bed, rubber flare guards on the fenders and a running board.
After Denison was found in February, Biela quit his construction job where he worked on a project at UNR. He then left his girlfriend, son and his girlfriend’s daughter and moved to Lake Moses, Wash. The case was cracked after his girlfriend told a friend that in September she found womens thong panties in Bielas new truck. The friend then called Secret Witness on Nov. 1. A DNA match was made to Biela through his son, and a sample of Bielas own DNA confirmed he was the suspect, police said.
Reno police suspect Biela of sexually attacking four college women at a pace of once a month, between October and when Denison disappeared.
Secret Witness Chairman Brock Richter said Wednesday the tipster had yet to collect the reward in the case. He said most people report tips to help public safety, not to collect money.
Biela’s preliminary hearing in Reno Justice Court is set for Dec. 10, but Gammick said he expects Biela’s public defender to seek a continuance.
Public Defender Jeremy Bosler said his office is still receiving reports and witness statements and has not decided whether to ask for a postponement.
Biela’s lead defense lawyer is Richard Davies.