Murder defendant taught choke hold, instructor says
RENO (AP) – A martial arts instructor testified Thursday about a choke hold he taught the man charged with abducting and killing a 19-year-old college coed and sexually assaulting two other women near the University of Nevada, Reno.
Sparks police officer Eric Marconato says he contacted police out of concern that the Jiu-Jitsu move he taught James Biela was used on one of the victims. His testimony came during the second day of Biela’s trial in Washoe County District Court.
Biela is accused of murdering Brianna Denison after abducting her from a friend’s house on the edge of campus in 2008. He also is charged with sexually assaulting two other women in 2007.
Marconato said the move he taught Biela involved grabbing a person from behind and holding them around the shoulders and neck. He said the “rear naked hold” can render a person unconscious in seconds.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Hicks said one of the sexual assault victims described being grabbed from behind in a similar manner and taken to the ground.
Biela, a Sparks pipe fitter, had a blue belt after training in martial arts for about three years, he added.
Denison was visiting family and friends during winter break when she vanished while sleeping in a house near UNR in January 2008. Her body was found three weeks later in a vacant lot in a business district in south Reno.
Biela, 28, also is accused of raping a woman in a UNR parking garage at gunpoint in October 2007. Another woman was kidnapped two months later outside her apartment, driven to another location and sexually assaulted before her attacker drove her home.