Officer: Biela used cell phone near crime sites
RENO (AP) – A man charged with the murder of one woman and the sexual assault of two others used his cell phone near the sites of two of the crimes on the nights they occurred, a Reno police officer testified Thursday.
Officer Joe Robinson, who is trained in tracking cell phone records, said James Biela’s phone was used to check voicemail the night 19-year-old Brianna Denison was abducted from a home in January 2008.
Robinson said the cell phone tower used for the call was about 11⁄2 miles from the home.
The officer testified that Biela’s phone also was used near a home where another woman was abducted before being sexually assaulted in December 2007.
Biela, 28, is charged with raping and killing Denison and sexually assaulting two other college students near the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
Denison was sleeping on a friend’s couch when she was abducted. Her body was found about a month later in a vacant lot in a south Reno business district. Police said she had been raped and strangled.
Reno police detective Roya Mason testified that a forensic search of Biela’s computers netted thousands of hits for the word “thong.” She said she also found hundreds of photographs of women wearing thongs.
Asked if the search revealed a theme, Mason replied, “I thought an interest in the thongs and women in thongs was a theme.”
Reno police detective Troy Callahan said he searched a travel trailer owned by Biela, and found two pairs of small women’s thong underwear.
Washoe County District Judge Robert Perry, who is presiding over the trial, on Thursday denied a defense request for a mistrial.
Deputy Public Defender James Leslie said a juror’s submission of a question to a detective during the trial implied the juror had already decided Biela was guilty of one of the sexual assaults.
The juror wanted to know why Biela would try to buy a gun if he already had one, “as used with” an October 2007 sexual assault victim, who said she was raped at gunpoint.
Perry said the trial would continue after the juror told him she had not made up her mind about the attack.