RENO — A jury sentenced a Nevada man to death Wednesday for raping and strangling a college coed after sexually assaulting two others in a string of attacks that had the city of Reno on edge for most of 2008.
The same jury that convicted James Biela, 28, last week deliberated for about nine hours before reaching a unanimous verdict to execute him by lethal injection for murdering Brianna Denison, 19.
Her family members burst into tears and Biela stared straight ahead as the sentence was read aloud in Washoe County District Court. His sentence will be automatically appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
As Biela was handcuffed and led away by a court marshal, he turned and apologized to his mother, Kathy Lovell.
The pipe fitter and ex-Marine from Sparks apologized in court Tuesday, saying he regretted that he would not be able to see his son grow up. His public defenders urged the seven women and five men of the jury to consider that he had no previous criminal record and grew up in an abusive, impoverished home in the Chicago area .
Judge Robert Perry set sentencing for July 30 on other charges stemming from the Denison slaying and the sexual assault of two other young women.