Sparks man gets death penalty in coed’s slaying

RENO — A jury sentenced a Nevada man to death Wednesday for raping and killing a college coed after sexually assaulting two others in a string of attacks that had 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 the 2008 rape and strangulation of 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. The sentence will be automatically appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“My heart goes out to all the innocent people who have been touched by this tragedy,” said the judge, Robert Perry. He set sentencing for July 30 on other charges stemming from the Denison slaying and the sexual assault of two other young women.

As Biela was handcuffed and led away by a court marshal, he turned to his mother and apologized.

“I’m sorry. I (expletive) up,” he said.

The pipe fitter and ex-Marine from Sparks apologized 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 had been abused growing up in poverty in the Chicago area.

But Denison’s family and Washoe County prosecutors called death the only appropriate penalty for her slaying in January 2008 during a series of assaults that began months before on the edge of the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Denison’s mother, Bridgette Denison, handed small blue bags of mementoes to prosecutors and police with buttons bearing her daughter’s photo and the words “Bring Bri Justice.”

Similar buttons were distributed during the search for Denison’s body in 2008.

“It sickens me to know my poor baby girl was with you the last moments of her life,” Bridgette Denison told Biela on Tuesday. “I know that James Biela is asking for mercy. I do not believe he deserves any mercy.”

Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler said he agreed with public defenders who said the death penalty should be reserved for the “worst of the worst.”

But he said Biela fit that category because he strangled Denison with thong underwear.

“He could have used his bare hands,” Sattler said. “He chose not to do that. He killed her in a sick and sadistic way that was directly tied into what he had done earlier.”

Detectives called the slaying the work of a serial rapist who stalked petite women and had a fetish for thongs. The two other assault victims said their assailant took their panties during attacks at or near UNR in the fall of 2007.

Denison, a sophomore at California’s Santa Barbara City College, was home visiting friends during winter break when she was abducted Jan. 20, 2008, while sleeping on a friend’s couch near the UNR campus.

Her body, clad only in socks, was found in a field 26 days later, beneath a discarded Christmas tree along with two pairs of women’s thong underwear. Police determined one undergarment had been stolen from Denison’s friend and was used to strangle Denison.

Denison’s family and friends tied blue ribbons around fence posts and trees, and police reported receiving thousands of tips and calls to an anonymous hot line. Biela was arrested in November 2008 when he went to pick his son up at preschool.

Police said he was identified through DNA compared with samples that Biela’s ex-girlfriend let police obtain from their son.

Lawyers for both sides put the death penalty itself on trial during closing arguments Tuesday.

Public defender Maizie Pusich argued that sentencing Biela to life in prison without parole was enough to punish Biela and protect the public.

“The way to prevent this sort of tragedy in the future is not to kill Mr. Biela,” she said. “Death does not bring peace or renewal to anyone.”

The last time a Washoe County jury issued a death sentence was for Tamir Hamilton, now 32. He was convicted in 2008 of raping and killing Holly Quick, 16, of Sparks, in September 2006.

ad-high_impact_4
News
NSPCA Gets Kittens From LA
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like