Prosecutors in Nevada intend to seek the death penalty for the murder of Santa Barbara City College student Brianna Denison.
James Biela – the 27-year-old accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Denison – will stand trial in Nevada in February 2010. Denison disappeared on Jan. 20, 2008 while staying with a friend in her hometown of Reno. Her body was found in a field on Feb. 15, 2008.
Authorities conducted a 10-month investigation, ultimately linking Biela to the murder through a DNA match. He was arraigned nearly a year after Denison disappeared, and pled not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and murder last week.
Officials started to suspect Biela’s involvement after a witness reported his strange behavior. Additionally, Biela’s girlfriend informed a friend that she had discovered a pair of underwear in his truck. The witness then informed authorities, and detectives asked Biela to provide a voluntary DNA sample. After his refusal, the mother of Biela’s child gave investigators permission to take a DNA sample from their 4-year-old son, which ultimately tied Biela to the murder.
The suspect is also charged with sexually assaulting two other women in 2007 in the Reno area.