Tip Helps Police Solve Cold Murder Case

By: Gerri L. Elder

In Reno, Nev., police recently received a tip that led to the arrest of a man they say murdered a 19-year-old college student in January, reported CNN.

James Michael Biela, 27, was arrested and booked on charges of suspected kidnapping, murder and sexual assault in connection with the murder of Brianna Denison and an attack of another woman during December 2007.

After a 10 month manhunt and receiving 2,278 tips in the case of Denison’s murder, a secret witness provided the police with credible information that cracked the case.

DNA samples were first taken from Biela’s son, and then from Biela himself. Investigators say that the DNA results prove Biela is the man they have been looking for in connection with the murder and attack.

Denison was a college student in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was visiting friends at the University of Nevada in Reno when she was reported missing. Denison had been sleeping on a friend’s sofa in an off-campus apartment when she was abducted. Her shoes, purse and cell phone were left at the apartment, and a small blood stain was found on her pillow.

Three weeks later, Denison’s body was found in a nearby field. She was partially covered with snow. It was reported that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled by her attacker.

As police investigated the murder, they found that the killer had left an unusual “calling card.” The murder suspect apparently had a lingerie fetish. He took his victim’s panties, but left his previous victim’s panties at the crime scene. Another woman’s black thong, size small, was found near Denison’s remains.

Police diligently worked on the case for months, following each lead and investigating all the tips. Finally, on Nov. 1, a friend of Biela’s girlfriend called the tip line. The friend suggested that Biela may be a suspect because his girlfriend had found women’s underwear in his vehicle.

On the surface, the tip may have seemed like a long shot, but police diligently followed up on the lead. Investigators conducted surveillance on Biela. They also asked him to submit to DNA testing, but he refused.

When detectives spoke with Biela’s girlfriend, she allowed a DNA sample to be taken from the couple’s 4-year-old son. That DNA sample was used to match Biela to DNA evidence found at the scene where Denison’s body was found and the rear door of the apartment where she had been sleeping.

CNN reported that Biela’s DNA also matched samples from another sexual assault case. That sexual assault had taken place near the Reno campus a month before Denison was murdered.

On Nov. 27, police arrested Biela and took him into custody. Investigators obtained a search warrant and collected DNA samples from him. These DNA samples link Biela directly to the crime scene.