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Main Suspect in 2001 Disappearance Was Killer, DA Says

District attorney reveals lab test that links rug fibers from missing woman's home to the jeep of the late San Jose architect, Maurice Nasmeh.

The main suspect in the disappearance and murder of a Los Gatos woman who vanished more than 10 years ago was pinned Wednesday morning as her killer by the county's top prosecutor.

There's no recourse that can be taken against for the murder of Jeanine Harms, because he's dead, killed in January by her brother, Wayne Sanchez, in a murder-suicide in San Jose.

The indictment against Nasmeh came after Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen revealed results of a private lab's extensive testing of fiber evidence from a Persian rug missing from Harms' home, which was found in the cargo area of Nasmeh's Jeep Cherokee. 

"There is simply no innocent explanation for how those fibers were deposited in that location," said the DA's report on the investigation, released Wednesday. "Although Nasmeh and Ms. Sanchez-Harms drove in that vehicle to the store to buy beer, it defies common sense that such an errand could result in the transfer of so many fibers from Ms. Sanchez-Harms' apartment.

"Even if Nasmeh came into contact with the cargo area of his vehicle following that evening," the report added, "the absence of fibers from Ms. Sanchez-Harms' apartment of the driver’s seat is inconsistent with Nasmeh himself being responsible for an innocent transfer."

Many of Harms' friends, who attended the news conference Wednesday morning at Rosen's office, weren't surprised by the findings, saying they believed all along that Nasmeh had killed their friend.

Rosen said he believes Nasmeh wrapped Harms body with the rug after he killed her, and then placed her in his car.

Illinois-based Microtrace, LLC, microscopist Skip Palenik concluded, "It is almost inconceivable that a collection of such distinctive fibers could have accumulated by mere random chance." The report on the investigation added, "In short, there is simply no innocent explanation for so many fibers from the Persian and latch hook rugs to be found in the vehicle, and their presence is proof that the Persian rug was in the cargo area of Nasmeh's vehicle."

After Sanchez killed Nasmeh in January and then turned the gun on himself, pressure was placed on authorities to finalize their investigation into the fibers, being tested since 2008 without any conclusive finding.

Harms disappeared July 27, 2001. Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police detectives investigated the case. They located her car in the driveway of her Los Gatos townhouse, her personal belongings and a rug that police and prosecutors believe was the same one taken from Harms' residence when she disappeared. 

After serving almost three years in jail for her murder, Nasmeh, however, was freed when the Santa Clara County Crime Lab tests of the evidence were deemed unreliable.

Nasmeh's friends and family, some who were present during the conference, were disheartened with the news. They said they don't believe he did it, but they felt all along the fiber investigation would point the finger at their deceased relative.

Police Chief Scott Seaman was present during the news conference this morning along with Capt. Alana Forrest, Sgt. Steve Walpole and Capt. Dave Gravel.

To read the complete Santa Clara County District Attorney's and Microtrace reports on the Sanchez-Harms' homicide, please see the two attachments with this story. 

Daniel Gamberg contributed to this report.

Julie Davis Berry August 24, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Hopefully this information brings some measure of closure to the Sanchez family.
Mark Hebard August 24, 2011 at 09:48 PM
No explanation for the ten years it took and the result of Wayne taking his own life.
Sheila Sanchez August 25, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Hi Mark, thank you for the comment. Let me offer this from the DA's report. Nasmeh was charged with murder in 2004. In 2005, his case began to be heard by the courts and he was arrested. In 2007, the DA moved to dismiss the case when the proficiency of a key criminalist was called into question, not on this case, but on another. In 2008, the DA retained Skip Palenik, a nationally recognized fiber analyst, but then early this year we all know what happened: Wayne Sanchez took justice into his own hands and killed Nasmeh and then himself to avenge his sister's murder. Hope this helps. Thank you for reading.
Mark Hebard August 25, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Sheila, my comment was directed to the DA and investigative people. Neither has explained the amount of time it took to get to this point. Wayne was wrong to do what he did but tragically the frustration drove him to the brink.
How is it his mother found evidence in Nasmeh's home didn't the police search his home? Why did all of this take so long, ? Tragic for everyone involved!

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