- Jan 27:
- 911 transcript: Fear, chaos at scene of killing of suspect in Harms case
- Jan 26:
- San Jose: 911 tape describes scene at Nasmeh killing
- Jan 23:
- Mystery deepens over what happened to Jeanine Harms
- Jan 18:
- Timeline: The Jeanine Harms case
- Jan 17:
- Harms' brother was upset there was 'no closure' to case
- Woman who introduced Harms to Nasmeh haunted by that moment
- Herhold: No closure in the Jeanine Harms case
- Jan 16:
- Photo slide show: The Jeanine Harms murder case through the years
- Jeanine Harms' brother kills chief suspect, then himself
She didn't know that Maurice Nasmeh, the man she had been dating for a month, was the chief suspect in one of Silicon Valley's biggest mysteries in a decade: the disappearance of Jeanine Harms.
She didn't know the man with a gun standing three feet away was Harms' bereaved brother, Wayne Sanchez.
"Move," the man with the pistol demanded as she blocked her boyfriend, "or I'll kill you, too."
In the next horrifying blur, the 44-year-old Peninsula woman standing between Nasmeh and Sanchez in a crowded San Jose Peet's Coffee shop remembers shuffling to her right ... one, two, maybe three steps.
"Pow. Pow. Pow," she remembers hearing, as a simple Saturday night date suddenly turned tragic.
"I just stood there, like, oh my God," the woman told the Mercury News in her first interview since being caught in the middle of a chance meeting Jan. 15 between the longtime murder suspect she was unwittingly dating and a vengeful brother. "It felt like a long time, but time must slow down when you're in a thing like that."
She remembers Nasmeh stumbling to the floor and the ensuing chaos.
She remembers praying Nasmeh would survive. She remembers Sanchez "just standing there" and then seeming to vanish while she came to Nasmeh's aid. She remembers Peet's employees and customers cautiously emerging from their hiding place inside a back office and restroom, trembling.
"By then, Wayne Sanchez was gone and the people in Peet's were like, "Where is he? Where is he?' " she said.
Not until Sanchez was gone did it dawn on her: Could he have killed her too?
Her story fills in many of the blanks about what led to the deadly encounter between the two men that Saturday night at the El Paseo de Saratoga shopping center: The two men apparently didn't recognize each other at first. Sanchez was alone. But it also leaves many questions unanswered. She never heard Sanchez say a thing about Harms, or call Nasmeh a killer. She remembers Sanchez shouting but didn't know what it was about.
The most sinister and odd thing she remembers Sanchez saying was: "What's your boyfriend's name? Tell your boyfriend to tell you what his name is."
"True Grit" and Sharks
It all unfolded in an eerily calm and surreal way when the couple happened to take a seat at the bar of the nearby Red Robin restaurant as they waited for a table. Although they didn't know it, the only open bar stool was next to Sanchez.
They were grabbing a drink before catching a movie, the woman said. "I said, 'baby, I won't put you through 'Black Swan' again, what do you want to see?' "
Nasmeh chose "True Grit."
He had offered the one empty bar stool to his date, whose feet were tired from high heels, she said. "I told him, 'baby, I'm sacrificing for beauty.' "
The woman said it didn't appear that Nasmeh and Sanchez recognized one another. At least, not at first.
Together all three watched the Sharks hockey game on the bar television while Nasmeh and Sanchez casually talked about sports.
"The guy's team was losing and he seemed disgruntled," the woman said.
She said Sanchez had walked out of the bar a couple of times and the last time, Nasmeh started to sit on his stool but was told by the bartender that the man would be back, that he was a regular.
Sanchez reclaimed his seat and the unlikely trio kept watching the game. At some point, a couple at the other end of the bar got up and left. The woman said Sanchez helped them carry one of those chairs down to their end of the bar so they could sit together.
An eerie coincidence
It was exactly how Nasmeh had met Sanchez's sister, Harms, almost a decade ago. On July 27, 2001, Nasmeh had gone for drinks after work with friends and later was invited by Harms for a nightcap at her Los Gatos duplex. Police say he is the last one known to see Harms alive. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and spent more than two years in jail before questions about key fiber evidence doomed the case. He was released and charges were dismissed while prosecutors vowed to have the evidence retested.
Almost four years later, unbeknownst to him, he was sitting at a bar next to Harms' brother.
When Nasmeh and the woman left the Red Robin and headed for Peet's, Sanchez suddenly approached them. Not until then, did the woman sense tension between the two men. Still, she didn't know why.
"Suddenly I hear this man asking, 'So what's your boyfriend's name? Tell your boyfriend to tell you what his name is.' "
The woman said she told Sanchez she didn't speak for her boyfriend and said, "Baby, do you want to speak for yourself?" The woman was walking in the middle, with Nasmeh on her right and Sanchez on her left.
Nasmeh "said something to him and it seemed like he was going to fight with the guy," the woman said. "Then the guy turns the other way. I said, 'What is wrong with that man? He's crazy, he's drunk.' Maurice watched him turn around and said, 'He's turned around, he's going the other way.' I said, 'Are you sure?' He was trying to reassure me it was fine."
'It's a gun'
She said Peet's was crowded when they walked in and took a table in the back. Nasmeh was facing the front doors. She was facing the bathroom.
Suddenly, "Maurice stood up. He had a serious look on his face and I stood and looked." It was Sanchez.
"At this point, Maurice is facing my back and I'm facing Wayne Sanchez. I say to the staff, 'Can someone please help him, we need help? Can you call security or the man in charge?' "
A Peet's manager called 911 at 9:19 p.m., and reported: "I need somebody escorted out of the store right now. He's causing a problem."
The manager told the emergency operator it was a verbal fight and then shrieked, "Holy (expletive), he has a gun or a knife." Seconds passed, "He just pulled it out, it's a gun," the manager said. A few more seconds passed, "Oh my God, he shot somebody! Oh my God! Oh my God," the Peet's manager told 911.
As police pulled up, they heard a single shot in the parking lot. Sanchez, a 52-year-old unemployed father of two teenage girls who lived with his parents, had turned the gun on himself and was lying dead on the pavement. He had sometimes said to friends, "I hope I never run into that guy."
Sanchez thought the 46-year-old architect had gotten away with killing his sister, friends and relatives said.
Two men were dead within minutes on a busy Saturday night at a popular shopping center in West San Jose.
In a case already filled with twists, it was a shocking turn.
Nasmeh's girlfriend said she knew little of the story before her terrifying role that Saturday night. After being introduced by a mutual friend, Nasmeh and the woman started dating. After the killing, she said police questioned her for 12 hours, and kept asking, "Didn't he tell you what he did?"
She said Nasmeh had told her that he spent two years in jail for something he didn't do. She said she didn't press him for details.
"I miss him," she said. "It seems unreal."
Contact Linda Goldston at 408-920-5862.
pivotal moments in a harrowing night
THE EVENING BEGINS: Maurice
Nasmeh and his date attend a birthday party before deciding to
watch a movie. "Baby, I won't put you through 'Black Swan'
again, what do you want to see?" she asks before the pair
settle on "True Grit."
CHANCE MEETING: The couple meet Wayne Sanchez at Red Robin while waiting for their movie. When Nasmeh and the woman walk to Peet's Coffee, Sanchez follows. "Suddenly I hear this man asking, 'so what's your boyfriend's name? Tell your boyfriend to tell you what his name is,' " she said.
FATAL END: Sanchez leaves after shooting Nasmeh, with whom the woman pleads, "Breathe, baby, breathe."