The woman who introduced Jeanine Harms to Maurice Nasmeh in 2001 has carried a heavy burden all these years: She blames herself for everything that happened to her friend Nasmeh since that fateful night at a Campbell restaurant.
In her first interview , Savannah Brien called the Mercury News in tears.
"To this day, I feel it's my fault," she said. "He always said, 'no, no, you need to just stop. It's not your fault. It just happened this way.'''
Nasmeh was arrested on suspicion of murdering Harms. He lost his job as an architect. He lost his house. Police still have his SUV. He spent two years in jail before charges were dismissed. And tragically, after a chance meeting Saturday night, Nasmeh was shot and killed by Harm's brother, Wayne Sanchez, in front of horrified customers at Peet's Coffee & Tea shop in the El Paseo de Saratoga Shopping Center. Then Sanchez killed himself in the parking lot.
"I was just shocked," said Brien, a Santa Cruz resident who had been friends with Nasmeh since 2000, when they met at the architectural firm where both worked.
Brien was so unbelieving of the news her long time friend was dead that her first response was to call Nasmeh.
"Of course, he didn't answer," she said.
On that hot summer night on July 27, 2001, Brien and Nasmeh and another friend had gone for drinks after work at the Rock Bottom Brewery in the Pruneyard. That's when she noticed Harms.
"I was going to
Harms was at the bar that night to meet Alex Wilson, a former owner of Wilson's Bakery, a Santa Clara landmark. Harms had stood Wilson up on a prior date and told friends she agreed to meet him again so that he might stop calling her.
She told Brien the same thing.
"Prior to Alex showing up, Jeanine said 'I don't want to meet this guy but if I don't he's never going to leave me alone,''' Brien said.Harms was last seen that night.
Brien said she is certain Nasmeh had nothing to do with Harms' disappearance.
"He was so generous and caring," she said. "He tried to protect everybody, to make sure everybody was taken care of."
In the pain of hindsight, Brien said she "never would have approached Harms" -- or tried to play matchmaker for Nasmeh.
"He wasn't looking for anything," she said. "We were just going out for drinks after work on a Friday night."
Contact Linda Goldston at 408-920-5862.