- 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
- Family: Harms' brother believed suspect had 'gotten away with murder'
- Jan 16:
- Photo slide show: The Jeanine Harms murder case through the years
- Jeanine Harms' brother kills chief suspect, then himself
- Jul 25:
- 9 years later, Jeanine Harms case still a mystery
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Tuesday his office would continue to investigate the almost-decade-long Jeanine Harms mystery, despite this weekend's stunning vigilante-style killing of the chief suspect in her disappearance.
Rosen said it would take another six months before results would be available from the restesting of controversial fiber evidence that authorities say linked Harms to 42-year-old Maurice Nasmeh, the last man known to have seen her alive the night she vanished.
Nasmeh was gunned down at a Peet's Coffee shop Saturday night in San Jose after what police on Tuesday confirmed was a chance encounter with Harms' brother, 52-year-old Wayne Sanchez. As police arrived at the El Paseo de Saratoga shopping center, they heard the final gunshot as Sanchez turned the revolver on himself.
A county crime lab technician spent a year testing fibers from Nasmeh's Jeep Cherokee to see if it matched fibers from a rug from Harms' home. But those results were later discredited -- and Nasmeh was released after spending two years in jail -- when news surfaced that the technician had failed certification tests required to do his job.
Rosen said he did not know why the testing was taking so long but said when the results are back his office would conduct a review into what has long been one of Silicon Valley's most mysterious crimes.
"If we believe it's Maurice Nasmeh, we will share that with the public and
Police on Tuesday also answered one of the many questions lingering from Saturday's dramatic murder-suicide: "At this point, the investigation has revealed no evidence of premeditation on behalf of Mr. Sanchez," San Jose Police Officer Jose Garcia said.
Harms' brother Wayne Sanchez apparently bumped into Maurice Nasmeh in a chance encounter at the Red Robin restaurant, confirming Sanchez's family's belief that the 52-year-old wasn't stalking Nasmeh.
There was no yelling at the restaurant, but patrons at the casual San Jose eatery certainly overheard Sanchez accuse Nasmeh of not only being responsible for his sister's disappearance, but of killing her.
Although "it was not described as a full blown disturbance," Garcia said Tuesday, it was clearly "awkward." Nobody at the restaurant called 911.
Sanchez left the restaurant briefly, then returned and followed Nasmeh and a woman Nasmeh was with to the nearby Peet's Coffee & Tea.
Sanchez pulled out a revolver, which was registered in his name, and in front of the woman and other witnesses, killed Nasmeh. As police arrived at the shopping center, Sanchez killed himself in the parking lot not far from his 1993 Lincoln Town Car.
After reeling from the stunning events, both of the men's families are making funeral arrangements and friends are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
"It's just so horrible for the family to have to go through all of this again," said Linda Ostermeier, a friend of Jeanine Harms who disappeared on July 27, 2001. "I wish people knew what a great person she was."
Harms' body has never been found and the killing of the chief suspect, she speculated, might not have affected the ultimate resolution of the case.
The new head of the homicide division of the district attorney's office tried to reach Harms' parents on Saturday to tell them the case was still active but the phone "rang and rang and rang," Rosen said. He had directed the district attorney who supervises the homicide division to contact the Harms family shortly after the new DA took office earlier this month..
Los Gatos Police Chief Scott Seaman said he continues to believe "that someone in our community knows what happened to Jeanine."
"Perhaps now, more than ever, that person can come forward to help us finally answer the question: What Happened to Jeanine?" he said.
Seaman said Harms' family "deserves this. I implore anyone with information to please come forward."
The number to call for Los Gatos police is 408-354-8600.
"I've always thought we'd never know what happened to her. I never thought he would tell," Ostermeier said of the man once accused of her murder. "Had justice been done, then two more people wouldn't be dead."
Nasmeh served more than two years in jail awaiting trial before charges were dismissed in 2007. Fiber evidence from the back of his car that police say linked Nasmeh to a missing rug from Harms' home was thrown out after it was revealed that a crime lab technician who tested the fibers wasn't qualified. Ever since, authorities have said they were still working on the case.
Having recently filed for divorce, Harms had gone to meet a date for drinks at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Campbell's Pruneyard. While waiting for Alex Wilson of the Santa Clara bakery family to show, she was introduced to Nasmeh, a local architect, who was at the bar with friends. She invited both men back to her Los Gatos apartment, but police say Nasmeh was the only one to follow her home.
Nasmeh told police he left her dozing on the couch at 12:30 a.m., but police didn't believe him.
At the time, police also interviewed Wayne Sanchez, who admitted that years earlier, he had hit his sister in the face with an open hand. Since his sister disappeared nine years ago, he had been convicted of several misdemeanors, including two DUIs and one possession of cocaine. Sanchez, 52, had filed twice for bankruptcy, divorced the mother of his two daughters, was unemployed and living at home with his parents.
It's ironic, Ostermeier said, that Harms was killed not long after moving back to Los Gatos to be close to family and friends after living briefly in Discovery Bay down the block from Ostermeier.
"She missed her place where she felt at home. Los Gatos is where she felt safe," Ostermeier said. "That's the worst part. The place she felt safest is where her life ended."
Mercury News staff writers Lisa Fernandez and researcher Leigh Pointinger contributed to this report. Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.