September 14, 2005     Los Gatos, California Since 1881
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Judge's ruling is in­Nasmeh to be tried for murder of Jeanine Harms
By Jennifer McLain
It's been four years since Los Gatos resident Jeanine Harms went missing, and nine months since Campbell resident Maurice Nasmeh was arrested in connection with the murder of Harms.

In what became one of the highest-profile missing person's cases in the South Bay, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Edward Lee announced on Sept. 12 that there is probable cause to believe that Nasmeh murdered Harms, and the case will go to trial.

Police believe Nasmeh is the last person to have seen Harms alive after a night of partying with friends in Campbell.

Harms' father, Jesus "Jess" Sanchez said that he is relieved to hear the judge's announcement.

"I thought it would probably go to trial. I had a lot of confidence in Dale Sanderson," Sanchez said of the deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County.

One day before the announcement, Harms' longtime friend Janice Burnham said that she would be surprised if the case did not go to trial.

"The fact that they had enough evidence to arrest him is a good sign. I'm going to be completely shocked if they don't hold him over for trial. I will be devastated," Burnham said.

The announcement came after the defenses second witness, Alex Wilson, testified with his attorney standing next to him. In the early stage of the investigation, police considered Wilson a suspect.

Jensen requested the judge allow Wilson to testify because he is an alternate suspect.
On the advice of his attorney, Wilson answered questions asked by defense attorney Daniel Jensen by taking the Fifth Amendment.

Among the questions asked were why there was a shovel found in the back of Wilson's car, if he had a friend who owned a green jeep, if he called his date with Harms a date from hell, and if he called her a "psycho-bitch."


While a body still has not been found, Sanderson linked Nasmeh to the murder of Harms through similar yarn fibers found in his jeep as on a rug that was once in Harms' house.

Before the judge's decision Jensen said that these findings were not enough to take Nasmeh to trial. Besides Nasmeh seeing Harms the night before she disappeared, being in the same car together and in her house, there was no evidence linking him to her murder or disappearance.

Police say Nasmeh was a suspect from day one of the investigation.

After what appeared to be a last minute move by the defense on Sept. 9 to call a witness, the judge announced the court would reconvene Monday morning. Nasmeh's attorney, Daniel Jensen, said that the defense's only witness would not be available until 4:55 p.m. on Sept. 9, to which the judge decided it be best to return Monday.

Members from the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police department testified earlier in the week, along with friends, neighbors and family members of Harms. Mark Moriyama, a criminalist with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Crime Laboratory, was the last witness called by the prosecution to testify.

Moriyama dedicated hours to examining evidence "tape lifts" extracted from the sofa, rug and acrylic and wool products in Harms' house, as well as samples taken from Nasmeh's jeep.

During cross-examination it was revealed that Moriyama was suspended in early 2005 by the crime lab because he did not pass a proficiency test.

"I am temporarily off casework," he said.

Since the test, he has been restricted from performing the same type of forensics tests as he did while working on the fiber evidence in connection with Harms' disappearance.

On Monday, Moriyama's superior was called by the defense to testify in an attempt to discredit Moriyama's findings.

During the trial, however, Moriyama was not the only person who the defense tried to expose as being under-qualified or in error.

Jensen and Welch tried to prove that Los Gatos-Monte Sereno crime analyst Dan Brown did not properly protect collected evidence, and that officer Steve Wahl didn't follow through with certain aspects of the investigation.

The attorneys also tried to prove reasonable doubt of a Santa Clara County criminalist who possibly transferred some of the fibers during the investigation while collecting samples from Nasmeh's jeep.

Arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 1:30 p.m. in department 24 at Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Dr. Steven Cohen, Dentist

El Camino Hospital

PDF: Download the Los Gatos Weekly-Times newspaper (15 MB)


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