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Posted on Thu, Apr. 24, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Police seek rug in investigation of disappearance

Mercury News

Do you have a blue-and-red Persian rug with white fringe purchased from a Home Express furniture store? If so, police would like to borrow it to aid an investigation into one of the South Bay's most baffling homicide cases.

Jeanine Sanchez Harms of Los Gatos was 42 when she disappeared in July 2001 after a night out with friends in Campbell. The last person known to have seen her alive, a male acquaintance, said he left her apartment as she fell asleep on a sofa.

Three days later, when police helped worried friends and relatives searching for Harms break into her apartment, she wasn't there. Nor were the sofa's cushions and slipcover and the rug in front of the sofa.

Police never found Harms or the cushions, slipcover and rug. Now they are asking for the public's help in locating a rug of the same color, design and size -- 5-by-7 feet.

Both police and the district attorney's office declined to discuss why they want the rug, leaving Harms' friends to speculate on the latest development in the 20-month-old case.

``It sounds to me like they may want to do some kind of fiber comparison,'' said Harms' friend Janice Burnham.

The request comes three months after police turned over evidence collected on the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, hoping its lawyers could provide further guidance on how to proceed with the investigation.

Harms received the rug as a gift from a friend, Chigiy Binell, who had bought it in 1997 from the Home Express in the Westgate Mall in San Jose just before the chain went out of business.

Binell gave the rug first to her mother and then to Harms after Binell's mother died in 2001.

Harms was with two men the night she disappeared, but police have not named either as a suspect, so the Mercury News is not naming them.

One of the two men was the last person known to see her alive; the other met her for a date earlier the same evening.

Police have been investigating Harms' case as a homicide, believing almost from the day she was reported missing that she was a victim of violence.

Jeanette Sanchez, Harms' mother, hopes someone will turn in an identical rug to the one missing from her daughter's apartment, and it will somehow lead police to Harms' killer.

``It will be a type of closure but it's not what we hoped for,'' she said.''

If your rug is a match, the Los Gatos-Monte Serano police asks you to call detective Steve Walpole at (408) 354-6825.


Contact Pat Lopes Harris at pharris@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3471.
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