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Local News






Posted on Tue, Jul. 29, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Police disclose break in case

Mercury News
Jeanine Sanchez Harms.
Jeanine Sanchez Harms.

After two years of making little headway, Los Gatos police Monday announced their first real break in the baffling disappearance of Jeanine Sanchez Harms: They have recovered the rug that vanished from her small duplex when she disappeared.

Los Gatos Police Chief Scott Seaman said someone called police in April when the department sought the public's help in locating a Persian-style rug with white fringe similar to the one missing from Harms' home. Little did the police know they would come up with the missing woman's rug, which they're hoping will provide clues to her disappearance.

Lab tests have confirmed it is Harms' rug, said Seaman, who would not give further details.

``This rug was a remarkable gift,'' Seaman said. ``This is a critical piece of evidence. It's a breakthrough for us. We had not expected to find that rug.''

The chief would not disclose who located the 5-by-7-foot area rug or where it was found. He said the man who came forward had found it shortly after Harms' disappearance nearly two years ago. The man has no connection to Harms' disappearance, Seaman emphasized.

``This citizen is in no way involved'' with Harms, who was 42 when she disappeared, the chief said. ``We are grateful to this citizen.''

The red-and-blue rug was in excellent condition when the man found it and took it home. He used it in his house until he read the news report. The rug now sits in the Santa Clara County crime lab.

Seaman said authorities are interested in talking with anyone who was in the vicinity of a 24-hour fitness center in a shopping mall on Hillsdale and Leigh avenues in San Jose between midnight and 6 a.m. on July 28, 2001. He would not say if the rug was located there, or give any other information.

Harms' parents said they were shocked when told about the rug by police, just before the afternoon press conference at the Los Gatos Civic Center. They are drawing new hope from its discovery.

``We're very encouraged,'' said Harms' father, Jesus Sanchez. The case had pretty much hit a wall until the April call from the man with the rug.

``I thought somebody would maybe come up with a similar rug, but not that one,'' said Harms' mother, Georgette Sanchez. ``We just didn't expect it. We were shocked. But we are pleased that this will keep the case moving forward.''

The Sanchezes have acknowledged they do not believe their daughter is still alive. The best they can hope for is to find her remains and give her a proper burial, they said. And bring whoever is responsible to justice.

Almost from the moment Harms disappeared, Los Gatos police have called the case a homicide.

Monday's announcement coincided with the second anniversary of Harms' disappearance, which was Sunday. More than 100 friends and relatives of Harms took part in a march through downtown Los Gatos Monday night to call attention to her case.

The march was organized by Child Quest International of Campbell. Among those attending were the mayors and police chiefs of Los Gatos and Campbell.

``This is a community nightmare,'' said Los Gatos Mayor Sandy Decker, urging anyone to come forward with information. ``Someone out there has an answer or a clue that they aren't telling.''

Police are seeking information from the public in locating other missing items: two blue-and-white-striped love seat cushions and a flowered slipcover that were removed from Harms' duplex along with the rug.

They are also seeking a silver, round-faced wristwatch that Harms wore the night of July 27, 2001, when she brought home a man she had met at a Campbell bar. He told police he had left her place about 12:30 a.m. as she lay asleep on her sofa.

``This is the kind of case where we are relying on the media,'' Seaman said. ``This case has been very difficult and challenging. It remains this department's top investigative priority. And I have confidence that we will bring it to successful prosecution.''

Investigators have largely focused on the man Harms was last seen with, and another man she met at Campbell's Rock Bottom Brewery in the PruneYard Shopping Center.

Police have not named either as a suspect. Both were interviewed by police after Harms disappeared; both have since hired attorneys and refused to cooperate with authorities.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Los Gatos police at (408) 354-6825.


Contact Connie Skipitares at cskipitares@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5647.
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