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Posted on Tue, Mar. 22, 2005

Slaying suspect pleads not guilty


Mercury News

Maurice Nasmeh, the man accused of killing a Los Gatos woman more than three years ago, pleaded not guilty Monday, after declining to do so in two previous court hearings since his arrest on Dec. 16.

The 41-year-old architect remained in jail without bail after the brief appearance, at which his attorneys requested that a scheduled bail hearing be postponed again. The matter was rescheduled for a hearing at 8:30 a.m. on April 8 before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler.

Nasmeh is accused of killing Jeanine Harms, who disappeared July 27, 2001, after a late-night date with him. Harms, who was 42, met him at a bar and invited him to her home. Her body has never been found.

Investigators said they broke the case in April 2003 when a Persian rug from Harms' home was found. After police publicized their search for the rug, a San Jose woman came forward to say she had been using it in her home after finding it near a shopping center trash bin a few weeks after Harms' reported disappearance. The San Jose shopping center is about a half-mile from Nasmeh's residence.

Forensic tests that took months to complete detected fibers on the rug from a crafts project of Harms' that matched fibers found in the cargo area of Nasmeh's Jeep Grand Cherokee. Police believe he used the vehicle to dispose of Harms' body and the rug.

Nasmeh had declined on two previous occasions to enter a plea because he hadn't settled on an attorney. Earlier this month, Nasmeh named the law firm of flamboyant San Francisco lawyer Tony Serra and San Jose lawyer Dan Jensen to represent him. William Welch, of Serra's firm, and Jensen were in court with Nasmeh on Monday.

Nasmeh was shackled and wore the red jail shirt of a high-risk suspect to the hearing. Harms' parents and numerous friends and relatives packed the courtroom, many of them openly upset that the bail hearing was postponed.

Staff Writer Chuck Carroll contributed to this report.

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