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Wednesday, Sep 07, 2005
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Posted on Wed, Sep. 07, 2005

Yarn evidence questioned in murder hearing




Mercury News

Defense lawyers on Tuesday tried to put detectives and an evidence manager under the microscope as the witnesses described how the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department handled the tiny rug fibers that lie at the heart of a murder case against a San Jose architect.

Authorities allegedly connected Maurice Nasmeh to the death of 42-year-old Los Gatos resident Jeanine Sanchez Harms through yarn fibers from a crafts project. Those fibers from a latch hook rug Harms was making, prosecutors say, were found inside the cargo area of Nasmeh's sport-utility vehicle.

Harms disappeared on July 27, 2001, after a late-night date with Nasmeh and another man, who has not been charged. Police say Nasmeh was the last person to see her alive.

Harms' disappearance touched off one of the highest profile missing-person cases in the South Bay. Her remains have never been found.

On the third day of a preliminary hearing, prosecutor Dale Sanderson asked detectives Steve Walpole, John Campos and Leyton Howard, and evidence manager Larry Brown to identify and explain the various pieces of physical evidence they obtained during an investigation that lasted the better part of four years before Nasmeh was arrested Dec. 16.

At the end of the hearing, which prosecutors said might continue today, Superior Court Judge Edward Lee must decide whether there is enough evidence to send Nasmeh to trial.

Defense lawyers William Welch and Daniel Jensen methodically questioned the police witnesses about their training and experience with collecting trace evidence, when and where they collected it, where they stored it, who else had access to it, and whether they followed appropriate procedures to ensure that the samples were not contaminated.

The witnesses insisted everything was done by the book.

Rug fibers, hairs, fingerprints and other such physical evidence were collected from Harms' apartment and Nasmeh's home and vehicle.

Nasmeh, wearing a red shirt, brown pants and orange slippers issued by the jail, seemed to be actively helping his lawyers. Wearing the close-cropped beard he sported before he went to jail, the balding Nasmeh paid close attention to the witnesses, and leaned over to whisper to his attorneys at various points.

Nasmeh has pleaded not guilty, contending that he left Harms' apartment after she fell asleep.


Contact Chuck Carroll at ccarroll@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5206.

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