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Tuesday, Sep 13, 2005
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Posted on Mon, Sep. 12, 2005

Nasmeh to stand trial in disappearance, death


SECOND MAN ON DATE WITH WOMAN REFUSES TO TESTIFY



Mercury News

Maurice Nasmeh was ordered today to stand trial in the murder of Jeanine Harms, a Los Gatos woman who disappeared more than four years ago.

Nasmeh is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 26, when a trial date will be set in a case that has gripped the South Bay since Harms disappeared July 27, 2001.

Her body was never found after her night out with both Nasmeh, an architect, and Alex Wilson, who has not been charged with any crime. Harms, 42, had gone on a date with Wilson, and later met Nasmeh at a bar. After partying together, both men went to Harms' apartment early in the morning to drink beer and socialize, according to police.

Wilson told police Harms was fine when he left, leaving Nasmeh and Harms alone in her apartment. After a lengthy investigation, police found fibers in Nasmeh's car from a hook rug project Harms had been working on, which they say link Nasmeh to the slaying.

Deputy District Attorney Dale Sanderson declined to comment on the strength of the evidence after Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Edward Davila ruled that prosecutors had shown enough evidence to make Nasmeh stand trial.

Defense lawyer Daniel Jensen said he and Nasmeh's other lawyer, William Welch, poked numerous holes in the prosecution's case.

``They don't have any evidence,'' Jensen said. ``They just have a lot of speculation.''

For example, he said no prosecution witness testified how the crucial fiber evidence from the hook rug ended up in Nasmeh's car, and that there could be innocent explanations for it.

Police say Nasmeh wrapped up Harms' body in a Persian rug that was taken from Harms' apartment, and placed it in his vehicle. The fiber from the hook rug project must have come off the Persian rug, they say.

When the Persian rug was recovered, the crime lab found in it matched those from Harms' home and the inside of his vehicle, which he was driving when he was arrested Thursday. But Jensen said Harms and Nasmeh were lying on the rug on the night of their date, and that she was in his car -- very much alive -- on two separate occasions that night -- once while listening to music with some other people, and once on the ride to pick up some beer. The critical fiber could have gotten his car at that time, Jensen said.

``No one can say how it got there,'' Jensen said. It might have come from her clothes, which were never found, he said.

Moreover, Jensen said Wilson's decision to ``plead the Fifth'' Amendment -- not answer questions about his conduct that night -- was not a good sign for prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment gives people the right not to give incriminating testify against themselves.

``I'd call that pretty suspicious,'' he said.

Finally, Jensen said the supervisor of the county crime lab that did much of the forensic work on the case testified today that the lead technician was suspended because he failed three proficiency tests.

Between the possible fiber contamination, the lab worker's failed proficiency tests and Wilson's remaining a ``person of interest'' in the case, Jensen said, Sanderson may have problems at trial.

``And that's just their case,'' he said. ``We haven't even put on our case.''


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

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