Nearly 3 1/2 years after 42-year-old Jeanine Harms of Los Gatos
disappeared after a late-night date, authorities Thursday arrested
the man they'd always suspected was responsible.
Maurice Xavier Nasmeh, 40, of San Jose, a well-liked and
respected architect with a prominent Silicon Valley firm, was
arrested about 8:45 a.m. on a no-bail warrant charging him with
Nasmeh was the last person to see Harms alive the night of July
27, 2001, police said, and has been the focus of their intensive
41-month investigation. He was linked to Harms' disappearance when a
rug missing from her home was recovered, and fibers found in it
matched those from Harms' home and the inside of his vehicle, which
he was driving when he was arrested Thursday.
Police almost from the beginning called the case a homicide
investigation. And while no remains have been found, the charge on
the warrant for Nasmeh's arrest was murder. He is expected to be
arraigned and formally charged Monday afternoon.
Nasmeh's arrest wraps up one of the most intensive and
high-profile missing persons investigations in the Bay Area. It was
welcome news to Harms' friends and relatives who over the months
have held vigils and other events to keep the spotlight on the
Harms' mother, Georgette Sanchez, 79, said she was relieved that
the man she suspected all along was responsible for her daughter's
disappearance has been taken off the streets. But the other --
bigger -- question remains: Where is she?
``We feel now that justice will be done, but what we really want
to know is what happened to our daughter. We pray we will find out
She described her emotions as up and down.
``I'm up because he's been arrested, but I'm down because of what
I'm scared to find out about what happened to her.''
The investigation leading to Thursday's arrest took months
because of the extensive testing and double-checking of evidence by
two forensic labs: the Santa Clara County District Attorney's, and
the combined lab of the California Department of Justice and the
Sacramento Police Department, according to Los Gatos-Monte Sereno
``We've never given up,'' said Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police
Department Chief Scott Seaman at a news conference Thursday at Los
Gatos Town Hall. ``It's deeply affected all of us in the department
and touched the Los Gatos community.''
Those close to the suspect were stunned.
One longtime associate of Nasmeh, who works with Sugimura &
Associates in Campbell, described him as a dedicated and creative
architect who volunteered countless hours to produce a monthly
newsletter and a 50th anniversary yearbook for the local chapter of
the American Institute of Architects.
``He's very creative, he's very articulate and he's very good at
editing and writing,'' said Edwin Bruce, who has known Nasmeh for a
Bruce said he doesn't believe that Nasmeh is capable of murder.
``He's just a really nice guy,'' Bruce said. ``He's very humble,
sort of quiet spoken. He's the kind of guy who would just make
people feel comfortable. Sometime in this profession you get some
people with very big egos, but he was not like that.''
Bruce said that several years ago, after the news of Harms'
disappearance broke, he and Nasmeh talked in general terms about the
suspicion surrounding Nasmeh.
``I told him things like this happen sometimes and you just have
to weather the storm,'' Bruce said. ``He was very appreciative that
I was supportive. He made a comment at one point through e-mail that
it's times like these that really show you who your friends
The key break in the case came last year when a rug that
disappeared from Harms' home the night she vanished suddenly turned
up. Police said trace fibers from yarns used by Harms in a hobby
project were apparently found in the rug and also found in the
suspect's Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Jeep was searched shortly after
Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu said
authorities believe the rug was used to help dispose of her
``Like on TV, it really does happen in real life -- you use a rug
to roll up a body and then transport it,'' she said. ``After that,
we don't really know what happened.''
Found in trash bin
The police got lucky in finding the rug. After putting out word
through the media in spring 2003 that they were looking for the rug
or one like it to test fibers, San Jose resident Charlotte Massey
came forward saying she'd found it just weeks after Harms
disappeared. She found it in a trash bin behind a shopping center at
Hillsdale and Leigh avenues that was being remodeled. The center is
about a half-mile from Nasmeh's home.
Massey took the rug home after finding it and used it until the
summer of 2003, when she called police after seeing news stories.
Despite the time that had passed, and cleaning the rug had
undergone, crime lab investigators were able to find fibers on it
that came from yarn Harms used.
Nasmeh was arrested without incident as he left his San Jose home
for work, according to Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police.
Harms, a divorcee who worked as a purchasing processor at Fujitsu
in Sunnyvale and enjoyed dating and going to clubs, first met Nasmeh
early on the night she disappeared. She had gone to meet another man
for a date at Campbell's Rock Bottom Brewery that Friday, but when
he was late she began a conversation with Nasmeh.
Harms' original date eventually arrived at the brewery and the
two men and Harms hung out together. They later went to another
Campbell bar and continued drinking. Harms later invited both to her
home, but police said only Nasmeh followed her.
Both men were questioned early in the investigation, but when
they were approached for further questioning and asked to take a lie
detector test, they refused to talk with police and retained
lawyers. The other man has been cleared.
Nasmeh told police that the two talked and drank beer for a
couple of hours, then he left between 12:30 and 1 a.m. on July 28 as
she lay half-asleep on her living room sofa. She has not been seen
since. Her car remained in her driveway, but her purse, keys, watch
and other personal items were gone.
In the South San Jose neighborhood where Nasmeh lived, neighbors
didn't know what to think Thursday. They describe Nasmeh as quiet
and meticulous about gardening, but also friendly. He even made an
appearance at a neighborhood barbecue the day after Harms
Mercury News Staff Writers Mike Zapler, Linda
Goldston and Crystal Carreon contributed to this report. Contact
Connie Skipitares at email@example.com
or (408) 920-5647.