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Architect arrested in murder case

Maurice Nasmeh, an architect who worked on the construction project at Skyline College, was arrested on Dec. 16, and charged with felony murder.

Nasmeh, 40, of San Jose, worked on Skyline's campus as principal architect and designer of construction projects during the period in which he was authorities' prime suspect in the disappearance of 42-year-old Jeanine Harms, a Los Gatos woman.

The arrest of Nasmeh is the result of a lengthy 40-month investigation by city, state and federal investigative agencies.

Authorities believe that Nasmeh and Harms first met and socialized on the evening of July 27, 2001, with other acquaintances, in The Rock Bottom Brewery in Campbell. Later that evening, police believe both went to her residence in nearby Los Gatos.

The arrest affidavit released by Los Gatos Police Department, states "That he took her body, her purse and keys...put everything inside the cargo area of his Jeep and drove from the scene to dispose of the evidence."

Nasmeh's work for Sugimura Architects of Campbell, the company doing architectural design and review of buildings 3, 8, and others at Skyline College, required him to be at Skyline often.

In Nasmeh's absence, campus construction site manager, Doug Henry, of Swinerton Construction Management said, "his position is being filled by several people within the Sugimura staff. We're taking a lot of time to make sure projects aren't interrupted. It's been a challenge, but we'll get over it."

When asked about security checking of employees, he said, "We leave background checking to the firms we work with, and Sugimura's history of working with other clients was very strong."

"Right now there's a little bit of worry among staff, as Maurice put together the drawings, parts of which came together as a result of many consultations with deans and faculty," said Skyline's Facilities Supervisor Richard Inokuchi.

According to Gerald A. Peel, Skyline's Public Information Officer, "Nasmeh floated around campus, dealing with people on a certain level.... He did space allocation and requirements among focus groups with faculty and staff. We knew absolutely nothing in advance of the arrest, and therefore had no concerns at that point.... I see no position statement on behalf of Skyline College other than, we were all taken by surprise."

From the time he was named prime suspect until the time of his arrest, authorities needed a solid link to connect the accused directly with the disappearance of Harms in order to obtain an arrest warrant.

That link came in the summer of 2003, when an oriental rug that went mysteriously missing from Harms' residence was turned into police, after police used media exposure hoping to discover its location.

The rug was turned into police in April 2003 by San Jose resident Charlotte Massey, according to the arrest affidavit. Massey had found the rug during the summer of 2001, a few weeks after the disappearance of Harms.

Massey found the rug as it lay at a dumpster, about a half-mile from Nasmeh's home in San Jose. The dumpster was situated behind a shopping center which was under construction due to remodeling at the time.

Extensive forensic tests done on the rug recently link Maurice Nasmeh to Jeanine Harms, according to the official arrest affidavit, "the rug found a half mile from Nasmeh's residence is linked to both Jeanine Harms and Nasmeh.

This development in the case was enough evidence for authorities to arrest and formally charge Maurice Nasmeh with felony murder.

"We never arrest anyone for homicide that we're not absolutely sure is the right one," according to lead investigator Mike Schembri of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office,

Since the body of Jeanine Harms has not yet been found, police believe there's a risk for destruction of evidence, should Nasmeh be let out on bail. He remains in jail on a no bail warrant. His next appearance in court is scheduled for February 18.

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