Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Brianna Denison

Damning DNA

James Michael Biela in 2008
James Michael Biela in 2008

Biela's girlfriend then volunteered to provide a DNA saliva sample from Biela's son so that it could be compared to the DNA evidence that had been developed during the course of the investigation. Both Jenkins and Wygnanski witnessed the DNA reference sample as it was collected from the child. Afterward, the detectives delivered it to the Washoe County Crime Laboratory.

On November 25, 2008, after comparing the child's DNA profile to that of the suspect's DNA profile, it was determined that James Biela could not be excluded from the suspect's DNA profile and that the child was closely related to the suspect in Brianna Denison's death. Biela was subsequently arrested at a South Reno daycare center when he arrived to pick up his child, and was booked into the Washoe County Jail on charges of murder, first-degree kidnapping, and sexual assault. Once police had Biela in custody, they obtained a court order for a sample of his DNA, and announced the following day that his DNA matched the suspect's DNA.

Brianna Denison
Brianna Denison

With the DNA results finally available, Biela was then charged with raping a UNR student in one of the university's parking garages, and with the December 2007 kidnapping and sexual assaulting of the other UNR student in December 2007.

Biela's trial for the abduction and murder of Brianna Denison was held in May 2010. On May 27 a Washoe County District Court jury found James Biela guilty of all five counts in the murder of Brianna Denison and sexual assault of two other young women. On June 2, 2010, Biela was sentenced to death.

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