Police arrested a suspect in the kidnapping, rape and killing of Reno teenager Brianna Denison, ending an exhaustive 10-month-long manhunt for the college student's alleged murderer.
James Michael Biela, 27, of Sparks, Nev., was taken into custody about 9 p.m. Tuesday and booked at the Washoe County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and sexual assault, authorities said. He is being held without bail.
Denison, 19, was abducted while she was sleeping at a friend's house during winter break in January. Police said a secret witness and DNA were crucial to cracking the case.
At an afternoon news conference about the arrest, the girl's aunt Lauren Denison thanked police for getting the suspect "off the streets."
"Can you believe it?" Lauren Denison told the Reno Gazette-Journal earlier Wednesday. "The police said the DNA came back, and it's him. ... This is what we have been waiting for."
Reno investigators told reporters that a secret witness was key to capturing Biela. The witness' information "indicated that Biela's activities and behavior made him a likely suspect," police said.
DNA was also critical in arresting the suspect, according to authorities. Biela, who was taken into custody at Stepping Stones Children's Center in Reno, provided a DNA sample that matched evidence collected at the scene where Denison's body was found in February.
Police said they collected DNA evidence at the crime scene that linked the suspect to Denison's murder and at least two other sexually-motivated attacks on women on or near the campus between October and December of 2007.
The district attorney vowed to fight for the maximum sentence possible.
- If he is truly guilty, then he should remain in prison until he dies!
Denison, a sophomore at Santa Barbara City College in California, was kidnapped about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 20 as she slept in the living room of a friend's rented home near the University of Nevada's Reno campus. The teen had likely been visible through a glass door, according to police.
Her body was found near a business park in south Reno on Feb. 15 after a massive search. An autopsy determined she had been raped and strangled and left there about a week earlier.
Investigators said from the beginning they believed the suspect, who taunted police by leaving two pair of intertwined women's panties at the site where Denison's body was found, lived nearby. Public records show Biela has lived in the Reno area since 2002.
Denison graduated from Reno High School in 2006. She was visiting her hometown during winter break when she was kidnapped and killed.