Jun 2, 2010 8:31 PM by Chris Welty
RENO, Nev. (AP) - A jury sentenced a Nevada man to death
Wednesday for raping and killing a college coed after sexually
assaulting two others in a string of attacks that had the city of
Reno on edge for most of 2008.
The same jury that convicted James Biela, 28, last week
deliberated for about nine hours before reaching a unanimous
verdict to execute him by lethal injection for the 2008 rape and
strangulation of Brianna Denison, 19.
Her family members burst into tears and Biela stared straight
ahead as the sentence was read aloud in Washoe County District
Court. Biela's sentence will be automatically appealed to the
Nevada Supreme Court.
The pipe fitter and ex-Marine from Sparks apologized Tuesday,
saying he regretted that he would not be able to see his son grow
up. His public defenders urged the seven women and five men of the
jury to consider that he had no previous criminal record and had
been abused growing up in poverty in the Chicago area.
But Denison's family and Washoe County prosecutors called death
the only appropriate penalty for Denison's slaying in January 2008
during a series of assaults that began months before on the edge of
the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
"It sickens me to know my poor baby girl was with you the last
moments of her life," Bridgette Denison, the victim's mother, told
Biela on Tuesday. "I know that James Biela is asking for mercy. I
do not believe he deserves any mercy."
Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler said he agreed with
public defenders who said the death penalty should be reserved for
the "worst of the worst."
But he said Biela fit that category because he strangled Denison
with thong underwear.
Detectives called the slaying the work of a serial rapist who
stalked petite women and had a fetish for thongs. The two other
assault victims said their assailant took their panties during
attacks at or near UNR in the fall of 2007.
Denison, a sophomore at California's Santa Barbara City College,
was home visiting friends during winter break when she was abducted
Jan. 20, 2008, while sleeping on a friend's couch near the UNR