RENO, Nev. (AP) - A rape victim sobbed on the witness stand Wednesday as she identified her alleged attacker as the same Reno man accused of rape, murder and kidnapping in a series of assaults that terrorized a university campus a year ago.
James Michael Biela is accused of raping and killing 19-year-old Brianna Denison, sexually assaulting two other college students and
trying to rape a third.
Police describe Biela as a serial rapist who stole his victims' panties.
The 27-year-old pipefitter with broad shoulders wore a bulletproof vest in a heavily secured Reno Justice Court courtroom during a preliminary hearing this afternoon. The hearing is to resume at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
Justice of the Peace Patricia Lynch is expected to decide by the end of the day whether there is enough evidence to bound him over to Washoe County District Court on three counts of sexual assault and one count each of attempted sexual assault, kidnapping and murder.
Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick says prosecutors
have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Today's lead witness identified Biela as the man who grabbed her from behind, held a gun to her head and raped her the night of Oct. 22, 2007, in a parking garage next door to the campus police station at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Biela mostly stared down at the defense table except for occasionally turning to answer questions from one of his public defenders as at least six uniformed officers looked on in a case that had the community on edge for nearly a year.
Based partly on DNA evidence, he was arrested Nov. 25 and charged with strangling Denison, who disappeared while sleeping on the couch at girlfriend's home on the edge of the UNR campus in the early morning hours of Jan. 20.
Her body was found Feb. 15 in a field in south Reno with two pairs of thong underwear, one that belonged to the friend at whose home Denison last was seen. Police said the owner of the second black pair with a "Pink Panther" emblem has never been identified.
Earlier this month, Biela also was charged with the three additional attacks that occurred nearby between Oct. 22 and Dec. 16 of last year.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)