Pilfered panties may have led to a serial rapist

A construction worker and former Marine from Reno, Nevada, James Michael Biela, had an alibi for the time 19-year-old Brianna Denison was raped and strangled: he was with his girlfriend.

Unfortunately for Biela, his girlfriend denies that he was with her the night Denison disappeared from her friend’s sofa. And Biela’s DNA has been matched to samples obtained from a pair of panties found in a field near Denison’s body, and to a sample taken from the door knob of the home where Denison was staying.

Police first became interested in Biela when an anonymous tip told them that Biela’s girlfriend had found two pairs of thong panties — not her’s — in his truck. After considering the DNA evidence, reports from a number of attacks, and a detailed description given to police by another girl who was also assaulted, investigators believe Biela may be a serial rapist with a panty fetish, leaving the panties or thongs of one victim at the scene of the next victim’s attack.

Biela denies involvement with any of the attacks and has entered a not guilty plea in Washoe County District Court. His trial is tentatively set for February, 2010.

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