Let us remember Brianna Denison who was murdered on January 20, 2008 and do not forget her on her birthday on March 29. We will endorse the Bring Bri Justice Foundation.
(March 29, 1988 to January 20, 2008)
Brianna Zunino Denison (March 29, 1988 – January 20, 2008) was a college student from Santa Barbara, California, who was abducted on January 20, 2008 from a friend's house in Reno, Nevada. Her body was discovered on February 15, 2008 in a field near a Reno business park after being raped and murdered. A man named James Biela was convicted of the murder.
10 years later: Brianna Denison's legacy
By Ed Pearce |
Posted: Fri 7:02 PM, Jan 19, 2018 |
Updated: Fri 7:26 PM, Jan 19, 2018
RENO, Nev., (KOLO) January 20, 2008 Brianna Denison was enjoying college break crashing at a friends' home near the University.
By morning she had disappeared. There was immediate reason to fear the worst.
"When she didn't contact her mother the next day one of the girlfriends called and said 'Something's wrong because there's definite evidence of foul play," remembers her aunt, Lauren Denison.
She had left behind the kinds of things a young girl was unlikely to forge, including her cell phone and shoes.
Reno police had one other reason to suspect the worst.
"This neighborhood was kind of the epicenter of prior kidnappings and sexual assault just two blocks from here," says retired detective Dave Jenkins.
Concern and attention only grew in the days that followed.
As the area was searched, there were rallys and vigils. Billboards kept her face before the public. The national media took notice. Friends and family launched an effort that would eventually become a foundation. Blue ribbons, her favorite color, were seen everywhere.
Meanwhile investigators had matched DNA left on the door knob and couch were she was last seen to that from previous attacks on women near the university. They knew they were looking for a serial rapist.
Then nearly four weeks later, her body was found in an empty field in south Reno.
Bring Brianna Home became Bring Brianna Justice.
Justice came nearly a year later when a call to Secret Witness gave a potential name to that DNA evidence.
Twenty seven year old James Biela was arrested and charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. Convicted, he received the death penalty and is today on death row at the maximum security prison in Ely.
But Brianna's family wasn't done. Forensic science had made the case, but it had come late. Biela had a previous felony arrest for domestic violence, but no DNA was taken.
"The real irony is if the law had evolved with technology ten years ago it's entirely possible that Mr. Biela would have been in custody for the original kidnapping and assault and would not have been in a position where he could have taken Brianna," says Jenkins.
A chance was needed, but the cause needed a face and a story so the family took it on. I would require years more of painfully recounting their loss at legislative hearings, but Denison says it was a step they determined to take.
"We knew for future victims that it was the best thing we could do,and lend Brianna's name to and that would be her legacy."
In May of 2013, Brianna's law was signed into law. Anyone arrested on a felony charge in Nevada must now submit a DNA sample and pay for its processing.
"There will be people who don't become victims because of that change in the law," says Jenkins, "and that would be a wonderful legacy."
Lauren Denison agrees. "We turned something that was so horrific into something that was worth a cause.."