Ultimately, Jeanine Harms' hobby led investigators to charge
Maurice Nasmeh with her murder.
The forensic investigation was the stuff of TV's ``CSI,''
unfolding in real time, over 17 long months. Tiny yarn fragments
from her hooked rug project, painstakingly collected from a carpet
that investigators believed was used in disposing her body, were
found to match yarn in Harms' home and fibers in the cargo area of
Mark Moriyama, a criminalist with the Santa Clara County District
Attorney's Crime Laboratory, extracted thousands of fibers from the
carpet by pressing 4-inch-square pieces of tape across its entire
surface, and then examined them all under specialized microscopes.
The analysis took 90 percent of his time for more than a year.
Almost from the day Jeanine Harms disappeared in July 2001,
police began focusing their investigation largely on architect
Nasmeh, who had accompanied Harms home that night after meeting her
in a bar. Police knew Harms hadn't just walked away from her life of
close ties with family, friends and co-workers. They assumed she was
slain, but there was no body, no witnesses. What they needed was
They found it in a 5-by-8-foot wool Persian-style rug that had
vanished from Harms' Los Gatos duplex the night she died, and turned
up two years later in the possession of a woman who had found it
discarded shortly after Harms went missing, and taken it home to
On Friday, Nasmeh was formally arraigned on a charge that he
murdered Harms. He did not enter a plea, but outside of court, his
lawyer blasted police and prosecutors for revealing the evidence
that led to his arrest. Lawyer John Hinkle suggested such publicity
could taint a jury pool, and said he planned to ask the judge for a
gag order and possibly to move the trial to another county.
For now, Nasmeh remains in the Santa Clara County Jail without
bail. His next court appearance will be Jan. 14.
When the rug surfaced in 2003, after police issued a public plea
to help find it, Moriyama rolled up his sleeves and went to work on
the biggest case he'd ever tackled.
Seventeen months later, the trace fibers he identified on the rug
and matched to Harms' home and Nasmeh's car led to the 40-year-old
architect's arrest Thursday for the woman's murder.
The process is painstaking, and because highly specialized
equipment in different crime labs is used, the work often takes
Moriyama was looking for a certain kind of fiber in his
investigation -- yarn from the crafts project Harms had worked on.
Detectives learned of the project in an interview with Harms'
mother, and the fiber, unique to the brand of craft kit Harms used,
gave investigators something specific to look for.
``It's like finding a needle in a haystack, that's why the
process takes so long,'' says Benny Del Re, director of the crime
lab. ``Fibers are not like DNA. It's not like having a fingerprint
that's unique to an individual that you're trying to match. We're
talking about thousands of fibers here.''
Moriyama says a 4-inch-square tape lift of fibers thinner than
the thinnest human hair can take anywhere from one hour to several
days to examine.
Under a microscope
``You can look at it once under one microscope, but then maybe
you have to make a slide and put it under another microscope,'' said
Moriyama, who used seven kinds of microscopes in his investigation.
``And then often you keep going back to look at it the same way
again and again. It doesn't just produce something quickly, like in
Along with his microscope analysis, Moriyama takes time to
document even the smallest findings on a nearby computer. He also
must call and interview rug or fiber manufacturers and meet with
police and district attorney investigators on evidence and other
Although it may seem astounding that the rug yielded evidence
after lying on someone's floor for two years, being walked on and
cleaned, Moriyama said there were plenty of fibers that remained
deeply embedded in its thick nap, and which ultimately yielded what
investigators were looking for.
While his work on the case isn't finished, Moriyama says he's
relieved the most significant parts are complete: ``This is the
biggest, longest and most involved trace evidence case I've ever
worked on. I'll be completely satisfied when it gets to court.''
Also Friday, Hinkle said the timing of Nasmeh's arrest was
suspicious, coming so closely after the conviction of Scott
Peterson, another highly circumstantial case. He suggested that
after more than three years of investigation, an arrest now looks
like authorities might have been trying to link the two cases in the
Prosecutor Dale Sanderson denied any such attempt.
Hinkle said Nasmeh ``is no Scott Peterson.'' He described his
client as a talented architect and music lover who plays in a blues
Nasmeh graduated from the University of California in 1987 with a
bachelor's degree in architecture, according to the California
Architects Board. He is a principal in the Campbell firm Sugimura
& Associates Architects.
His arrest, Hinkle said, has devastated Nasmeh: ``Our client is
Anyone with information about the Jeanine
Harms case is urged to contact the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police
Department at (408) 399-5731. Mercury news staff writer Mike Zapler
contributed to this report. Contact Connie Skipitares at
cskipitares@mercurynews .com or (408) 920-5647.