Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Brianna Denison

An Earlier Attack

As investigators worked to determine what had happened to Brianna Denison, they examined earlier, non-lethal attacks against young college girls in the area for links to the disappearance, either physical evidence, a suspect's modus operandi, or both. In the early morning hours of December 16, 2007, Reno police officer Andrew Hickman and several other officers had been dispatched to an address in the 1400 block of North Virginia Street to take a complaint from a young woman who had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

The woman explained that she lived alone in an apartment in the immediate vicinity, and that she had arrived in her vehicle at approximately 2:00 a.m. As she exited her vehicle in the apartment complex's parking lot, she said, she had been physically assaulted by a stranger who knocked her to the ground and attempted to choke her with her right arm. Failing in that effort, he had placed his hand over her nose and mouth, causing her to pass out. He had then taken her to a nearby pickup truck and forced her inside. He had covered her face with a hooded sweatshirt.

Brianna Denison
Brianna Denison
Her assailant had then driven a short while, perhaps three or four minutes, stopped in a dark and secluded area, and told her, "If you see my face, if you tell the police, I will kill you," before sodomizing her. When he had finished his sexual assault, he drove her back to her residence, keeping the panties that she had been wearing and telling her that he "might be back."

The victim told the investigators that her assailant was wearing a red short-sleeve shirt, with a blue neckline and a slick finish, like silk or polyester. She thought the shirt might have had a word embroidered on the upper left breast. She recalled that attacker wore pants like sports pants, made out of a soft material with an elastic waistband but no zipper. She also said that she had seen a baby's shoe on the front-seat floorboard.

The victim was examined for evidence of sexual attack, and several swabs were submitted to the Washoe County Crime Laboratory for analysis. The lab established the presence of a foreign Y-chromosomemaleDNA profile. The victim's clothing was also examined and gray fiber consistent in appearance with that of automobile carpeting was found. Most compelling of all, the DNA profile matched that of the DNA profile in the Brianna Denison case. Detective Jenkins noted that the December attack had occurred in the same neighborhood from which Denison had been abducted, at a location less than five hundred yards away.

During follow-up interviews with the December victim, Jenkins learned that the attacker had been a white male, likely between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet 3 inches in height, with a large or somewhat heavy build and brown hair. He was described as having "thick, meaty" fingers, and spoke clear, fluent English with no discernible regional dialect or accent.

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