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Brianna Denison Murder: Nev. Senate approves DNA testing in honor of slain teen

Brianna Denison, a college student at Santa Barbara City College in California, was visiting friends in Reno, Nevada on January 20, 2008 when she disappeared. Her friends reported her missing after they woke up and realized she wasn't on the couch where they'd last seen her. There was blood on the pillow she had used. Judge Will Likely Allow Porn Evidence Will Son's DNA Convict Father? Personal Photo

Brianna Denison, 19, was kidnapped and later found raped and murdered in early 2008.
Personal Photo
(CBS/AP) CARSON CITY, Nev. - A bill named in honor of murdered teen Brianna Denison that calls for people arrested on felony charges to provide a DNA sample for a database to check for links to other possible crimes, was unanimously approved Monday by the Nevada Senate.

PICTURES: Brianna Denison's Life Ends in Brutal Rape and Murder

SB243 now goes to the Assembly and comes as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of such laws. A ruling is expected later this year.

Known as Brianna's Law, the Nevada bill is in honor of Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old who was kidnapped and later found raped and murdered in early 2008.

James Biela was arrested nine months later and eventually convicted and sentenced to death for killing Denison. He also was convicted and given life terms for raping two other women in late 2007, just months before Denison was attacked.

Supporters of the bill say it may have saved Denison's life if it had been enacted earlier because Biela had a previous felony arrest early in the decade that could have been used to identify him following the 2007 sexual assaults.

A similar bill died in 2011, but Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks said this year's bill addresses many concerns that led to the bill's demise two years ago.

For one thing, DNA samples would be destroyed if a person is arrested but ultimately not charged. Additionally, someone who is not convicted of a felony could petition to have their DNA sample destroyed and removed from the database.

"To my colleagues, this works," Smith said. "It keeps bad people from hurting the people in our world."

Smith said 28 states have similar laws, as does the federal government.

"Data tell us a small number of criminals in our society commit the vast majority of heinous crimes," Smith said.

She said after New Mexico passed similar legislation in 2006, the first person swabbed for a DNA sample was matched to a double homicide.

"This is a critical piece of legislation. I urge you all to support it," said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson.

The Senate erupted in a standing ovation when the bill passed unanimously as Denison's mother, Bridgette Zunino-Denison and her aunt, Lauren Denison, watched from the back of the chambers.

The bill now moves to the Assembly.

Complete Coverage of Brianna Denison on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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