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[whitespace] Murder victim graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1993

Administrators were unable to recall anything about the former student

Los Gatos--Memorial services were recently held for a Los Gatos High School graduate who was allegedly killed by a Capitola man last year.

Dennis Lee Richesin, 40, confessed to police on May 4, to beating two women to death and then burying them near a Watsonville school. On May 11, police identified one of the victims as Heather Nicole Pereira-Merchant, 25, who was living in Watsonville at the time. Pereira had attended Los Gatos High School for one year, graduating in 1993.

Police said that Richesin told them that he had beaten Pereira to death with a heavy object, while they were inside his motor home last August; Richesin then allegedly moved Pereira's body to a heavily wooded area and buried it in a shallow grave, near his place of employment, Renaissance High School. In March, Richesin allegedly did the same to 21-year-old Kelly Ann Reber of San Jose.

Richesin remains behind bars while police continue to investigate the details of the alleged crimes.

Little is known about Pereira. According to her obituary, she was born in San Jose, raised in Red Bluff, went to school in Chico and ended up in Los Gatos in 1992. Because she attended LGHS briefly, school administrators said they could not remember anything about Pereira, besides the familiarity of her name. At that time, Pereira was known as Nicole Merchant. The school's yearbook also indicated the Pereira was not active in any school clubs or activities.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's spokesman Kim Allyn said that Pereira listed her occupation as a nanny. Pereira was also arrested several times in the past few years on various misdemeanors, including traffic violations. Her last arrest and release was in August.

Allyn said that little else was known about Pereira's life, including where she lived and what she did after she graduated from high school and before she lived in Watsonville; where the name Pereira came from; or how she knew Richesin. It's suspected, however, that Richesin, Pereira and Reber used methamphetamine together.

Pereira is survived by family members in Chico, San Jose, Sherman Oaks and Oregon.

"Our Heather Nicole was beautiful, loving and funny," her obituary stated. "She will be loved and missed by all that knew her, and will be remembered ... as a giving person with a unique sense of humor."
Gloria I. Wang

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Web extra to the May 31-June 6, 2001 issue of Metro.

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