By SCOTT SONNER, RENO, Nev. (AP):- Douglas County’s district attorney filed a criminal complaint Monday accusing a Salvadoran immigrant of killing two women in Gardnerville after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled he can’t be tried for those crimes simultaneously in Washoe County where he is accused of fatally shooting a Reno couple days later in 2019.
The high court ruled last month Wilber Ernesto Martinez Guzman must be tried in the counties where the slayings took place. The court ordered a judge in neighboring Washoe County judge to dismiss the charges related to Douglas County because the grand jury in Reno lacked proper jurisdiction to indict him for those crimes.
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson initiated the new process with a complaint filed in East Fork Justice Court in Minden south of Carson City charging Martinez Guzman with the deaths of Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken.
Prosecutors say he stole a .22 caliber revolver from Gerald and Sharon David’s Reno home on Jan. 4, 2019. They say he burglarized and killed Koontz five days later, then did the same to Renken the next week before burglarizing and killing the Davids on Jan. 15.
The Washoe County grand jury indicted him on four murder charges and five burglary charges.
Martinez Guzman has been held in the Washoe County Jail in Reno since his arrest in the days that followed. The new arrest warrant orders him to continue to be held there without bail. Jackson and Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks earlier announced their intention to seek the death penalty if he’s convicted.
In a 5-2 decision on Sept. 30, the Supreme Court justices agreed with Martinez Guzman’s public defenders that he is entitled to separate trials.
The trial in Reno had been scheduled to begin early next year. Martinez Guzman was in the country illegally and had worked as a landscaper at all three properties where the four were killed over a two-week period, police said. T hey said he confessed to the shootings.
Prosecutors had argued that Nevada law allowed for one trial because the facts in the cases were “intertwined,” including evidence showing Martinez Guzman shot all four victims with the same gun he stole from the Davids’ residence.
Those theories “were too speculative and unsupported by the evidence” to allow the Douglas County killings to be tried in Washoe County, Justice Lidia Stiglich wrote in the majority opinion. “There is no evidence that Martinez Guzman took the firearm in preparation for the burglaries and murder in Douglas County.”