RENO, NV — Prosecutors in Nevada said Monday they’ve filed murder charges that could bring the death penalty against a 19-year-old Salvadoran immigrant in four recent killings carried out over a six-day span.
Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman acted alone in the deaths of a couple in Reno and two women in their homes in nearby Gardnerville, prosecutors Mark Jackson and Chris Hicks told reporters.
Martinez-Guzman has been jailed since his arrest Jan. 19 in the state capital, Carson City, where court documents say Martinez-Guzman admitted to sheriff’s deputies that he fatally shot a Reno couple with a gun he stole from their home.
Hicks said it could be 30 days before prosecutors decide whether to pursue the death penalty.
“We are looking to hold an alleged murderer accountable,” he said.
Hicks added that Martinez-Guzman’s immigration status had nothing to do with the criminal charges, which also included five burglary counts.
President Donald Trump tweeted a week ago that the four killings in Nevada showed the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which was at the center of the federal government shutdown.
Jackson said Monday that investigators in Douglas and Washoe counties had “a high level of confidence” that Martinez-Guzman acted alone.
Jackson alleged that Martinez-Guzman burglarized the Reno property of Gerald David, 81, and his 80-year-old wife, Sharon David, on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4.
Martinez-Guzman stole a .22-caliber revolver during the second break-in and used it days later to kill Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken in their Gardnerville homes, Jackson said. Their bodies were found three days apart in mid-January.
The Davids, who were prominent Reno Rodeo Association members, were found dead in their home Jan. 16 after what Jackson said was Martinez-Guzman’s third break-in in six days.
Martinez-Guzman is charged in Carson City with possessing weapons and selling jewelry belonging to several victims, and with illegally possessing a cache of rifles stolen from the Davids.
The .22-caliber revolver was recovered from a car Martinez-Guzman was driving when he was arrested in Carson City.
He is being held in the Carson City jail on $500,000 bail. His newly appointed public defense attorney, Karin Kreizenbeck, has declined comment.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said earlier that Martinez-Guzman’s only known contact with authorities was a speeding ticket last February.