RENO, Nev. (AP) — A 22-year-old Salvadoran immigrant was scheduled to plead guilty Thursday to killing four people in Nevada, in an agreement that a prosecutor said would avoid two death penalty trials and put him in prison for the rest of his life.
Wilber Ernesto Martinez Guzman appeared before Washoe County District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer to admit killing a Reno couple and two women in Gardnerville in January 2019.
Martinez Guzman told police he committed the two-week series of break-ins, thefts and shootings because he needed money to buy methamphetamine.
The plea was expected to fully resolve murder, burglary and weapon cases in Washoe and Douglas counties, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said in a statement before proceedings began, and result in “maximum sentences” that would run consecutively.
Hicks and Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson initially planned one death-penalty trial for Martinez Guzman, but the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Sept. 30 that the defendant would have to be tried separately in the two county jurisdictions.
Authorities said Martinez Guzman stole a .22-caliber handgun from Gerald and Sharon David in southwest Reno on Jan. 4, 2019; shot and killed Constance Koontz, 56, and Sophia Renken, 74, in separate attacks in their Gardnerville homes several days later; and returned to the Davids’ house to rob and kill them Jan 15.
Gerald David, 81, and his 80-year-old wife were prominent in the Reno Rodeo Association and had employed Martinez Guzman as a landscaper the summer before.
Martinez Guzman was arrested in Carson City during a manhunt that had investigators track an Apple watch stolen from Koontz to Martinez Guzman’s mother.
Martinez Guzman has been held without bail at the Washoe County Detention Facility in Reno.
Washoe County sheriff’s Detective Stefanie Brady told a grand jury several weeks after Martinez Guzman’s arrest that he initially denied wrongdoing but later acknowledged through a Spanish interpreter he had “done something that’s unforgiveable.”
“He said he needed the money for the meth,” Brady testified.
The case drew attention at the time from then-President Donald Trump, who said it showed the need to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.