RENO — Authorities in Northern Nevada are seeking murder charges against a 25-year-old man they believe is responsible for killing five people, carjacking a newspaper deliveryman, and setting fire to an elderly couple’s home all in a matter of hours.
Lyon County Sheriff Allen Veil said it appears Jeremiah Bean acted alone in the random shootings at two homes in the rural town of Fernley, and another about 30 miles west at the Interstate 80 exit for the Mustang Ranch brothel near Reno.
“The only way I can describe it is senseless,” Veil said at a news conference Wednesday.
Bean was arrested Monday on burglary charges and identified as a “person of interest” in the string of homicides, but authorities now say they have enough evidence to seek open murder, arson, robbery, gun and grand larceny charges.
Investigators said Robert Pape and Dorothy Pape, both 84, were found dead early Monday in a house in Fernley, a city of 19,000. Angie Duff, 67, and Lester Leiber, 69, were found dead in a home a half-block away.
Veil said it appears Bean stole the Papes’ vehicle, which apparently broke down or got stuck near the Mustang exit. It was there that he allegedly shot 52-year-old passer-by Eliazar Graham, a newspaper deliveryman from Sparks, and took his truck.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen said the female caller who reported finding Graham’s body near the roadway was so distraught she had trouble providing her location.
A vehicle was found burned at one of the homes where the victims were found, but Veil said it’s been difficult to determine who it belongs to because license plates and identification numbers were destroyed in the flames.
Veil said it appears Bean set the fire to destroy evidence.
Bean had been staying two houses away from Duff’s home, Veil said. But there’s no evidence that he was connected to any of his victims, and deputies said they haven’t determined a motive.
Drug use on Bean’s part is “definitely a possibility,” according to the sheriff.
Veil said the attacks were on a scale he hasn’t seen in his three decades in Lyon County, which is historically a small farming community but has grown significantly in the last decade, attracting workers who commute to jobs in Reno.
“I think there probably should be a sense of relief that we believe we have the person responsible for this in custody,” Veil said. “However, I think there’s probably going to be a sense of shock and disbelief that something like this would happen here.”
Bean was being held at the Lyon County jail. He has a local arrest record and a felony conviction related to burglary and attempted grand larceny, deputies said, and he finished his parole in December. He has also acknowledged gang ties.
Veil urged residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, even while he called the killings isolated.
“These things happen, and they happen in little Lyon County, where ... they shouldn’t,” Veil said at a news conference Wednesday. “We don’t want this in our community. We’ve just got to say no, we’re not going to put up with this.”