Prosecutors defend handling of Gardnerville, Reno murders
RENO — Prosecutors are defending their handling of a confession presented to a Nevada grand jury that indicted a Salvadoran immigrant on murder charges in the killing of four people in January.
They’re also providing more details about why they believe they have the authority to try him in one place for crimes that occurred in different counties.
A public defender for Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman filed motions in state court in Reno last month saying Washoe County prosecutors lack the jurisdiction to try him in Reno for two of the killings that occurred in Douglas County and that his confession should be thrown out of court.
District attorneys for the two counties said in a new court filing they’re on solid legal ground because Martinez-Guzman stole the murder weapon from the two victims he shot in Reno — Gerald David, 81, and his 80-year-old wife, Sharon — before he killed the others in rural Gardnerville with the same .22 caliber handgun.
“The predicate act which begat the offenses in Douglas County actually occurred within the county of Washoe,” the prosecution’s response said.
“Following the illegal acquisition of the murder weapon, the defendant then went on a six and one-half day crime spree traversing back and forth across three counties (Carson City, Washoe and Douglas County) committing four murders and multiple other charged and uncharged crimes,” they said.
Federal officials have said Martinez-Guzman is in the U.S. illegally but they don’t know how or when he crossed the Mexican border.
The case has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who says it shows the need for a border wall.
The new prosecution filings disclose for the first time that in addition to having worked as a landscaper for the Davids, Martinez-Guzman also did yard work earlier for one of the Gardnerville victim’s, Sophia Renken. They said that’s how he knew machines or tools were in her garage that he could steal and sell to support his drug habit and/or make his car payment.
Hicks and Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson are leading the co-prosecution of Martinez-Guzman in Washoe District Court in Reno. They said in last week’s filings that “statewide jurisdiction is conferred over criminal offenders for public offenses committed within the state of Nevada.”
“The law permits venue to be in either county where a public offense is committed partly in one and partly in another,” or if the acts “necessary to the consummation of the crime occur in two or more counties,” they wrote.
Public Defender John Arrascada filed motions to dismiss four of the charges in a 10-count indictment— including the two first-degree murder charges tied to killings in Douglas County based on jurisdictional arguments — and bar his confession as evidence to prove at least some of the crimes.
Judge Connie Steinheimer plans to hear the arguments May 20. The trial isn’t scheduled to begin until next April. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
A sheriff’s detective testified before the grand jury in March that Martinez-Guzman told her he robbed and killed his elderly victims because he needed money to buy methamphetamine.
Arrascada said the alleged confession couldn’t be presented to the grand jury unless it was accompanied by separate evidence supporting the charges. He said prosecutors acted illegally by presenting the confession before offering any supporting evidence.
The prosecutors said the Nevada Supreme Court has instructed courts to “look at the entire record without regard to the order” the evidence was introduced.