Murder suspect in U.S. illegally, authorities say
A 19-year-old man who’s in custody on immigration and theft charges is believed to be the perpetrator of four western Nevada homicides.
Wilbur Ernesti Martinez-Guzman was arrested 4:30 p.m. Saturday after investigators determined Friday he was a suspect, it was announced at a Sunday afternoon press conference.
“I feel strongly we have the man responsible for this,” Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley said. “You can continue to go about your daily activities. We’ve worked hard to bring some peace to you.”
U.S. immigration authorities say Martinez-Guzman is from El Salvador and entered the United States illegally.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday that Martinez-Guzman had no criminal record or history of previous immigration violations.
The agency did not have additional details on his alleged illegal entry to the U.S., including when and where it occurred.
The agency’s public affairs staff is furloughed because of the government shutdown.
President Donald Trump has seized on the killings as evidence of the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Four people in Nevada viciously robbed and killed by an illegal immigrant who should not have been in our country,” Trump said in a tweet Monday. “We need a powerful wall!”
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong says authorities quickly decided to arrest Martinez-Guzman after he approached a store with a large gun selection at the Carson Mall.
Furlong told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday police vehicles pinned a BMW driven by Martinez-Guzman during Saturday’s arrest in the Carson Mall parking lot.
Furlong says a flash-bang grenade was used, but no gunshots were fired.
Furlong says Martinez-Guzman did not have a weapon when he was handcuffed.
The sheriff says he did not know if there was a gun in the car when it was sealed as evidence and taken to Reno for crime lab processing.
The sheriff says investigators watched Martinez-Guzman go to a car wash and trash bins on Saturday.
Furlong says the investigators feared Martinez-Guzman might try to dispose of evidence connected to the four slayings.
Martinez-Guzman is jailed in Carson City awaiting a Thursday court appearance.
The Sunday afternoon press conference was conducted by Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam, with members of the families of the four victims, Coverley, Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong, Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson and Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks.
Furlong said Martinez-Guzman was placed under 24-hour surveillance after he was determined to be a suspect.
Martinez-Guzman has been jailed in Carson City since Saturday on possession of stolen property, burglary and immigration charges. Authorities have said they expect to file murder charges against him in the shooting deaths of an elderly Reno couple and two women in Gardnerville.
Furlong said the investigation is ongoing and that it was too early to comment on a possible motive.
He said Martinez-Guzman did not yet have an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
When Martinez-Guzman was arrested, a search of an apartment on Menlo Drive and Woodside Drive also took place. Law enforcement also took control of two vehicles.
Martinez-Guzman is facing counts of burglary, possession of stolen property and obtaining money by false pretenses. Furlong said he’s on an immigration hold.
Jackson said it has yet to be determined whether Martinez-Guzman will first appear in Douglas or Washoe county courts.
Two Gardnerville Ranchos women living about a mile apart were found shot in their homes on Jan. 10 and Jan. 13.
Connie Koontz, 56, was killed in the James Road home she shares with her mother while Sophia Renken, 74, owned a home on Dresslerville Road.
Authorities say 81-year-old Gerald David and 80-year-old Sharon David were found shot to death in their south Reno home last week.
Gerald David was the president of the Reno Rodeo in 2006 and Sharon David, who went by Sherri, was an active member of the Rodeo Association.
Martinez-Guzman is scheduled in Carson City Justice Court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Associated Press, Kurt Hildebrand and others contributed to this story.