A man, who admitted on Thursday to killing a Reno couple, is expected to return to Douglas County soon to enter admissions to the shooting deaths of Gardnerville Ranchos residents Connie Koontz and Sophia Renkin.
Wilber Martinez-Guzman entered guilty pleas to six felony charges in Washoe County District Court on Thursday in connection with the shooting deaths of Gerald and Sharon David as part of an agreement that will see him remain in prison for the rest of his life.
In addition to two life sentences without parole, Guzman is agreeing to be sentenced 36-90 years. His actual sentence will be determined by Washoe County District Judge Connie Steinheimer.
Guzman entered pleas Thursday to two counts of first-degree murder with deadly weapon enhancements, burglary, burglary while gaining possession of a firearm, burglary while in possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm.
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson said his goal is for Martinez-Guzman, 20, to enter a plea two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of burglary with a deadly weapon as soon as possible.
There is no date for Martinez-Guzman to appear in East Fork Justice Court, where under the agreement he will waive his preliminary hearing and go to district court.
Steinheimer set a Feb. 28, 2022, sentencing date for Martinez-Guzman. Jackson said that if all goes according to plan, Martinez-Guzman would appear for sentencing in Douglas and Carson City the following week.
Both Jackson and Washoe District Attorney Chris Hicks said last month’s decision by the Nevada Supreme Court played a role in the decision to drop the death penalty in the case.
Jackson said that it has been 954 days since the Washoe Grand Jury indicted Martinez-Guzman and estimated it would require another 970 days to try the admitted murderer.
Hicks and Jackson said the decision was made in consultation with the families of the four slain Nevadans.
“We recognize that the families will be forever scarred by these murders,” Jackson said. “It raised the question of how much more mental anguish the families can suffer.”
Jackson said the Supreme Court’s decision required that Martinez-Guzman be tried in Douglas County. While Jackson would continue to prosecute the case, new attorneys would have to be appointed to represent Martinez-Guzman.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the families of the victims in Douglas County, and consider, if you can, the extreme anguish they’ve already gone through,” he said.
Just the docket in Washoe County is 46 pages long in the case that has seen 742 court filings, three-dozen hearings and 44 motions.
“There are an estimated 1,000 hours of audio recordings that have to be reviewed,” Jackson said. “The new team of defense attorneys would have to go through all that in Douglas.”
A Salvadoran accused of killing four Western Nevadans in January 2019 entered guilty pleas in the deaths of Reno residents Gerald and Sharon David this morning after prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty.
The agreement in the David case will also affect the murder cases involving Gardnerville Ranchos residents Connie Koontz and Sophia Renkin, who were killed within days of one another.
The decision to drop the death penalty was made in consultation with the family, according to a source close to the prosecution.
The prospect that Wilber Martinez-Guzman, 20, wouldn’t be convicted in the case for another three years or more weighed in the decision.
The plea agreement will represent a global resolution in the case with an admission of guilt by Guzman and agreement to maximum sentences, all run consecutively.
Martinez-Guzman’s public defenders have dragged the case to the Nevada Supreme Court twice so far, including successfully getting the Washoe County indictments for the Douglas killings dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
“The prosecution of the Guzman case is approaching three years and defense challenges and continuances have caused repeated delays,” the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office said on Thursday morning. “The families of Connie Koontz and Sophia Renkin of Douglas County and Gerald and Sharon David of Washoe County have endured much throughout this process and the decision to reach a plea agreement will bring some finality to them.”
Defense attorneys were also seeking to have Martinez-Guzman declared intellectually disabled, which would mean he couldn’t legally face the death penalty. That hearing was scheduled to take place in January but will likely be vacated at this morning’s hearing in Washoe County District Court.
Under an agreement, Martinez-Guzman will admit to all the charges that remained in Washoe County, including two first-degree homicides and burglary charges. His attorneys agree he will be sentenced to the maximum on each charge. Once that’s complete, he will be brought to Douglas County where he is expected to waive his preliminary hearing and appear in district court at some point.
Guzman allegedly told Washoe investigators that he shot the four people while seeking money to pay for methamphetamine.
The 20-year-old was arrested in Carson City, where he will plead to charges there.
Prosecutors said the goal of the agreement is to give the families finality while ensuring that Martinez-Guzman is never free again.