Ranchos murderer safely in prison custody

Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson confers with defense attorney John Arrascada, as Wilber Martinez-Guzman sits during his sentencing in Douglas County court on March 3, 2022.

Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson confers with defense attorney John Arrascada, as Wilber Martinez-Guzman sits during his sentencing in Douglas County court on March 3, 2022.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Wilber Martinez-Guzman will never be eligible for parole.

After his sentencing on March 3 to four consecutive life terms with deadly weapon enhancements, along with a dozen other felonies, the man who killed four Western Nevadans was transferred to Northern Nevada Correctional Center where he’ll remain behind bars for the rest of his life.

Serial murderer Wilber Martinez-Guzman’s determinate prison sentence won’t expire until Sept. 29, 2222, more than 200 years from now, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

After completing those sentences, he would be 223 years old and still not be eligible for parole.

After more than three years, District Attorney Mark Jackson took to the podium to make the case against the Salvadoran man who terrorized Western Nevada Jan. 9-16, 2019, including murdering Ranchos residents Connie Koontz and Sophia “Cookie” Renkin in their homes.

While there was no jury, there were 40 people in the courtroom to hear the sentence pronounced, with several wearing buttons with Koontz’ likeness.

Martinez-Guzman showed no emotion as Jackson began the presentation that detailed every step of the admitted killer’s activities that week and what led authorities to bring his rampage to a halt.

Three interpreters took turns translating proceedings for Martinez-Guzman.

Jackson said he spoke from the podium so he wouldn’t have his back to the gallery of family and supporters who’d come to hear justice done.

“It’s important to me that the family members can hear me loud and clear,” Jackson said in opening.

There’s no question that Salvadoran Wilber Martinez-Guzman killed the four Western Nevadans.

The real question is whether he would have kept killing people if he hadn’t been arrested three days after his last murders.

Jackson questioned whether Martinez-Guzman was killing people for cash to make his car payment and buy drugs, or whether the stolen items were as much trophies as loot.

The 188-slide presentation Jackson used to present the case for Martinez-Guzman receiving the absolute maximum didn’t include any graphic photos of the crime scenes or murdered women. Those were among the 93 prosecution exhibits sealed and viewed by the District Judge Tom Gregory alone.

“Today is about the Douglas County victims,” Jackson said, opening his more than two-hour presentation with portraits of Koontz and Renkin.

Koontz lived with her elderly mother in a home on James Road. She worked at the Gardnerville Walmart and did nails at T&T Salon. Her only daughter moved out of the house the prior year.

She enjoyed going to Disneyland and was an Apple product aficionado, something that would eventually lead to her killer.

Renken was 74 and lived less than a mile from the Koontz home. She loved horses and dogs, and was fond of antique automobiles.

The last communication from Connie Koontz was a text sent at 8:44 p.m. Jan. 9, 2019, offering encouragement to a friend.

“She’ll be fine,” Koontz wrote. “Thank you. I always got your back. I love you too. You’re family.”

Even as she was texting those words, Martinez-Guzman was headed into the Gardnerville Ranchos in a blue 2006 BMW purchased the month before. 

The first indication something was wrong at the Koontz home, a neighbor told investigators, was that both garage doors were open around 9:30 p.m., something that was rare, and never happened at night.

Those doors were still open early the next morning, according to another neighbor.

The home had one double and one single garage. Koontz used the single-car portion for storage, while she kept her white Jeep in the other half.

In recreating the crime scene, it appeared that Martinez-Guzman entered through the back garage door and was removing the television when Koontz came out to investigate. He put the TV down in the kitchen and waited for her to come in before shooting her once in the head, using a .22 revolver he’d stolen a few days before from an outbuilding belonging to Gerald and Sharon David.

It was Koontz’ bedridden mother who dragged herself into the kitchen to discover her daughter’s body the next morning. 

Koontz kept her valuables in totes that were caringly labeled. Those were taken that night. She also kept the boxes for the all-in-one Macintosh she’d recently purchased along with an iPhone 10 and an Apple iWatch. Those boxes ended up being the key to cracking the case. 

Koontz’ iPhone was on when Martinez-Guzman took it, but he didn’t realize that until he was already northbound on Highway 395.

It was first spotted on Jan. 12 by a bicyclist riding along the highway near Airport Road, the same day that a friend found Renkin’s body in her Dresslerville Road home.

The bicyclist left it there, thinking that the owner might come back for it, but when it was still there the next afternoon, he picked it up. He turned the phone on and started calling numbers to find the owner. 

Investigators believe that Martinez-Guzman worked at Renkin’s home as a landscaper prior to the murders. Unlike Koontz, she had a dog, Peanut, who was barking during the attack. 

Renkin was supposed to go shopping for the man who discovered her body because he was in a cast. When she didn’t turn up on the morning of Jan. 13, he limped over to check on her and found the gate and the back door both open.

It was clear to investigators that multiple rounds had been fired inside Renkin’s home, but there were no casings, confirming that Martinez-Guzman had used a revolver instead of picking up shell casings.

Jackson said it appeared that the killer had again laid in wait for his victim, this time in a small bathroom. 

“He again put himself in a position to surprise his victim,” Jackson said. He fired five times and hit Renkin four times. “He could have turned the other direction, but instead he followed her into the bedroom and shot her a final time.”

Martinez-Guzman’s cell phone date put him in the Gardnerville Ranchos around 4-5:30 a.m. Jan. 13. He didn’t take anything from the Renkin house.

There have never been two seemingly separate killings in Carson Valley in such a short time without investigators having some idea who was responsible.

Gardnerville Ranchos residents were particularly on edge, with deputies responding to calls of strangers knocking on doors and in one instance finding a woman waiting with a shotgun until they arrived.

Residents flocked to free martial arts training for women was offered and a vigil was conducted at Ranchos Aspen Park.

Newspaper delivery people remained in their vehicles during their rounds in order to avoid spooking residents, The R-C reported. Douglas County 911 Dispatchers fielded 6,464 911 calls Jan. 9-18, where they usually handled 5,500 during an entire month.

There were 819 calls to 911 on Jan. 13, when Renkin was found at her home.

On Jan. 16, Martinez-Guzman returned to the scene of his original Jan. 3-4 thefts at the home of Sharon and Gerald David.

That night, he waited for Sharon David to let the dog out and ambushed her outside the home, killing her. He then rushed inside the Reno home with the High Standard Sentinel .22 caliber revolver he’d stolen a dozen days before and shot Gerald David multiple times.

But even as his murder spree accelerated, detectives were starting to close in on him. 

After getting a warrant and contacting Apple, Douglas County Investigator Steve Schultz was able to learn that someone in Carson City turned it on and it connected to a server from an address linked to Martinez-Guzman’s mother. 

The day after he killed the Davids, he walked into a Carson City pawn shop wearing Gerald David’s 10k gold Elks Lodge ring and sold it for $126, using his passport as identity. David’s initials and the Dec. 25, 1974, date it was presented to him were etched on the inside of the ring.

Three days later Carson City detectives stopped Martinez-Guzman, who had the pistol strapped under the driver’s seat and several items taken in burglaries, including a Christmas mug with Koontz’ first name on it.

A search of his apartment turned up Koontz’ property. He told a Washoe investigator he was stealing to generate cash for a $657.12 payment that came due the day after Renkin was killed on his 2006 BMW. Between all the property he sold, he gained $179, or less than $45 per murder.


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