County approves funds to cover murder investigations
Hunting the man who allegedly killed two Gardnerville Ranchos women cost the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office $175,000 in January, Undersheriff Paul Howell said on Thursday.
He said that doesn’t include the 501 hours of comp time sheriff’s office personnel put in during the two weeks in January to help hunt down murder suspect Wilber Martinez-Guzman.
On Thursday, county commissioners approved augmenting the sheriff’s budget $275,000 with their thanks.
Howell said the bill included $65,000 for laboratory fees, $45,000 to serve search warrants on technology fees, $61,000 for overtime to deal with the homicides, two drownings, an ATV accident death and two suicides over just a few days Jan. 9-13.
“We’re a smaller agency and when we realized we were dealing with the same perpetrator, it was all hands on deck,” he said. “We have 41 patrol deputies and for an almost two-week period we canceled days off.”
Howell said officers on light duty worked the call center collecting information.
“When you have 110 employees working around the clock, it adds up,” he said.
There’s a possibility that the sheriff’s office will get $10,000 from the state, Howell said.
“The cost of this major investigation was a big hit,” he said.
“Certainly the results bear out the tactics,” Commission Chairman Barry Penzel said.
The other $100,000 is required to pay for retirements and promotions that accompanied the election of a new sheriff.
Commissioners also approved augmenting District Attorney Mark Jackson’s budget so he can appoint a chief deputy criminal prosecutor.
Jackson said he has been filling that role over the past four years since Tom Gregory was appointed a district judge.
Jackson said he will be personally prosecuting Martinez-Guzman along with Washoe District Attorney Chris Hicks.
He said that the additional $13,000 will pay to promote a prosecutor in his office and free him up for the estimated 2,200 hours it takes to work a murder trial.
Commissioners also approved funding a senior investigator for the district attorney’s office.
Connie Koontz was found dead in her James Road home on Jan. 10, while Sophia Renken was found in her Dresslerville Road home on Jan. 13. The two deaths rocked the Gardnerville Ranchos and prompted a full court press on the part of Douglas County authorities.
Two murders in Reno of Gerald and Sharon David in their home on Jan. 16 led authorities to Guzman-Martinez.
He was arrested in Carson City on Jan. 19 on multiple theft-related charges. His prosecution will be conducted in Reno.
A service for Renken is set for 11 a.m. Feb. 19 at Eastside Memorial Park in Minden. Donations may be made to the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates. A celebration of Koontz’ life will be held in South Lake Tahoe this spring.