Ranchos murder case returns to Supreme Court
Attorneys for a man accused of killing two Gardnerville Ranchos women are back before the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to have him tried in Douglas County.
Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken were found killed in their homes only blocks apart Jan. 10-13, 2019.
Wilber Guzman-Martinez also is accused of shooting Reno couple Gerald and Sharon David on Jan. 16, 2019.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Guzman-Martinez in Washoe County District Court after the Washoe grand jury brought an indictment against him in all four murders.
The 19-year-old Salvadoran illegal immigrant allegedly worked doing yard maintenance at all of the homes, where he is accused of taking the pistol from the Davids’ property that was used to kill all four Western Nevadans.
Defense attorneys in the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office have focused on the grand jury’s indictment on four counts related to the Douglas homicides. They argue that Washoe doesn’t have territorial jurisdiction over the Douglas cases.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to District Judge Connie Steinheimer, who ruled on Sept. 10 that the charges could go forward in Washoe, ruling that the offenses appeared to involve a single scheme. On Sept. 25, defenders filed a new appeal seeking to have the Douglas charges dismissed.
Even if the Supreme Court rules the four Douglas charges must be tried here, District Attorney Mark Jackson has been actively participating in the case in Reno. It also wouldn’t prevent Washoe County prosecutors from moving forward with their death penalty case in the Davids’ murder.
Martinez-Guzman’s defense attorneys are also seeking to delay any trial until they can send experts to El Salvador to interview relatives to determine if the defendant is competent.
The coronavirus lockdown has prevented any attempt, so far.
It has been nearly 20 years since the last death penalty case in Douglas County.
A jury was hearing testimony in the case against Thomas Robert Soria, when on Jan. 28, 2001, he died of a heart condition just days after his son testified during a proceeding.
Soria was accused in the rape and murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.
Despite being one of Nevada’s oldest jurisdictions, the county has only seen one murder case go from trial to conviction to execution in its history.
Charles Kaiser was executed May 21, 1909, five months after he shot and killed his wife on Jan. 9, 1909.
The only lynching of an accused murderer occurred on Dec. 7, 1897, when Adam Uber was taken from his jail cell in Genoa by vigilantes, beaten and hanged in the shooting death of Millerville saloon keep Hans Andersen.