Judge confirms Ranchos murder cases can be tried in Washoe County | RecordCourier.com
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Judge confirms Ranchos murder cases can be tried in Washoe County

Connie Koontz and Sophia Renkin were killed in their homes in January 2019, prompting one of the biggest criminal investigations in Douglas County history.

A Washoe County judge denied an attempt by attorneys to dismiss charges against a man accused of killing two Gardnerville Ranchos women in their homes in January 2019. 

Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken were shot to death in their homes three days apart within blocks of one another. Salvadoran Wilber Martinez-Guzman is facing the death penalty in connection with those two murders and those of Reno couple Gerald and Sharon David.

Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson and Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks decided to prosecute the case in Washoe County, where there were more resources to deal with a death penalty case. The Washoe County Grand Jury issued indictments in all four murders, prompting the challenge from Martinez-Guzman’s public defenders.

On Wednesday, Washoe County District Judge Connie Steinheimer ruled that the Washoe Grand Jury’s indictment of Martinez-Guzman in the two Douglas murders was valid.

If the charges were dismissed in Washoe County, they could be refiled in Douglas.

Next week, a hearing has been set to determine if Martinez-Guzman’s trial will be set off indefinitely.

His attorneys are seeking background witnesses from El Salvador to discover if he is competent, and because of the coronavirus outbreak, travelers aren’t permitted in the country.

According to background included with Steinheimer’s order, Martinez-Guzman burglarized the Davids’ property and found the revolver and ammunition allegedly used in the murders.

Following his arrest on Jan. 19, 2019, he told a detective that he was working for a landscaper in 2018.

According to the grand jury transcript, he told the detective that he knew that Renken had tools and machines in her garage because he’d previously worked at her house. He had been cleaning a yard near where Koontz lived. His original plan was to take things from the homes and sell them for money.

“Only after stealing the revolver and ammunition from Washoe County did Mr. Guzman decide to enter the victims’ homes to obtain more valuable personal property, such as jewelry, phones and computers, and to kill the elderly occupants therein,” according to an interview.

Guzman took an iMac, an iWatch, a neckless and jewelry from Koontz’ home. It was an attempt to log on with the stolen iWatch that led investigators to Martinez Guzman.