Judge rules Ranchos murder suspect may be tried in Reno
A man held in the murders of two Gardnerville Ranchos women may be tried in Reno, a Washoe County Judge ruled on Friday.
District Judge Connie Steinheimer ruled against a defense motion to dismiss charges related to the January shooting deaths of Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken within a mile of one another.
El Salvadoran Wilber Martinez-Guzman, 19, is facing the death penalty in connection with the Ranchos slayings and the shooting deaths of Reno couple Jerry and Sherri David.
The Washoe County grand jury returned the 10-count indictment on March 13.
Martinez-Guzman faces four counts of murder with a use of a deadly weapon, four counts of burglary with a firearm, one count of burglary and one count of possession of a stolen firearm.
A jury trial has been set for April 6, 2020, in the case.
Washoe County public defenders John Arrascada, Katheryn Hickman and Gianna Verness are defending Guzman.
They filed a motion to dismiss the Douglas County counts in the indictment, arguing the Washoe grand jury didn’t have jurisdiction in Douglas County.
“Since the grand jury was impaneled in Washoe County, the grand jury exceeded its jurisdiction when it indicted him on the Douglas County acts.”
Martinez-Guzman’s attorneys have also filed a writ of habeas corpus addressing the same issues.
Steinehimer said that when the law was changed in the 1960s, the Legislature changed the requirement for district judges and hence grand juries be limited to their respective districts. Lawmakers replaced the term with territorial jurisdiction.
She said the second term is more expansive.
“District courts within the Stat of Nevada have jurisdiction over felony offenses, not confined to the respective county or counties that are part of the district,” she wrote in her opinion. “The grand jury may inquire into all public offences triable in the district court committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the district court for which it is impaneled, and the Second Judicial District Court territorial jurisdiction extends statewide to all felony offenses.’
Steinheimer declined to rule on whether Washoe County was the proper venue, since it hasn’t been raised by defense attorneys.
Martinez-Guzman is accused of stealing the murder weapon while he was working on the Davids’ property.
On Jan. 10, he allegedly entered Koontz’ home and shot her. Three days later, he allegedly shot Renken. The Davids were shot at their home on Jan. 16.
According to authorities, Martinez-Guzman took an Apple watch from Koontz that he tried to use from his mother’s home, which allowed authorities to zero in on him.
He was arrested in Carson City on Jan 19. Martinez-Guzman is in the country illegally.