Supreme Court to hear Ranchos murder case
Arguments that could determine whether a man accused of two murders in the Gardnerville Ranchos in January should have been indicted by the Washoe County Grand Jury will go before Supreme Court justices on Nov. 5.
Douglas County residents Connie Koontz, 56, and Sophia Renken, 74, were killed on Jan. 10 and 13 in their homes, setting off a manhunt and panic in Carson Valley.
Wilber Martinez-Guzman, 20, was arrested in Carson City on Jan. 19, three days after the shooting deaths of a Reno couple.
At issue is whether the Washoe County Grand Jury had the legal right to indict Martinez-Guzman on two counts of murder that happened in Douglas County.
That panel also indicted him on two counts of murder committed in Reno. He is facing the death penalty.
Washoe Public Defender John Arrascada confirmed the Supreme Court hearing. The issue before the Supreme Court is called “territorial jurisdiction,” an argument that the grand jury in one county cannot indict for a crime committed in another county.
Should the Supreme Court rule against the prosecution, Martinez-Guzman would have to be tried in Douglas County on the two Ranchos murders.
Arrascada also confirmed that the defense wants a medical expert to prove Guzman, who was arrested in Carson City, is ineligible to face the death penalty. Defendants in murder cases cannot face the death penalty if their IQ is below 70. The defense has indicated there is evidence that Guzman, a Salvadoran illegal, may have an IQ as low as 55.
The judge said earlier she wouldn’t delay the trial beyond the current April 6 start unless the defense could file assurances they would actually have a neural psychologist who speaks Spanish available to do the examination. Experts with those qualifications are in short supply nationwide.
Arrascada said he filed a supplemental motion Tuesday assuring the judge that their expert will be available. The judge then set a July 27, 2020, hearing to consider resetting the trial for Aug. 31, 2020.
Key to tracking Martinez-Guzman down was his attempt to log in using Koontz’ iWatch, which he’d taken from her home.
Martinez-Guzman was indicted by the Washoe County Grand Jury in March on four counts of murder committed during a 10-day killing spree last January.
Washoe investigators have said he admitted the crimes to a detective.