A 19-year-old man who authorities say murdered four people in northern Nevada earlier this month made his first court appearance on Thursday, when he was formally accused of possessing weapons and pawning property stolen from the victims.
Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman — investigators say he entered the U.S. illegally from El Salvador — was arraigned in Carson City on 31 felony counts of burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a stolen weapon and possession of a firearm as a prohibited person. Also invoked: five misdemeanor counts of possession of stolen property worth less than $650 and obtaining money under false pretenses.
Accompanied by his attorney and an interpreter, Martinez-Guzman answered “yes” in Spanish as Justice of the Peace Thomas Armstrong asked if he understood each charge. Armstrong set Martinez-Guzman’s bail at $500,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Feb. 8.
During the hearing, Martinez-Guzman’s attorney corrected the spelling of his first name as Wilber, with an “e”.
Prosecutors in Douglas and Washoe Counties have said they intend to file murder charges against Martinez-Guzman in connection with the deaths of Connie Koontz, 56; Sophia Renken, 74; Gerald “Jerry” David, 81; and David’s wife, 80-year-old Sharon. The bodies were found between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16 in Gardnerville and South Reno. Martinez-Guzman was arrested Jan. 19 in Carson City.
According to the charges, Martinez-Guzman made $412 selling Koontz’s rings and $126 selling an engraved Elks Club ring that belonged to Gerald David. One felony charge alleges that Martinez-Guzman had several belt buckles in his possession bearing the names Jerry and Sherri David and valued at up to $3,500, while another says he was in possession of an Apple computer and Apple watch that belonged to Koontz. Still another felony charge alleges that because Martinez-Guzman was in the U.S. illegally, he was prohibited from having 12 guns stolen from the Davids, who were prominent members and officers of the Reno Rodeo Association.
Allen Rowe, the owner of the Carson City pawn shop where Martinez-Guzman sold the jewelry, told The Associated Press the suspect used his passport for identification. Rowe added that Martinez-Guzman did not speak English well, “but there wasn’t anything that just made us say, `This is odd or weird,”‘
Rowe said routine receipt paperwork that goes to local sheriffs, along with store video, led authorities to Martinez-Guzman last week.
“We had him on camera, we had his ID. They could pinpoint who he was,” the pawn shop owner told AP. “Because we do everything aboveboard, it led to this person being caught. Had he sold it online or met someone somewhere else it could have gone unreported.”
The killings became part of the national immigration debate when President Trump cited them as evidence of the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The wall proposal is at the heart of a D.C. debate that has led to an extended partial government shutdown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.