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Death penalty to be sought for illegal immigrant in Nevada killings

Updated March 14, 2019 - 4:50 pm

Prosecutors in Douglas and Washoe counties will seek the death penalty for a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant accused of killing four people in Northern Nevada.

“We reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst,” Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said at a news conference Thursday. “We use it sparingly.”

Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman was indicted Wednesday on 10 counts of burglary, robbery, possession of a stolen weapon and murder.

Martinez-Guzman, an immigrant from El Salvador who entered the country illegally, is accused of shooting and killing Gerald David, 81, and his wife, Sharon, 80, in Reno and Connie Koontz, 56, and Sophia Renken, 74, in Gardnerville.

The shootings occurred during a weeklong robbery spree in January, authorities said.

Martinez-Guzman faces charges in both Washoe and Douglas Counties but was transferred to Washoe first to face the murder charges there.

The Washoe County district attorney’s office sought a grand jury indictment to expedite the trial against Martinez-Guzman, who waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

“This is a priority because of the victims, the victims’ families and the community,” Hicks said at a news conference held after Martinez-Guzman’s indictment was announced

Douglas County District Attorney Jackson said both offices were in contact with the victims’ families, who agreed with the decision.

Both offices considered Martinez-Guzman’s age and lack of criminal record when deliberating on the decision. His immigration status was not considered, Hicks said, adding that the offices were not aware of whether Martinez-Guzman had any criminal record outside the United States.

“After weighing all of the aggravating circumstances and all of the known mitigating circumstances, it was our decision that we would proceed with the death penalty,” Jackson said.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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