RENO — Days after a man who authorities said is in the U.S. illegally was arrested in connection with four slayings, Nevada’s congressional delegation has not weighed in as the killings add fuel to the debate over immigration and border security.
Wilbur Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 19, from El Salvador, remained in custody in the Carson City Jail Tuesday, where he is being held on burglary, possession of stolen property and immigration charges.
Authorities said over the weekend that they expect to file murder charges against Martinez-Guzman in connection with the killings of two women in Gardnerville as well as the shooting deaths of a couple in Reno that occurred just days apart.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said immigration officials told his office that Martinez-Guzman is in the United States illegally. Public affairs employees for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not be reached as they are prohibited from working during the federal government shutdown.
President Donald Trump seized on the killings as evidence of the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Four people in Nevada viciously robbed and killed by an illegal immigrant who should not have been in our Country,” Trump said Monday in a tweet. “We need a powerful Wall!”
Four people in Nevada viciously robbed and killed by an illegal immigrant who should not have been in our Country. 26 people killed on the Border in a drug and gang related fight. Two large Caravans from Honduras broke into Mexico and are headed our way. We need a powerful Wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2019
The killings are the latest crimes Trump has cited to bring attention to the wall, which is at the center of his battle with Democrats that has shut down much of the federal government.
Since the start of his presidency, Trump has highlighted crimes committed by immigrants who were in the United States illegally, including the killing of a 32-year-old woman at a San Francisco pier in 2015. Last month, he tweeted about allegations that a man from Mexico fatally shot a California police officer.
The Review-Journal reached out to all six members of Nevada’s congressional delegation on Monday and Tuesday. They either did not respond or declined to comment about the case or Trump’s tweet.
Martinez-Guzman is due in court in Carson City Thursday afternoon.
The homicide investigation started when Connie Koontz, 56, was found dead in her Gardnerville home on Jan. 10. Sophia Renken, 74, was found dead inside her home approximately a mile away on Jan. 13.
Sharon David, 80, and her husband Gerald, 81, were found dead inside their home in South Reno on Wednesday. The Washoe County sheriff’s office said last week that there were similarities between the Reno killings and the two in Gardnerville, which is located about 16 miles south of Carson City.
Police have said that Martinez-Guzman lived in Carson City for about a year, and that his only interaction with officers in that time was a speeding ticket in February.
The burglary and stolen property charges were levied against Martinez-Guzman because he was “taking items stolen from murder victims and pawning them to pawn shops,” Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury said.