In this 2019 photo, Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 19, of El Salvador, is escorted into the courtroom for his initial appearance in Carson City Justice Court in Carson City, Nevada. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File)

In this 2019 photo, Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 19, of El Salvador, is escorted into the courtroom for his initial appearance in Carson City Justice Court in Carson City, Nevada. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File)

Police say immigrant suspect killed 4 in Nevada for drugs

The man from El Salvador said he robbed and killed his elderly victims during a 10-day rampage.

By Scott Sonner / Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — A detective says a Salvadoran immigrant charged with four Nevada murders told police he robbed and killed his elderly victims during a 10-day rampage in January because he needed money to buy methamphetamine.

The detective told the grand jury, which indicted Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman in Reno last week, the 20-year-old who is living in the U.S. illegally broke into tears and repeatedly called himself an “idiot” before confessing to the murders during an interrogation hours after his arrest in Carson City on Jan. 19.

According to the grand jury transcript obtained by The Associated Press, Washoe County Sheriff’s Detective Stefanie Brady testified March 13 that Martinez-Guzman initially denied any wrongdoing and was smiling and giggling through part of the questioning.

But after she confronted him with several contradictions in his story during a nearly three-hour interrogation, he said through a Spanish interpreter he had “done something that’s unforgiveable.”

She says he told her he shot the victims “because of the drugs.”

“He said he needed the money for the meth and it was the meth,” Brady testified, according to the 268-page transcript filed late Tuesday in Washoe District Court.

The grand jury indicted Martinez-Guzman last week on four counts of murder with the use of a deadly weapon, three counts of burglary while in possession of a firearm and one count each of burglary, burglary while gaining possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm.

A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf during an arraignment Tuesday. His trial isn’t scheduled to begin until April 2020.

His public defense attorney, John Arrascada, said in an email to AP he didn’t receive the grand jury transcript until Wednesday, was reviewing it and had no immediate comment.

Federal officials have said Martinez-Guzman is in the U.S. illegally but they don’t know how or when he crossed the border.

The case has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who says it shows the need for a border wall.

District Attorneys Chris Hicks of Washoe County and Mark Jackson of Douglas County announced last week they are seeking the death penalty but that Martinez-Guzman’s immigration status had nothing to do with that decision.

The four slaying victims include Gerald David, 81, and his 80-year-old wife, Sharon David, a prominent Reno Rodeo Association couple who had employed Martinez-Guzman as a landscaper last summer at their house where they were found dead Jan. 16.

Police say they were shot with a .22-caliber handgun that Martinez-Guzman stole from them earlier.

Court documents allege that Martinez-Guzman’s DNA was found on the same gun that was also used to kill Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken in their homes in Gardnerville south of Carson City.

Detective Brady told the grand jury that Martinez-Guzman was “engaging” and made “lots of eye contact” during the early stages of the interrogation at the Carson City sheriff’s office.

“He smiled, kind of giggled through some of the questions. But he was very engaged in the conversation,” she said.

After she read him his Miranda rights, “he actually acknowledged that he was fine not having an attorney because he hadn’t done anything wrong,” she said.

He indicated he had buried “a bunch of stuff” that he found by a river in Carson City. But when she confronted him about several contradictions, his answers became slower, his body posture was more slumped and he started touching his face uncontrollably.

When she asked him about some fishing poles that had been stolen from the Davids, “there was a really long pause. And at that point, he had dropped his head and began to cry with long deep breaths.”

“He talked about how he was an idiot. He repeated that several times,” Brady testified. “He talked about how he had done something that’s unforgiveable.”

“He said … something about if he tells me what he did, it’s not going to bring back the people that he shot,” she said, and then shortly after that blamed the killings on his need for money to buy drugs.

She said he initially denied he killed Renken, but ultimately acknowledged he shot her too.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

John Lewis, lion of civil rights and Congress, dies at 80

He was best known for leading 600 protesters in the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Comet streaking past Earth, providing spectacular show

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet in March.

Boeing has settled almost all Lion Air crash-death claims

The company didn’t say how much it paid the families of the people killed in the 2018 Indonesia crash.

Supreme Court: LGBT people protected from job discrimination

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Boeing, suppliers plunge on stop-and-go 737 Max comeback

An uptick in Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has added to concerns that airlines face a prolonged recovery

Boeing goes another month without a single airliner order

Airlines are canceling thousands of flights while passengers remain too scared to fly.

Bellevue couple’s nightmare: Held in China, away from daughter

Chinese officials want the man’s father to return from the U.S. to face 20-year-old embezzling charges.

Airbus CEO warns workers it’s bleeding cash and needs cuts

Both Airbus and Boeing are preparing for job cuts as they gauge the depth of the downturn.

U.S. unsure it can meet deadline to disburse funds to tribes

The department hasn’t determined whether unique Alaska Native corporations are eligible for a share.

As people stay home, Earth turns wilder and cleaner

“There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans.”

Trump, Congress scramble to revive virus-hunting agency

In 2019 it was without a permanent leader, and in the Trump administration’s budget-slashing sights.

Virus casts a dark cloud over once-thriving home market

Shutdown orders have halted open houses, sellers are delaying listings and buyers are losing their jobs.