By Scott Sonner
RENO — A lawyer for a Salvadoran immigrant charged with four Nevada murders says Washoe County prosecutors have no authority to try him in Reno for two killings that occurred outside the county and that his confession should be thrown out of court.
Public Defender John Arrascada told a judge Monday he has filed motions to dismiss four of the charges filed against 20-year-old Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman in a 10-count indictment last month.
They include two first-degree murder charges tied to killings in Douglas County south of Carson City.
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks and Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson said earlier they believe they have the authority to try Martinez-Guzman on all charges in Reno because the related crimes occurred during the same 10-day rampage in January. They’re seeking the death penalty.
Judge Connie Steinheimer set a May 20 hearing on the motions to dismiss and prohibit use of the confession as evidence to prove at least some of the crimes. Hicks said he intends to respond to the motions by Thursday.
A Washoe County detective testified before a grand jury in March that Martinez-Guzman told her he robbed and killed his elderly victims because he needed money to buy methamphetamine. She said he 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.
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.
Arrascada said the alleged confession wasn’t allowed to be presented to the grand jury unless it was accompanied by separate evidence supporting the charges.
State law requires “evidence independent of the confessions or admissions of the defendant” so as to protect against “an accused’s conviction being based solely upon an uncorroborated confession,” Arrascada wrote. He said the evidence presented was insufficient.
The grand jury indicted Martinez-Guzman in March 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 has been entered on his behalf. His trial isn’t scheduled to begin until April 2020.
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.
Among other things, Arrascada said prosecutors didn’t present any legal evidence that a burglary occurred at the Davids’ residence prior to the homicides or that during one of those burglaries he gained possession of a firearm.