LAS VEGAS—A man suspected of being in the United States illegally shot and killed four people in Nevada over the past few weeks, including an elderly Reno couple, authorities said, and the slayings added fuel to the immigration debate.
Wilbur Martinez-Guzman, 19, from El Salvador, has been jailed in Carson City since Jan. 19 on possession of stolen property, burglary and immigration charges. Authorities said they expect to file murder charges against him in the shooting deaths of the couple and two women in the nearby town of Gardnerville.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said federal immigration authorities told his office that Martinez-Guzman was in the country illegally. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not have details on his entry into the United States.
The investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said, and it was too early to comment on a possible motive.
Investigators watched Martinez-Guzman go to a car wash and trash bins Saturday, and detectives became concerned that he might try to dispose of evidence connected to the slayings. Authorities decided to arrest him after he approached a mall that has a large gun store. He did not have a weapon when he was handcuffed, the sheriff said.
The suspect did not yet have an attorney who could speak on his behalf, according to the sheriff.
“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 border wall, which is at the center of his battle with Democrats that has shut down much of the federal government.
Last month, he tweeted about allegations that a man from Mexico fatally shot a California police officer.
There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop. Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2018
The Nevada investigation began Jan. 10, when 56-year-old Connie Koontz was found dead in her home. Three days later, the body of 74-year-old Sophia Renken was found in her home about a mile from where Koontz lived, authorities said.
On Jan. 16, the bodies of 81-year-old Gerald David and his 80-year-old wife, Sharon, were found in their home on the southern edge of Reno.
The two were remembered as “jovial” by Tom Cates, a longtime friend who knew the Davids through Reno’s rodeo and equestrian scene.
Cates said that Gerald David used his time as the rodeo association president in 2006 to promote a breast cancer awareness campaign by getting the group’s cowboys to show they were “tough enough to wear pink shirts.”
“Jerry was probably one of the finest leaders that I’ve ever met,” Cates said. “You walk into a room and his presence will just command attention. He was a true leader.”
Sharon David, he said, was “exuberant, bubbly, loved animals to the hills” and was a former director of the rodeo, Cates said.
Koontz, who worked at a Wal-Mart and as a manicurist at a local salon, was remembered by store co-workers on Tuesday as a positive woman who loved wearing bright colors. Her Wal-Mart colleagues wore memorial buttons with her picture.
She was “the only person I know that could come to work wearing lime green glasses and lime green crocs and rock it,” said Teri Bower, who works at the store.
Koontz and her daughter were best friends, Bower said, and the mother had saved up money and surprised her daughter with a trip to Las Vegas for her 21st birthday in December.
Bower said the killings had shaken the quiet community where everyone knows everyone and big news is a pending storm “or a bear running down Main Street.”
“This does not happen around here,” Bower said. “It’s crazy.”
By Michelle L. Price And Ken Ritter