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Immigrant to be tried on murder charges before other counts

February 8, 2019
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Wilber Martinez-Guzman is escorted into Carson City Justice Court on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, before his preliminary hearing was postponed on multiple counts stemming from his alleged murder of four people in northern Nevada last month. The 20-year-old Salvadoran immigrant waived his right to speedy proceedings in Carson City on burglary charges related to items stolen from some of the victims. Prosecutors say he's expected to be extradited to Reno next week to face four murder counts first. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
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Wilber Martinez-Guzman is escorted into Carson City Justice Court on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, before his preliminary hearing was postponed on multiple counts stemming from his alleged murder of four people in northern Nevada last month. The 20-year-old Salvadoran immigrant waived his right to speedy proceedings in Carson City on burglary charges related to items stolen from some of the victims. Prosecutors say he's expected to be extradited to Reno next week to face four murder counts first. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A 20-year-old immigrant from El Salvadoran accused of killing four people in Nevada will be tried on four murder counts in Reno before he faces related burglary and other charges in Carson City, prosecutors in the two counties said Friday.

Prosecutors said family members of the victims preferred the more serious charges against Wilber Martinez-Guzman be addressed first.

As part of the plan, Martinez-Guzman and his public defender agreed to postpone a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled Friday in Carson City on burglary and other counts involving items belonging to some of the victims.

He will be extradited to Reno and held without bail while awaiting trial on the murder counts. He has not entered pleas to any of the charges.

Federal immigration officials say Martinez-Guzman entered the U.S. illegally but they haven’t disclosed when or where.

The case has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted shortly after the arrest of Martinez-Guzman that the killings showed the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Martinez-Guzman told investigators that he stole jewelry, a .22-caliber revolver and other property from a Reno couple less than two weeks before prosecutors say he fatally shot them with the gun on Jan. 16 at their home.

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Prosecutors in Nevada said Monday they have filed murder charges that could bring the death penalty against a 19-year-old Salvadoran immigrant in four recent killings carried out over a six-day span. (Jan. 28)

Those victims, 81-year-old Gerald David and 80-year-old Sharon David, employed Martinez-Guzman as a landscaper last summer, investigators say.

He is also charged in the killing of two other women a week earlier at their homes 45 miles (72 kilometers) away in rural Gardnerville.

Martinez-Guzman was arrested Jan. 19 and jailed on $500,000 bail in Carson City.

Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury said the agreement to prosecute the murder charges first was “unusual but not unprecedented.”

“Generally, the jurisdiction that catches a defendant proceeds with its prosecution first,” Woodbury said.

But “when we have a way to make the process a little easier on people victimized by a crime, and when those people tell us they want the murder case to go first, we absolutely listen and do our best to honor those wishes,” he said.

Prosecutors say Martinez-Guzman acknowledged killing the Davids and that his DNA was found on the revolver also used to kill Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken.

Trump invited the Davids’ daughter, Debra Bissel, granddaughter and great granddaughter to attend his State of the Union address as his guest, and introduced them during the speech in the U.S. House chambers.

“Just three weeks ago Debra’s parents Gerald and Sharon were burglarized and shot to death in their Reno, Nevada, home by an illegal alien,” Trump said. “No one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache they have had to endure.”

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