Nevada Supreme Court gives mixed ruling in Douglas, Reno murders case
The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the district court ruling that Washoe County can try Wilber Guzman for murders committed in both Washoe and Douglas counties because the district court and the Washoe County grand jury have statewide jurisdiction.
Prosecutors wanted to try Guzman for two murders in Washoe and two in Douglas all at once in Reno to prevent the families of the victims from having to go through the emotional process of a jury trial twice.
But the high court outlined a way for District Judge Connie Steinheimer to grant Washoe County the power to try Guzman on all the charges if she is able to rule that what Guzman did in Douglas County is sufficiently tied to his actions in Washoe County.
Citing a previous case that involved prosecution of a case that started in another state, they wrote that Nevada courts obtain jurisdiction, “whenever a person with intent to commit a crime does any act within Nevada in execution or part execution of such intent which culminates in the commission of a crime either within or without Nevada.”
The ruling states that the same logic applies in cases like this involving crimes that cross county lines. They ordered Steinheimer to reconsider the motion by public defenders to dismiss the Douglas County charges “to determine whether there is a sufficient connection between the Douglas County offenses and Washoe County.”
“If so, then the Washoe County grand jury has the authority to inquire into the Douglas County offenses and criminal proceedings may continue.”
If not, the opinion by Justice Elissa Cadish says the Douglas charges must be dismissed in Washoe County but can be refilled in Douglas. The opinion was unanimous.
Guzman was indicted on a total of 10 felony counts, four of which occurred in Douglas County. He is accused of burglarizing the home of Gerald and Sharon David in Washoe County in January 2019, stealing a revolver among other things. About a week later, the indictment says he entered the home of Constance Koontz in Douglas County, shooting her to death with the revolver. Three days later, he is accused of entering the home of Sophia Renken in Douglas County, killing her with the same weapon.
Three days after that, he is charged with returning to the Davids’ home in Washoe County and killing both of them.
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Sentencing was delayed for two people who admitted burglarizing a half-dozen vehicles last May at trailheads in Lake Tahoe and Jacks Valley.