RENO, Nev. – A quiet northern Nevada community is on edge after a spate of killings left five people dead in a single day, including a married couple in their 80s, a 67-year-old woman, and a man found dead not far from the Mustang Ranch brothel.
Lyon County sheriff Allen Deil urged residents on Tuesday to be vigilant, even after deputies arrested a 25-year-old "person of interest" who was found near one of the crime scenes in Fernley and has acknowledged gang ties. Authorities were working to determine how many people were involved in the killings.
"What we don't want to do is establish some sense of paranoia, but we want people to be aware," Deil said. "By all means, lock your doors and windows. ... Notify us in the middle of the night if the dogs start barking."
Investigators said Robert Pape and Dorothy Pape, both 84, were found dead early Monday in a house in Fernley, a city of 19,000 about 30 miles east of Reno. Angie Duff, 67, and another man were found dead in a home a half-block away. Deputies said they also found a man dead Monday in a ditch along the Interstate 80 exit for the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel.
Lyon County sheriff Allen Deil described the attacks as "absolutely shocking to us."
"It is senseless. The people we have talked to, they don't know whether to be paranoid, scared to death, shocked, angry," he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
Jeremiah Bean, 25, of Fernley, was described as a "person of interest" in the killings. He was arrested Monday and booked on two counts of burglary, and was being held Tuesday at the Lyon County jail on $50,000 bail.
Bean has a local arrest record and a felony conviction related to burglary and attempted grand larceny, deputies said. He has also acknowledged gang ties.
"He had some evidence that came from one of the residences where we had two victims," Deil said. "He was in one of those residences where there were two deceased individuals and had some of their property when he was arrested."
By Tuesday afternoon, investigators had collected an "exhaustive list of evidence," he said.
Authorities were searching for possible accomplices and warned residents to be on the lookout for strangers in the area.
"We're still trying to determine whether we have one or more suspects. There are indications there may be," the sheriff said.
Investigators don't believe the killings were gang related and there was no evidence of drugs at either Fernley home, Deil said.
Authorities have not recovered any firearm or other weapon or instrument that could have been used in the deaths, and it's not apparent how the victims died. Autopsies were pending at the Washoe County medical examiner's office in Reno.
"There is a lot of speculation on what the cause of death is," Deil said. "I don't know for certain."
The first victims were discovered after firefighters were called to a house on fire in Fernley at about 6 a.m. Monday. About two hours later, Washoe County sheriff's deputies were called to the Mustang exit with the report of a dead man. A short time later, deputies responding to a call for a welfare check found the other two victims in a Fernley home within 100 yards of the house where the first two dead were found.
"This is the most horrific thing I've ever seen," Stacee Dickey, a neighbor of the Fernley victims, told KRNV-TV.
The arrest was made two doors down from the site of the initial house fire after a homeowner called police about a man hiding in his garage.
Police are looking for a white pickup truck they believe was driven by the victim found near Mustang — a 1998 GMC Silverado with Nevada plates, 336-UNB. KRNV-TV reported that victim was a 52-year-old man from Spanish Springs, a Reno suburb.
Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels contributed to this report from Las Vegas.