Remembering the victims: Sophia Renken

Published: Feb. 5, 2019 at 5:54 PM PST
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As the

in six days mounted last month, entire communities in western Nevada were left frightened. Friends and families were, of course, devastated.

But most of us knew the victims only by name and ages. We made assumptions about the rest of their lives.

Sophia Renken, one of two women murdered in their homes in the Gardnerville Ranchos, was 74, described in news accounts as elderly. That, her friends say, hardly describes her.

"She was not a frail, little old lady,' says close friend Anita Kornoff. "She was tall. She was strong. She was very capable and lived on her own and did everything on her own."

"She was very confident," adds Al Abrahamson, a member with Renken in a local antique car club. "She had a persona that gave confidence to other people."

To those in the three antique car clubs to which she belonged, she was Sophia; to others, Sophie, to some family members--we're told--she was Cookie.

It may tell you much of what you need to know about her, to learn she maintained and drove antique cars--a Model A and Model T Ford--on long trips alone.

"Not your average shrinking violet," says Kornoff. "She was not like most ladies who wanted to bring a mechanic with them. She drove her own car."

Abrahamson agrees. "She could work on them, do the minor work herself. Change the oil, so the maintenance such as that."

The cars were obviously a passion, but she had others.

"She loved horses, loved dogs," says Kornoff. "She had many friends. I have the feeling that anyone who ever met her had a friend for life."

And--in spite of her age and being a single woman living alone--she may have been the least likely victim. Certainly from investigators' description of the crime scene she wasn't the easiest.

Her death left a mark on many in her community.

"My wife and I were very sad. We broke out in tears." recalls Abrahamson.

Anita Kornoff says she doubts she will ever be the same.

"I cried for a solid week. I thought I'd never get over it."

But it's her zest for life that friends choose to remember.

"She expressed fun, good attitude and happiness," says Abrahamson.

"Kindness and spirit. She had a lot of spirit," adds Kornoff.

Sophia Renken's memorial will be held at 11AM February 19 at the Eastside Memorial Park in Gardnerville.

The family has asked members of her car clubs to bring their vehicles.

Wilber Martinez-Guzman has been charged with murder for the death of Renken, plus Connie Koontz of Gardnerville and Gerald and Sharon David of Reno.