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Couple Wanted In Connection With Murders In Nevada And Arizona Found Dead After Desert Standoff

Mohave County officials say Hunter McGuire and Samantha Branek were wanted for at least four murders when they led authorities on a high-speed chase. 

By Jax Miller
Fugitive Couple Dead After Desert Standoff

A couple wanted in connection to multiple murders across two states is dead, according to officials.

Hunter McGuire, 26, and his girlfriend, Samantha Branek, 32, led authorities on a high-speed chase into a remote desert area near Yucca on Friday afternoon, according to the Mohave County, Arizona Sheriff’s Office. The couple, along with another female, “ran into the desert” after Branek’s silver Hyundai Elantra slid off the road. McGuire was armed with a rifle.

The third person, identified as 23-year-old Brittany Conkling of Kingman, surrendered to authorities.

County officials say McGuire and Branek “attempted to conceal themselves” in an area dense with brush before trying to hide under a tree as a helicopter from the Arizona Department of Public Safety soared overhead. After about four hours of unsuccessful negotiations, McGuire shot himself in the head and ended his own life.

Branek also died of a single gunshot wound to the head, though investigators have yet to determine whether or not she was murdered or if she also died by suicide.

Photos of Hunter Mcguire and Samantha Branek

It is believed McGuire and Branek had been “hiding” in Las Vegas because both had been involved in an unsolved double murder on June 28 near Kingman, Arizona — about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

Victims Retta Atkins, 73, and Darren VanHouten, 50, were killed at their Dilligaff Road home, though officials did not release how the couple died. According to The Mohave Valley Daily News, Atkins owned “The Gold Lady,” an equipment seller in Golden Valley catering to the area’s gold mining industry.

Despite releasing a surveillance video of a masked suspect and lab tests performed on “items of evidentiary value” from the crime scene, McGuire and Branek were not considered suspects until after Las Vegas officials contacted the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

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That is when, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), they identified McGuire — a resident of Kingman — to them as a suspect in the shooting of an unnamed woman who was found at around 11:00 p.m. on Oct. 17 at a Craigmont Avenue residence.

Police said the victim was “involved in a dispute with a male acquaintance who was temporarily living with her” before her shooting. She succumbed to her injuries at an area hospital.

Mohave County officials stated that Samantha Branek — identified as McGuire’s girlfriend — was “observed on video pawning evidence” from the Vegas murder later on Oct. 17.

The suspect left before police arrived, and an arrest warrant was issued, charging him with murder with a deadly weapon.

Las Vegas officials considered him armed and dangerous, warning the public not to approach him. It was in the course of their investigation that Vegas police received a tip that McGuire had been involved in the Arizona murders.

Later that day, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home in a relatively remote area of Golden Valley — just west of Kingman — after reports of a possible homicide at around 1:44 p.m..

There, they found the body of Martin Eric Nelson Jr., 35, behind a vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head, county officials stated.

“While on scene, a male subject walked up from the remote desert area,” stated the sheriff’s office. “The subject, identified as Timothy Burt, 42, of Kingman, had initially stated that he was present during the death of Nelson and had fled into the desert where he had been hiding for the past 12 hours.”

Police handouts of Timothy Burt and Brittany Conkling

Burt told investigators he'd had a trailer stolen from him and that he and Nelson came to the remote area at around 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday to take the trailer back. But, as the two approached Burt's trailer, McGuire appeared and began shooting at them, Burt told authorities.

Deputies said Burt’s story “changed many times,” but he finally admitted to owning a gun and having engaged in a shootout with McGuire. He was arrested on charges of hindering prosecution.

Investigators say that McGuire and Branek were known to be occupying the Golden Valley property, where police executed a search warrant and found evidence related to the June murders of Atkins and VanHouten.

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On Thursday, Branek was spotted at a truck stop in Yucca, Arizona — about 25 miles south of Kingman — buying a large amount of water and sandwiches. With her was Brittany Conkling; both were riding in the silver Hyundai Elantra identified in the LVMPD’s release.

Mohave officials spotted the car with both women and McGuire in Yucca again at around 12:37 p.m. on Friday.

“A deputy in a marked patrol unit came up on the vehicle, at which time the vehicle accelerated to speeds over 80 MPH before the deputy had an opportunity to activate their emergency lights,” according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

They were pursued for nearly 35 miles before the car went off the road. It wasn’t immediately clear who was driving the vehicle at the time.

Hours after the trio ran into the desert, the Lake Havasu City Police Department SWAT team found McGuire and Branek were “lying beside each other” with gunshot wounds to the head. McGuire had the rifle across his chest and was wearing a wig, cops said.

Conkling — who hid separately from McGuire and Branek before surrendering — allegedly admitted that she knew the pair was wanted for murder and said they’d “been camping out in the remote desert area.” She was booked on charges of hindering prosecution.

No shots were fired by law enforcement officials on the scene.

“Hunter McGuire is a suspect in additional murder investigations which are still ongoing,” according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

Timothy Burt and Brittany Conkling remain at the Mohave County Detention Facility as the investigation continues.

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