- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Prosecutors in Las Vegas are seeking the death penalty against a man who pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing a couple in their 80s and hiding their bodies in a Las Vegas storage unit for a decade while he reaped $200,000 of their Social Security benefits.

A gray-haired Robert Dixon Dunn, 52, stood in shackles and spoke only to enter his pleas to murder, robbery and theft charges carrying age enhancements because Joaquin Sierra was 86 and Eleanor Sierra was 82 when they were last seen in February 2003.

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt scheduled trial in October 2016 after prosecutor David Stanton informed her of the death penalty decision.

Dunn, who also used the name Robert Bligh, was returned to the Clark County jail where he’s being held without bail.

His public defender, Amy Feliciano, declined to comment.

Federal agents and Las Vegas police found the Sierras’ decomposed bodies last April crammed into trash bins in a storage unit rented in Dunn’s dead mother’s name in a residential area in northwest Las Vegas, according to an arrest report.

Stanton said outside court the bins were layered with cat litter, sealed with wax, wrapped tightly with tape and hidden beneath furniture and personal items in the 5-by-5-foot storage unit.

Police said they believe Dunn befriended the Sierras in Las Vegas in 1999, moved with them to Reno in 2002, and killed them after the three moved back to Las Vegas early the following year.

Police said the Clark County coroner found the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, in the bodies, along with multiple fractures and wounds from a sharp object.

Dunn is accused of cashing about $200,000 in Social Security checks in the Sierras’ names before payments stopped in October 2013.

A 15-count indictment filed Feb. 4 names the Sierras as Dunn’s victims. But the police report suggested there were others, including one woman who uses a wheelchair.

Stanton called Dunn an ex-felon and an accomplished con man who may have exploited elderly victims in northern Oregon, Southern California, the Pennsylvania town of Birdsboro and Horseheads, New York.

“His pattern is befriending elderly people and then, it appears, exerting physical and emotional pressure to take over their financial life and take everything of value,” Stanton said outside court. “He leaves a trail of victims he coerces and threatens to get their credit cards, money and cars.”

Stanton said Dunn was sentenced to three years in Oregon state prison in May 1996 after pleading guilty to badly beating his mother earlier that year in Tualatin.

He allegedly used the Bligh name and the Social Security number of a child who died young to avoid detection.

“That’s a smart move for a grifter, using a number from a child who never collected benefits and the name of a real person who uses a different Social Security number,” Stanton said. “That way, the name and the number will never intersect.”

Dunn told a woman he married in 2009 using the name Bligh that the Sierras were an elderly rich couple who he used to live with, police said. Dunn and the woman split up in 2011, according to the police report.

The woman told investigators that Dunn told her the Sierras had set up a $2,500-per-month trust fund for him before they died.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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