Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Not knowing he had just hugged his mother for the last time, Keith Sargent watched as the 84-year-old woman limped to an airplane to fly back home to Las Vegas.
“I hope this isn’t the last time I see her,” Sargent internalized at the airport that day after the 2005 Thanksgiving weekend.
“I hugged her close and I’m sure I kissed her goodbye,” he recalled.
Sargent didn’t know his thoughts that day would turn into a reality —a nightmare. On Dec. 9, 2005, Metro Police entered Dorothy Sargent’s house on Isabelle Avenue to find it burglarized and with the senior citizen's wrists and ankles bound by yarn. She had been sexually assaulted and killed by asphyxia.
Dorothy Sargent’s murder then went cold for years until a homicide detective this year requested a retest of DNA recovered at the scene.
The profile pinged to a career criminal, Dino Marks, 48, and now police have a face and a name to search for: a balding man with distinguishable tattoos.
Keith Sargent has offered a $10,000 reward for information on his whereabouts, he said Saturday.
“I realized that even if we caught the person,” Sargent said. “It won’t bring my mom back, and there will be a missing part of my heart that will never come.”
Marks, also known as Niki Guy, has gone “off the grid,” Sargent said police told him.
The last time law enforcement contacted Marks was in 2010 in Los Angeles, according to Metro. He had a criminal history involving burglary and theft in California, according to his arrest warrant.
In February, Metro homicide Detective Kenneth Hefner requested a DNA re-examinition using testing kits the agency had recently acquired. The DNA profile for the first time would be tested against a national database.
In late June, there was a DNA hit with a Niki Guy, or Marks, who had been imprisoned in California, police said. Using fingerprints from FBI, Metro and California authorities databases, investigators had a suspect.
Additionally, Metro investigators placed Marks in Las Vegas from 2005 to 2006 through records of a pair arrests for parole violations from California, according to his warrant.
Marks also was a suspect in a violent June 2006 burglary in which he allegedly punched the 16-year-old daughter of an acquaintance on the head, tied her up and fondled her, police said. He was in search of a $12,000 jackpot the girl’s mother had just won.
Marks stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, and was last known to weigh 245 pounds, police said. He has brown eyes and was balding last time he was jailed.
On his chest, he tattooed “Marie, Nickie, Love Always,” and two hearts and a rose on his chest. The Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers, and “Big Apple” is inked on his left arm. On his forearm he tattooed Argentina, and on his shoulder he has a chili pepper.
A reserved life
The Sargent family in 1963 moved to Las Vegas and settled in a house on Isabelle Avenue, near Fremont and 21st streets.
When Keith Sargent was 15, tragedy struck for the first time. His father died to leave mother and son living together for the next decade or so.
After he moved to the Washington D.C. area, eventually starting a family of his own, his mother remained at the house until the day she died. She was mostly reserved an unassuming.
“She was my mom,” Keith Sargent said. “She was not very emotional, but she showed her love in other ways.”
Like when she’d knit him sweaters — a tradition that continued when she became a grandmother — or when she would make him a custom birthday cake. One year, he was into Corvette cars, and his cake reflected it. One time she baked a “big” rocket ship.
During the holidays, she would custom craft ornaments for his friends, Sargent remembered.
“So she wasn’t very vocal in her affections, but she was very demonstrative in the things that she did,” he said.
Dorothy Sargent was also an avid gardener, a difficult feat in Las Vegas, her son said. Tomatoes, apricots, apples, pears and parsley went from the garden to the table. He regrets not appreciating the taste earlier in his life.
As a father, when his children complain about fresh fruits and vegetables, Sargent wishes he could consult with his mother to have a laugh about how the tables have turned.
“Mom I love to eat that,” he imagines telling her. “These kids are just like me.”
Looking for closure
In the aftermath of his mother’s slaying, Keith Sargent became disillusioned with Metro investigators.
Trying to drum up leads from out of state, he sent out about 500 postcards to his mother’s central valley neighborhood with the picture of the woman and her young grandchild.
The spring after her murder, there were plans for a block party with hopes that someone would know something and speak up.
Those plans eventually fell through, he said. It’s then he realized that it didn’t matter if the killer was caught, his mother was gone.
He created a website to publish emails in which he frustratedly interacted with detectives. But as the years passed, the site was updated less and less.
Keith Sargent said he assumed, “I would die without ever knowing who murdered her.”
But then in early August, he opened an email from a cold case detective, Kenneth Hefner: A suspected killer had been identified.
Anyone with information should contact Metro at 702-828-3521 or via email at [email protected] To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or online at crimestoppesrofnv.com.