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'Stranger' held over hammer horror

A "complete stranger" with no significant criminal history is said to have attacked a family in their Las Vegas home, battering a woman and her 10-year-old daughter to death with a hammer.

Bryan Clay, 22, was arrested on Friday over the April 15 rape and bludgeoning deaths of 38-year-old Ignacia Martinez and her daughter Karla. He had no connection to the family of five, Lt Ray Steiber said.

"This was a complete stranger killing a mother and daughter and attacking the father," he said. "I've been doing this (police work) 24 years, and you don't see cases like this. I can't even put this into words."

Lt Steiber said he did not know why two boys aged nine and four were spared in the attack that came to light when the older boy came to school and told a counsellor that his mother and sister were dead at home.

Authorities found the bodies of the girl and the mother in separate bedrooms. The two boys remained in the home for at least 24 hours with the bodies and their severely injured father, Lt Steiber said.

The boys were placed in protective custody with the Clark County Department of Family Services after the attack.

Their father Arturo Martinez, 39, was critically injured in the attack and remains in hospital with head injuries. He has been unable to talk to investigators. Both the mother and daughter were sexually assaulted, Lt Steiber said.

Nothing was taken from the blood-spattered house, and investigators were unsure of the motive for the attack. "There's no rhyme or reason to why (it happened)," he said, adding Clay did not have a "significant" criminal history.

Clay also was booked over the beating and rape of a 50-year-old woman in the same west Las Vegas neighbourhood hours before the killings.

DNA results linked Clay to both attacks, investigators said. A baseball cap left behind by the woman's attacker turned out to be a key piece of evidence, KLAS-TV reported.

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