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First day of preliminary hearing for Kristen Marti murder suspect

Posted at 7:33 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-04 00:28:42-04

It was day one in the preliminary hearing for the man charged with the murder of San Luis Obispo woman, Kristen Marti.

Drugs, sex, money and cell phone apps were brought up.

A handful of San Luis Obispo police officers testified about the contact Marti had with the man they say last saw her alive.

The suspect, Robert Koehler, sat with a concerned look on his face the entire time.

January 9 was the day San Luis Obispo police say Marti was last seen alive. Police say Robert Koehler later admitted to having contact with the 26-year-old on that day.

The courtroom was relatively empty with some family members of the victim. At one point, a woman walked out of the courtroom crying.

Officer Greg Benson was the first to take the stand during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing.

He says Marti and her boyfriend, Nick Reed, lived in hotels and on the street and used heroine and methamphetamine.

Marti was also known to police to prostitute for money and narcotics.

Detective Chris Chitty brought up the textPlus app, which allows users with Wi-Fi to text and call anonymously.

Phone records reportedly showed Marti had been communicating with six men on January 9. One of them who she used the app with went by the name of John Hill.

Marti’s boyfriend was aware she was going to meet up with someone on that day in Prefumo Canyon, Detective Chitty testified, but she never called for a ride home. Police say she did text Reed asking if he was on Prefumo Canyon in all caps. She had a person that would drop her off and pick her up from her dates. Jacob Dinsmore, an officer who worked for San Luis Obispo police at the time, testified on Wednesday that he took a missing person’s report from Reed. Reed told Dinsmore he and another friend drove up there and believed they saw Marti and an unknown man inside a car. She reportedly appeared to be okay.

Marti was reported missing nine days later.

Police say from December 15 through January 9, more than 100 text messages were exchanged between Marti and Hill. They say the texts were about drugs or sex for money. Photos were sent as well including images of a man in a Mullahey Ford mechanic shirt with the name “Robert” on a patch.

Police add that on the 9th, Hill offered to pick Marti up from San Luis Obispo for paid sex. He also asked if she wanted to do some “go fast”. Police say it’s a street word for methamphetamine or cocaine.

More than a month later, on February 22, Detective Caleb Kemp said police made their first contact with Koehler.  Officer Chitty say Koehler used the name John Hill on textPlus but an IP address associated with the email address was traced to Koehler’s mother’s house.

Kemp says Koehler was “excessively nervous” during their encounter, never asked who the missing person was or what her disappearance had to do with him.

After informing Koehler of the information they gathered from the textPlus app, Kemp says the 36-year-old admitted to texting Marti and later, meeting up with her. Chitty testified that Koehler’s textPlus account and the email he used to create it was deleted on January 9.

Koehler reportedly met with another woman that morning for sex. That woman told police she believed Koehler was high that day, seemed frustrated and was sweating profusely.

Police say that they tracked down other women Koehler had been with, that he found through Craigslist and the dating app, Tinder. His pregnant wife, reportedly knew about his affairs.

Detectives also talked about the timeline of Marti and Koehler’s phone activity on January 9.

Koehler missed a call from his wife around 7 p.m. Detectives say there was a 2 hour and 30 minute period following that that Koehler’s phone was off the grid. He told police his car broke down, but police say the area he says he broke down on Los Osos Valley Road near Prefumo Canyon does have cell phone reception.

They pulled security footage from houses along Prefumo Canyon. One house captured a vehicle driving to the See Canyon side. Detectives, however, said they couldn’t identify the make or model of that car. The time then was 9:37 p.m.

Koehler’s wife called him at 10:32. He tried to call her twice after. According to text messages, it was their anniversary.

Detectives say Koehler said he dropped Marti off near the Madonna Plaza area. They looked at surveillance of nearby businesses. They say his story did not add up.

It was discussed that Koehler was previously incarcerated. The complaint states that he has a prior felony conviction for carjacking out of Shasta County in 2005.

Detective Kemp said the victim was killed by a cut to the throat.

A toxicologist testified there was cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine in Marti’s system. Bill Posey said there was an anti-worming medication in her system too. It’s prescribed by vets but it’s also used to cut cocaine. She also had alcohol in her system.

Police say when they brought up anything to do with the defendant’s red Chevy Blazer he got mad. That’s the car he reportedly had sex in the morning of January 9 with a woman he met on Craigslist. It was also revealed he sold it soon after and it went through two owners.

When police showed him the area where they were going to search for Marti, the defendant didn’t say anything, according to Detective Kemp. He held the paper in his hand and acted like “it affected him.”

Police ended up putting a tracker on one of Koehler’s cars. He left the area with his wife in April and was found in Minneapolis. The couple allegedly instructed the wife’s mother to sell everything they left behind.

He also worked as a mobile mechanic. He got new business cards, but suddenly changed his phone number to a new number, a different one than on the card, Detective Kemp said. This was done five to six days after January 9.

During cross-examination, Koehler’s attorney asked Kemp if he thought it was possible Marti suffered from a fatal overdose the night of January 9 and that Reed and the other friend tried to hide her body in the creek. He also asked if he found it odd that Reed and the other man who drove Marti to meet with her dates weren’t with her that night. The detective said no because other witnesses said both men were heavily intoxicated.

The testimony will continue through Thursday where a judge will then rule if there is enough evidence for the case to move forward to trial.

Marti’s body wasn’t discovered until late March, 40 to 50 feet off the road.

Koehler was arrested nearly two months later and is being held at San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail. He has pleaded not guilty.