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Judge rules case against San Luis Obispo murder suspect can move forward

Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 04, 2018

A San Luis Obispo judge ruled Thursday there is enough probable cause for the case against Robert Koehler to move forward.

Koehler is charged with the murder of Kristen Marti.

Marti, a 26-year-old woman from San Luis Obispo, was last seen alive in Prefumo Canyon on January 9, 2018. Her body was found in a creek in the same area on March 25.

Shortly thereafter, Koehler was identified as a person of interest in the case and later arrested in Minnesota.

Thursday marked the second day of testimony in Koehler’s preliminary hearing.

Robert Koehler appears in court for his preliminary hearing on Thursday. (KSBY photo)

Detective Caleb Kemp testified again. He read portions of letters that were discovered in a duffle bag during a search of Koehler’s home.

The 485 letters were supposedly written by Koehler between 2005 and 2010 while he was incarcerated.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa Muscari referenced letters that included similarities to Marti’s death. Detectives testified on Wednesday she was killed by a cut to the throat.

The top of letter 1 read, “Steps to avoid getting pinched.” It listed 20 different ways to avoid getting caught doing something illegal.

It said, “Wipe off areas you touch with uncovered hands, carry an extra change of clothing and shoes, and dispose of everything you touched in a place where it is destroyed and leaves no trace.”

Letter five said, “Cut neck with box cutters.”

Letter 59 referenced a knife to the throat.

Letter 160 said, “As you suffer alone under the ground, covered with dirt where you’ll never be found.”

Another letter talked about Koehler’s hatred of women that charge money for sex.

During cross-examination, Koehler’s lawyer said that in many of the letters Koehler was actually referencing musical artists and in some, he wrote calm and gentle poetry and lyrics.

Other testimony on Thursday included Detective Casey Neall with the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office. He said that on May 31, Koehler admitted to driving Marti in his red Chevy Blazer on January 9 after he picked her up from Santa Rosa Park.

According to testimony, she was dropped off there by her boyfriend, Nick Reed, and another man who often drove her to her customers. Detective Kemp said Reed tried to contact Marti several times on the night of January 9. He also asked many people in the days following if they had seen her. He filed a missing persons report 9 days later. Marti reportedly told Reed she was in Prefumo Canyon at 6:39 p.m. At midnight, her phone appeared to be turned off.

Neall also testified that Koehler said Marti got out of the car and walked up Prefumo Canyon Road. He previously said that he dropped her off at a car lot on Los Osos Valley Road, then he said he dropped her off near the bus stop near Madonna Plaza. Koehler also reportedly told Neall he was driving his Nissan Z that night but he later said he was driving his red Chevy Blazer.

Neall testified that Koehler also said he went home on the freeway after dropping the victim off. Then he said he drove off the freeway at Avila Beach Drive before returning home to Arroyo Grande. Detective Neall testified that the defendant’s cell phone hit a tower in Avila Beach around 10 p.m. He said he had picked up his wife from work at 9 p.m.

Detective Neall said Koehler got upset and agitated when he was driven by detectives near the area where Marti was found dead. He said Koehler admitted that he met with Marti for sex and drugs.

During cross examination, Koehler’s lawyer, Trace Milan, said the other women Koehler met up with in the past for sex and drugs never said he attacked them.

We also learned from testimony that two internet bookmarks were found on Koehler’s phone that referenced animal tranquilizers. When asked about it, he admitted to detectives that he searched for the drugs online because he was researching them for a friend who had a pitbull that would bite the ceiling fan. He told detectives he never bought it.

On Wednesday, a toxicologist testified that animal tranquilizers were found in Marti’s system.

On Thursday, detectives testified that no blood was found in Koehler’s red Chevy Blazer. There was one spot in the back seat but it had four different profiles and was inconclusive.

Later in the day, Detective Jason Caron of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office testified. He said the victim had rocks over her body and was in flowing water when she was found. It appeared her throat had been cut when she was still alive.

When detectives got ahold of Koehler’s phone, they said there were hundreds of photos of naked women and four images of Kristen Marti. One of the women police spoke with that had contact with Koehler said they previously performed sex acts for him in Prefumo Canyon.

Koehler’s lawyer argued that there was no evidence to give the court that Marti was with Koehler in Prefumo Canyon. His lawyer he said was guilty of solicitation and using drugs but not of homicide. He said Marti was an active drug user and in the neighborhood of a house where drug users lived and there was a suspicious overdose there recently. He said they could have dumped her body in the creek after she overdosed.

By the end of the day, the judge ruled that there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Koehler is due back in court on October 15.