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Investigators testify in hearing on Kristen Marti murder case

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During a preliminary hearing on Oct. 3, SLO County prosecutors gave a preview of the case they've built against Robert William Koehler, the 36-year-old man charged with the murder of 26-year-old Kristen Marti.

They began what would be a multi-day preliminary hearing by calling SLO police officers and detectives who worked on Marti's case to testify before SLO Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen.

Marti was reported missing on Jan. 18, 2018, and was last seen on Jan. 9, according to police. Her body was found in Prefumo Canyon on March 25. Koehler, a mechanic from Arroyo Grande, was arrested in May in Minneapolis and extradited to SLO County, where he was charged with Marti's murder. Koehler pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At least some of the prosecution's case against Koehler is based on statements given to investigators by Marti's boyfriend, Nickolas Reed. According testimony at the hearing, Reed was one of the last people to see Marti on Jan. 9. Investigators described the couple as transients who lived in motels and on the street, and used heroin and methamphetamine. One officer said he was aware that Marti was reportedly involved in prostitution. SLO Police Detective Caleb Kemp and former SLOPD Officer Jacob Dinsmore both testified that Reed said Marti had arranged to meet with someone that night in the Prefumo Canyon area. Reed said Marti told him the meeting would take about and hour, and then she'd text him to pick her up. That message never came.

"He asked if she was OK," Dinsmore said. "[Reed] said there was no response."

According to Dinsmore, Reed and a friend drove out to Prefumo Canyon that night to look for Marti. Reed said he saw Marti in a red vehicle with an unknown male. That vehicle was the red Chevy Blazer that police later identified as a "vehicle of interest" in the case prior to Koehler's arrest.

During the hearing, Koehler's defense attorney Trace Milan, cross-examined the investigators and noted that Reed's friend told investigators he saw a silver or gray Honda hatchback in Prefumo Canyon that night. Milan also asked about allegations that Reed abused Marti. Dinsmore said that a family member had seen Marti at the SLO CVS about a year before she went missing. Marti's nose was bleeding and she reportedly said that Reed has assaulted her, according to Dinsmore.

Court documents show Milan has raised the possibility that it was Reed, and not his client, that killed Marti. In a July court filing, Milan wrote that he was seeking video footage from a local gas station for such a purpose.

"The recordings sought by this motion are critical to the preparation of an essential defense in that matter," Milan wrote. "That the victim's pimp/boyfriend may have been the killer."

The preliminary hearing was scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4 in order to determine if there is enough evidence to take Koehler's case to trial.

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