Body in Desert Identified as Missing Woman’s : Crime: The remains of Fountain Valley entrepreneur Kim Martello were found July 25 but weren’t positively identified until Wednesday.


A body found in the desert near Palm Springs was identified Wednesday as that of a Fountain Valley woman who disappeared July 22, police said.

The body, found by two transients on July 25, was positively identified with the help of dental records.

Kim Martello, 28, apparently was slain elsewhere and her body brought to the desert, Fullerton and Palm Springs police said. The body was discovered about 200 yards off California 111, a mile or so from the resort city.


Palm Springs police, responding to a missing-person report, had notified Fullerton police of the discovery on Tuesday, Fullerton Police Sgt. Dan Becerra said. The identification was made Wednesday after Becerra took Martello’s dental records to the Riverside County coroner’s office.

Police said the body was fully clothed, and there was no indication that she had been sexually molested.

“We can’t say how she died yet, so as not to jeopardize the case,” Becerra said.

Investigators originally suspected that Martello, a sales and marketing consultant, had disappeared intentionally on July 22 because of an ongoing police investigation into real estate deals in which she was involved.

However, after interviewing her co-workers at ERB Foods, 325 S. Hale Ave. in Fullerton, and discovering that she left several business transactions unattended, detectives changed their minds, Becerra said.

On Wednesday, Martello’s family and friends were reeling from the news.

“It’s the worse possible feeling you could ever have,” said Martello’s boyfriend, tennis pro Chris Hirtler. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about it earlier, because every time I even attempted to try, I started crying.”

Hirtler, 35, said all seemed normal on July 22 when Martello kissed him goodby as she left for work. “She was happy and eager to start the day,” he added.


Workers at ERB Foods told police that Martello arrived between 6 and 7 a.m. and was last seen at about 9 a.m. when she left for a business appointment.

Becerra said Martello took her purse, pocket pager and car keys when she left the office. But her black 1990 Ford Thunderbird LX remained parked on the street in front of the business. The car was still parked there the next day, after Martello’s mother reported her missing.

Martello brokered wholesale food-sales contracts for ERB Foods and did similar work for other business clients as a self-employed consultant.

“She came and went as she pleased,” said Jeff Newton, general manager of the firm. “She was an employee, an associate, but she just used the office here. She had her own business.”

Martello had many friends at the office who were “just crushed” Wednesday, Newton said. “All of us here are very upset.”

In January, 1990, Martello was involved in a small consulting company called Intertrade, police said, which was attempting to broker business deals in Eastern Europe. She also had her own firm called Earnest Holdings.

Police said Martello was involved in a criminal investigation of some real estate deals but declined to elaborate. No charges have been filed.

Hirtler also declined to discuss Martello’s business deals or her death but said that she “was an entrepreneur and was extremely good at it.”

Martello’s family lives in the San Diego area. Funeral services will be held Sunday in Vista, family members said.