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Body Found in Desert May Be That of Missing Beaumont Boy

April 20, 1997|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities discovered the badly decomposed body of a small male in a lonely cluster of rocks in the Riverside County desert early Saturday, leading to speculation that it was that of a 10-year-old Beaumont boy kidnapped at knifepoint two weeks ago.

Riverside County sheriff's officials said they had not identified the body and that it would have to be examined by coroner's investigators. An autopsy could come as early as today.

After the discovery of the body, Beaumont police contacted the family of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez. The boy was taken from an alley near his home April 4 by a white man with a mustache who forced the boy into his truck.

"I'm hoping to God it's not [him]," said Yvonne Burkis, the boy's grandmother.

The body was found about 11:30 a.m. by a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger, who spotted the face and hands just barely visible under a pile of sand and rock at the base of a hill north of the city of Indio. The body was nude, with wrists and ankles tied with duct tape.

Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Lohman said the body could have been there "anywhere from a few days to a few weeks."

Lohman said investigators discovered "evidence" near the spot where the body was buried, but declined to elaborate. He noted the crush of attention that surrounded the discovery, but said speculation was premature. A 5-foot 3-inch man in his 70s disappeared from the Oasis area around the same time Martinez was kidnapped, he said.

The discovery comes just as the Martinez family had embarked on a new potential avenue of information about the boy's disappearance.

The boy's parents had hoped that a segment aired Saturday on the "America's Most Wanted" television show would yield the crucial lead needed to solve the case. Supporters in Beaumont were holding a concert and raffle to raise money for the search to find the boy. Rewards totaling $180,000 have been offered.

The hunt for Martinez has been aided by the FBI, Riverside County sheriff's deputies, as well as investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department.

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