Beaumont librarian Linda Johnson will never forget 10-year-old Anthony Martinez.
“He came in with his family a lot,” Johnson remembered about the boy. “He liked reading the Hardy Boys books.”
She’ll also never forget the day Anthony was taken from an alley behind his house. The small town of Beaumont was united in the frantic search to find him back in 1997.
“We had billboards on the freeway. We had every stranger that came into town and we’d ask them to keep an eye out, see if they could find a clue.”
Another Beaumont resident remembers the search for Martinez and the worry that came with his disappearance.
“It was frustrating because you know if there are kids not around in the neighborhood, you always fear the worse,” said Walter Napolski who searched for Martinez.
“Every white car that was around that looked like it might be [the suspect’s vehicle] was turned in. Everyone was concerned,” longtime Beaumont resident Roy Murvin said.
For days, tips came pouring in but nothing materialized. Murvin remembered calling in a lead, which was one of over 15,000 police received.
“I gave them the license plate number, the description. They followed it up and it wasn’t the one.”
Days turned to weeks for the tight-knit community in the search for the boy. Then, the moment everyone feared, investigators unearthed Anthony’s body in the Indio Hills. It was a moment that changed the small town forever.
“This used to be a nice little community and it changed,” said resident Harold Hanvey.
For nearly a decade, the search for Anthony’s killer went cold. The break came in 2005 when police in Idaho arrested Joseph Duncan for killing three people. Duncan’s fingerprints matched the evidence found on Anthony’s body.
“When they discovered this guy confessing up in Idaho, that brought a finality to it,” said Murvin.
“Your heart just leaps up and goes, ‘finally, we got him for you, Anthony!’…That was the feeling around here for a lot of people,” Johnson says.
Currently, the Riverside County District Attorney is seeking the death penalty against Duncan, who already awaits his punishment in Idaho – death.
“He’s forfeited his right to exist as far as I’m concerned,” Johnson chimes in.
“Even though he’s going to die one way or another, the sooner the better in my opinion,” says Napolski.
“They ought to take him out and stack him out in the desert, pour syrup on him and let the ants get him,” says Hanvey.
The city will now watch and wait the results of the Duncan trial taking place in the Southland. He’s due back in court February 3rd.