Law enforcement discovered the body of a 61-year-old California man who died in his van in the Kalispell Walmart parking lot.
David Martinez was found covered with a sleeping bag in his black van at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 29, according to Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry. Walmart employees had been concerned after snow started piling up around the vehicle, Curry said. Law enforcement officers believe he had been dead for several days before he was found.
Police said it appeared Martinez had been living in his van. Temperatures in Kalispell had been dipping into the teens and single digits in the week prior to his body being discovered.
It is believed Martinez died from natural causes. He reportedly suffered from diabetes. Law enforcement said cold weather could have caused Martinez to become more vulnerable to health issues. A blood toxicology sample has been submitted to determine if medical issues contributed to his death.
Martinez is the third person to be found deceased in the Kalispell Walmart parking lot since 2012. The Kalispell Police Department investigated the death of 30-year-old Andrew William Bowman in September 2015. Randy Felt, 68, was discovered after being in his van for several days in July 2012. Foul play was not suspected in either death.
Walmart has a liberal policy of letting people camp out in the parking lot through the nation, Kalispell Investigations Captain Doug Overman reported. It also has a massive parking lot, and convenient to services, he noted, so it attracts many people to “camp out” throughout the year.
Evergreen resident Kadie Wilson knew Martinez well, and was devastated when she learned of his death. The two were engaged at one point, she said, and he moved from California to the Flathead Valley in May so they could be together.
Wilson said she lost contact with Martinez after an argument, and had been trying to find him. Martinez had been a pro surfer for much of his life, she said. He had family members in California who were also worried about him, she said.
“I don’t want people to think of him as the dead homeless man,” Wilson said. “He was a man who was very loved.”