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Testimony Continues in Adrian Robles Murder Trial

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The Adrian Robles murder trial is expected to finish testimony by Dec. 14, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill said this week.

Robles is accused of fatally stabbing 44-year-old Mesa resident Robert Burke Simpson on April 15, 2010, at Arroyo Burro Beach.

Attorneys delivered opening statements Nov. 6, and at least a dozen witnesses already have testified in front of the jury, which will be visiting the beach park to get a better idea of the crime scene, Hill said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer is prosecuting the case, and Robles is being represented by attorney Steve Balash.

Robles has pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder with special allegations, and street terrorism.

Both Robles and Simpson were at the beach with friends that day, and the stabbing came after a verbal and physical altercation between members of the two groups, according to testimony.

Robles’ then-friend Rudy Gallegos — who has a “P” for the Westside Projects gang tattooed on his cheek — has testified about that day at the beach, and the two women with them — Brittany Weiler and Vanessa Ochoa — have both been criminally charged in connection to the case.

Weiler has pleaded no contest to accessory to murder for her role in driving the car away from the beach with all four people inside.

This week, witnesses who were at the beach the day of the slaying testified about their interactions with Robles’ group, and about the stabbing.

Chuck Wickersham testified that he had been talking with two young Latino men he identified as “P” and “Mike,” who showed him a pointed “thrusting” knife earlier in the day. Wickersham left the beach before his friend, Simpson, arrived, and only learned about the stabbing from his son-in-law later, he said.

Like many witnesses, Wickersham remembered that the two men seen at the beach had tattoos on their heads, one had a face tattoo and the other had a lot of neck tattoos.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Deputy Desiree Thome testified about her response to the scene and interview of Amy Hoch, a friend of Simpson who said she saw the stabbing and stayed with Simpson as he bled to death.

“She was hysterical,” recalled Thome, adding that other deputies had difficulty getting her to talk. “She had copious amounts of blood all over her ... She was literally saturated,” she said.

With much effort, Thome said, she was able to get information from Hoch about the day’s events.

Hoch had said she saw the suspect walk up to Simpson and strike him. Simpson doubled over, which made Hoch suspect he had been hit in the genitalia, but saw the stab wound as she approached, Thome said.

Hoch knelt next to Simpson and comforted him, as an off-duty nurse tried to render aid. Simpson died later at the scene.

Hoch described the “suspect group” as two “short gangster” men and two females. The two men looked very similar, with one wearing a blue sports jersey and the other with a “P” tattoo on his cheek and “projects” on the back of his head, Thome recalled hearing.

Balash has questioned witness’ recollections, especially when some details differ from earlier statements given to authorities.

In his opening statements, he said many witnesses had been drinking and/or smoking marijuana on the day Simpson was stabbed, which could affect their memories of the event.

For example, Wickersham’s recorded interview on April 18 talks about buying beer, Balash said, but Wickersham said this week that he didn’t buy any alcohol that day.

The trial is scheduled to continue Monday.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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