Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Thursday that the Sheriff’s Department, after interviewing more than 70 witnesses, has a suspect in custody who is believed to be responsible for last Thursday’s slashing death of Robert Burke Simpson at Arroyo Burro Beach.

Adrian Robles

Adrian Robles

The 44-year-old Mesa resident was stabbed during an altercation near the grassy picnic area at the beach, 2981 Cliff Drive. Witnesses said he was attempting to break up a fight when a young man ran up behind him and slit his throat.

Adrian Robles, 20, of Santa Barbara, was arrested Wednesday and is being held in the Santa Barbara County Jail without bail. Another suspect in the case, 21-year-old Rudy Gallegos, was released Thursday morning, after witnesses identified Robles as the one allegedly behind the stabbing. Officials said Gallegos is not facing charges at this time.

Brittany Weiler, 19, also at the county jail, is being held on $1 million bail for accessory to murder. A 17-year-old female also was arrested for accessory to murder and is in Juvenile Hall.

Brown said Thursday the investigation is ongoing, but that the Sheriff’s Department was “very confident” it has the person responsible for the crime.

In an investigation that has lasted a week, Brown walked the media through the events of last Thursday evening.

He said the four suspects came to the beach as a group, and that Simpson became involved in a physical confrontation with Gallegos shortly before 6:30 p.m.

Brown wasn’t specific about what caused the fight or what the pair were arguing about, but he said that “whatever it was started out relatively amicably but escalated.”

The confrontation between the two men had ended when, according to witnesses, Robles approached Simpson from behind, slashing his neck.

Last Thursday, sheriff’s dispatch began receiving “numerous 9-1-1 calls” reporting a stabbing about 6:30 p.m. Simpson was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m.

Brown said alcohol had been involved with both the victim and the suspects.

Robert Burke Simpson

Robert Burke Simpson

According to reports, Robles then ran to a car with a female driver, presumed to be Weiler, and another female passenger in front. Robles entered the backseat of the vehicle, with Gallegos getting in last, and then they drove away.

Brown said the Sheriff’s Department located the vehicle, registered to Weiler, at 10:48 p.m. Thursday. She was questioned and arrested Friday evening, and the female juvenile was arrested the next day.

In the meantime, Brown said, Gallegos was under surveillance by the Sheriff’s Department. He was arrested Sunday at his home on San Pascual and was booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail for homicide.

(Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department video)

Robles was found at a friend’s home in unincorporated Ventura County and arrested early Wednesday morning.

Later that day, Gallegos and Robles were placed in a lineup, where witnesses identified Gallegos as the suspect who had been in the fight with Simpson and Robles as an alleged suspect.

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A makeshift memorial for Robert Simpson includes a beer can and a gasoline can among an assortment of flowers. (Douglas Gillies photo)

Brown said a search warrant was issued for Robles’ home on Cook Street in Santa Barbara on Thursday morning.

He said Robles and Gallegos are known gang members.

The District Attorney’s Office will have to determine whether charges will be filed against Gallegos for the initial confrontation, Brown said.

When asked if patrols in that area would be increased, Brown said he didn’t think the problem could be solved with extra patrols, and that the department had not seen serious problems at that beach until last Thursday.

The investigation is ongoing, and Brown appealed to the public to provide any information they may have on the attack by calling detectives at 805.681.4150. Witnesses wishing to remain anonymous can leave a message on the the sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at 805.681.4171.

Describing the slaying as a “senseless, cowardly crime,” Brown used the briefing to send a warning to potential criminals. “I want to send a very clear message. If you commit a crime like this, we will hunt you down, arrest you and bring you to justice.”

A memorial paddle-out for Simpson is planned for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Arroyo Burro Beach.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.