The man and woman arrested in connection with last week’s slashing death of Robert Burke Simpson at Arroyo Burro Beach were in court Friday.

Adrian Robles

Adrian Robles

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department officials said Thursday that Adrian Robles, 20, is believed to be the man who fatally stabbed Simpson on April 15.

Robles wasn’t formally arraigned Friday, as there was confusion over who — or what agency — would represent him. Attorney Ben Bycel appeared on behalf of the defense, but he said he may not be able to take the case because of contractual conflicts.

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson took two trips to his chambers with that issue, calling Bycel and Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer with him the second time.

It was eventually decided that someone with the criminal defense associates would accept the appointment to represent Robles, and his arraignment was continued to Tuesday.

It seems that the conflict panel of lawyers have a contract with the county, and Dozer said they were unsure whether they had to take the case since they’re representing two of the other defendants involved in this case — Brittany Weiler, 19, and a 17-year-old female.

“This case is the point defendant, the most difficult case,” Dozer said. “It’s potentially a capital offense, and the defendant has to have a lawyer present at all the stages.”

Although the charges weren’t formally read, Robles will be charged with murder and several enhancements. A special circumstance to the murder charge — committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang — could make the defendant eligible for life without parole or the death penalty. Personal use of a deadly weapon and criminal street gang enhancements also are included.

There is a second charge of being an active member of a criminal street gang. Since this would be Robles’ second felony that qualifies as a strike offense, there is a strike allegation as well. Both have been gang-related. However, with the possibility of first-degree murder, the threat of an extra five years is not critical, Dozer said.

Bycel mentioned a plea of not guilty before asking that the issue be continued.

Robles received prison time for a felony conviction of criminal threats, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and committing the crimes in association with a criminal street gang.

According to the police report in the court file, he had kicked in a door to a business and yelled threats while intoxicated in January 2008. He had further threatened the victim while handcuffed, according to the file. He also has multiple probation violations on his record.

While a makeshift memorial for Robert Simpson remains at Arroyo Burro Beach, signs of life at the popular county park appear to be encroaching on the solemnity.

While a makeshift memorial for Robert Simpson remains at Arroyo Burro Beach, signs of life at the popular county park appear to be encroaching on the solemnity. (Douglas Gillies photo)

Anderson honored the defense’s request that no photos or video be taken of Robles at the hearing.

Weiler was charged as an accessory to murder Friday morning, and Robles will appear in court Tuesday.

Rudy Gallegos, 21, who was detained last weekend and released this week, is considered not to be responsible for Simpson’s death, although he was present at the scene, Dozer said. He said there are no agreements with Gallegos — for testimony or anything else.

Simpson, a 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.

Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference Thursday that alcohol had been involved with both the victim and the suspects. He 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.”

Click here to read more about the news conference, including details about what police said happened during and after the attack.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at