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Local News

Preliminary Hearing Postponed for Suspect Adrian Robles

A new date will be set after the attorney for Robles, accused in the slashing death of Robert Simpson, suffers a health emergency

Adrian Robles, a 20-year-old Santa Barbara resident accused of stabbing a man to death at Arroyo Burro Beach in April, appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Monday.

Adrian Robles
Adrian Robles

Robles was arrested in connection with the death of 44-year-old Mesa resident Robert Burke Simpson, who was stabbed during an altercation near the grassy picnic area at the beach off Cliff Drive. Witnesses said Simpson was attempting to break up a fight when a young man ran up behind him and slit his throat.

The preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for Monday. Robles sat with attorney Tara Haaland-Ford, who stepped in for assigned attorney, Steve Balash. Judge Brian Hill said Balash had been admitted to the hospital Saturday night, but is out now and undergoing a series of tests. An aide from the District Attorney’s Office said Balash had suffered a possible heart attack.

A time waiver for setting a new preliminary hearing date was accepted until Sept. 10, though the matter is scheduled to go back before Judge Hill at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer was present Monday, and told reporters after the court appearance that he wasn’t aware Balash had been in the hospital until recently. The next court appearance will be contingent on Balash’s condition, Dozer said.

“We’ll just have to see when it goes,” he said.

However, if Balash appears in court Friday, and a preliminary hearing is set for Monday, Dozer said he’s likely to ask for a later hearing. The difficulty of arranging witnesses to appear on short notice, along with the resources needed for such an appearance during the same week as Fiesta, could prove to be a challenge.

Two witnesses appeared in court Monday, including 21-year-old Rudy Gallegos, who was an initial suspect in the murder, but charges were later dropped after witnesses identified Robles in a lineup. Both Gallegos and Robles are known gang members.

Sheriff Bill Brown, speaking at a news conference held a week after the stabbing, said four suspects had gone to the beach, allegedly including Robles, Gallegos, 19-year-old Brittany Weiler and a 17-year-old female whose identity has not been released.

Brown said the four suspects came to the beach as a group, and that Simpson became involved in a physical confrontation with Gallegos about 6:30 p.m., just before the stabbing occurred. Weiler is expected to stand trial Aug. 24, and the trial status of the minor involved isn’t known at this time.

A plaque in Simpson’s memory was recently donated by friends and placed at the site of the killing. A ceremony dedicating the plaque in his honor will be held there at 11 a.m. Aug. 1. A potluck is planned for after the ceremony.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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