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Coroner: UCSB Student’s Death Most Likely Accidental

A young woman whose body was found at the base of a cliff on an Isla Vista Beach in May most likely died from an accidental fall, according to documents released from the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department.

Sierra Markee-Winkler (Facebook photo)
Sierra Markee-Winkler (Facebook photo)

The body of Sierra Markee-Winkler, a 20-year-old from Eureka, was discovered the morning of May 4 on the beach below the 6800 block of Del Playa Drive.

A coroner's report released this week states that Markee-Winkler had alcohol and marijuana in her system at the time of her death, and that "there were no obvious signs of physical or sexual assault and no visible traumatic injuries," according to Dr. Jon Smith, a forensic pathologist with the department.

"Based on my scene and body evaluation, it is most likely an accidental death," he wrote.

In the report's narrative, Smith said Markee-Winkler's body was located about 200 feet west of the stairs at the base of a steep cliff, and she had no obvious traumatic injuries.

That morning just after 7 a.m., a passerby had located the body and called 9-1-1 immediately, and medics arriving on scene several minutes later confirmed the young woman was dead.

Markee-Winkler's roommates were also interviewed, and told law enforcement the young woman had been missing since about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

One roommate stated that "Markee-Winkler had consumed a large quantity of tequila, beer and wine"  throughout the day and that the young woman had also smoked a small amount of marijuana.

The last night she was seen, Markee-Winkler had reportedly been in an argument with another roommate, who left town after the altercation, while Markee-Winkler left the home and was last seen walking toward the beach.

Markee-Winkler told her roommates she needed to get away to clear her head, and 10 minutes, later, a roommate reached Markee-Winkler on her cell phone.

The call was disconnected, and Markee-Winkler phoned the roommate back on an unknown female's phone that she was borrowing. She told the roommate she was alright and would return shortly. Police have not been able to reach the young woman whose phone Markee-Winkler had borrowed.

Her sandals and phone were found at the top of the cliff the next day.

Another roommate described Markee-Winkler as a "happy, upbeat person" who "was not depressed and would not do anything to harm herself."

"There were no signs of a struggle" and the young woman sustained injuries that were consistent with a fall, the coroner wrote.

Asphyxia, drowning and broken neck are all listed as causes of death, but because the fall was unwitnessed the cause of death was classified as undetermined.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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