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Local News

Police Rule Death of Christopher Marks a Suicide

Attorney and local vintner died of a single gunshot wound to the head from a handgun that was never recovered

After months of investigation and speculation, Santa Barbara police announced Wednesday that the mysterious death of Christopher Marks was a suicide.

The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head, Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

Marks, 60, was discovered dead on Leadbetter Beach Sept. 20 of last year, which launched an extensive investigation.

Marks, an attorney, owned and operated the Sweeney Canyon Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and was a named partner in a Los Angeles investment firm.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent forensic divers to help with a multi-day search of the beach and surf area for a gun or any personal effects.

The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office also investigated the case, and the extensive search of the beach with metal detectors and divers came after detectives received Marks’ autopsy report.

“The gun used in the incident has not been recovered; it is believed to be a personal firearm belonging to Marks, a .38 caliber revolver that remains missing,” Harwood said.

Authorities believe the weapon used in this incident was carried out to sea by the waves, based on their searches of the cliff, beach, park and nearby areas.

The search area was about 40 yards by 40 yards, including digging into the ground, but investigators found very little – related to the case or otherwise.

“The tidal action and surf action there apparently had a pretty good effect of removing stuff and carrying it out to sea,” Harwood said.

Police conducted the investigation as if it were a murder case, since they weren’t sure initially whether foul play was involved.

Police tied Marks’ motive to a combination of legal, family and financial issues, Harwood said. He and other authorities won’t discuss specifics as they don’t want to make the family’s “dirty laundry” public.

The investigation has been completed for months, but police refused to release any conclusion until they discussed it with the family, which has taken a while to make happen. 

Detectives spoke with two of Marks’ sons March 22, and discussed the investigation with them for about an hour.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, they were satisfied with the finding and the effort that was undertaken,” Harwood said.

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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