Santa Barbara assistant police chief Frank Mannix defended his department’s decision to drop the investigation of homeless resident Ross Stiles, who died five weeks ago from massive brain injuries after friends reported he’d been physically assaulted. Police concluded there was not sufficient evidence to conclude Stiles had been murdered, despite that Stiles had told friends that he’d been beaten up and hit on the head with a bottle by two men trying to steal the sleeping bag of another homeless man. Homeless advocates complained city investigators were less than thorough in their inquiry and questioned how the Police Department could drop the inquiry before the coroner had issued a final report. When the matter came up before the city’s Fire and Police Commission last week, Mannix replied that police investigators had been present during Stiles’s post mortem and had been orally briefed that there was no evidence indicating the level of violence needed to conclude a murder had been committed. Mannix said none of the specific indicators of head injury were discovered during the autopsy. Stiles is one of 13 homeless to die on the South Coast in 2009.
Paul Wellman (file)