The man killed by being stabbed in the neck on Thursday, April 15, in front of many eyewitnesses at Hendry’s Beach has been identified as Robert Burke Simpson. The Santa Barbara resident was 44.
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, which released Simpson’s name on Friday afternoon after notifying his next of kin, are continuing their search for a suspect in the case, who witnesses say drove off with a couple of women in a white Nissan Altima; authorities have not yet confirmed that claim.
The stabbing occurred just before sunset on Thursday at about 6:30 p.m. near where the county beach’s parking lot meets the grassy knoll that’s popular for picnics. In addition to the regular beach crowds at the popular spot, dozens of people were eating and drinking in the Boathouse restaurant just a few yards away, and another gathering of the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation was also happening at the Watershed Resource Center, which overlooks the area. As such, the confrontation that occurred and resulting commotion had caught the attention of what the Sheriff’s Department estimated to be 200 to 300 people by the time authorities arrived. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a man plunge a knife into Simpson’s neck before fleeing, and the resulting scene proved to be quite bloody and gruesome, as people tried to save his life until the paramedics arrived. Despite their best efforts, however, Simpson was pronounced dead when he reached Cottage Hospital.
Due to today’s preponderance of digital cameras, the Sheriff’s Department is asking for help from the public in identifying the subject, who remains on the lam. Anyone with footage, photographs, or information should call (805) 681-4150, and those wishing to leave anonymous tips can call (805) 681-4171.
Not much is yet known about Simpson, though a former coworker who did not want to be identified confirmed that he would work the occasional shift at the Three Pickles sandwich shop in downtown Santa Barbara. The coworker also recalls hearing that Simpson had spent some time in the military and may have had combat experience.