The investigation into the death of 60-year-old Christopher Marks, whose body was found last week on the beach below the Shoreline Park cliffs, kicked into overdrive Thursday afternoon.
After receiving autopsy results Wednesday morning that indicated Marks’s death was suspicious, Santa Barbara police detectives and 20 of their colleagues spent approximately five hours sifting through the swath of sand — with rakes, shovels, a metal detector, and a skip loader — where the Santa Ynez Valley winemaker and attorney was discovered September 20.
SBPD spokesperson Sergeant Riley Harwood couldn’t disclose what in the autopsy results raised red flags or what exactly the search team was looking for, noting the group would also scour the grass and ice plant along the middle of Shoreline Park. He explained that a suspicious death means something other than a natural death, whether it be the result of a suicide, accident, or foul play.
The day Marks’s body was discovered at 6:29 a.m. by a Mesa resident walking along the beach, Lieutenant James Pfleging told the media the injuries Marks sustained were consistent with a fall from the cliffs. The person who spotted Marks in the middle of the beach between the cliffs and the tide line told first responders over the phone that the body looked to be that of a female approximately 30 years of age. Harwood said the confusion arose because the body had been subjected to a number of tide cycles throughout the night and, as part of the natural decomposition process, had become quite bloated.
Harwood explained that the night before SBPD personnel started searching the beach, detectives dropped items in the ocean around the same area and observed how they behaved in the waves and currents and where they ended up on the shore.
The father of five children, Marks was an attorney in Buellton and, along with his wife, Kristi Marks, operated the highly respected the Sweeney Canyon Winery in the Sta. Rita Hills. A July 2011 interview with Kristi Marks about the couple’s vineyard and work can be read here. A private memorial service will be held September 29 at Holy Cross Church on Cliff Drive.