Sierra Markee-Winkler

Sierra Markee-Winkler

Details Released in UCSB Student’s Death

Sierra Markee-Winkler Found May 4 on Isla Vista Beach

Originally published 12:45 p.m., May 13, 2014
Updated 9:00 a.m., May 14, 2014
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The death of 20-year-old Sierra Markee-Winkler, who was found nine days ago on an Isla Vista beach, remains very much a mystery to the Santa Barbara community, but a few key details have been released about the last hours of her life and how or why the UCSB student may have died.

Authorities are quick to note that they haven’t discovered anything to suggest Markee-Winkler was the victim of foul play; they also explained that until their investigation is complete, they can’t rule out any possibilities. An autopsy was performed late last week, but the Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss its preliminary findings and said no determination of cause of death will be announced until a later date.

Markee-Winkler, a 2012 graduate of Nevada Union High School, where she was a cheerleader, debater and class valedictorian, was found May 4 at approximately 7 a.m. on the beach below the 6800 block of Del Playa Drive. While it’s unclear where her body was in relation to the tide line and the cliffs above, officials stated Markee-Winkler was discovered below the Del Playa Park, which is fenced on its ocean side.

Initial speculation among Isla Vista and Santa Barbara residents was that Markee-Winkler had fallen from the cliffs — an accident that has killed seven people since 2001 — but an early examination of Markee-Winkler’s body didn’t reveal the injuries typically associated with a fall. “Usually it’s obvious that someone fell off the cliff, they broke a bone or something,” said Lt. Rob Plastino with the Isla Vista Foot Patrol. “But that’s not the case this time, which complicates things.”

Plastino said Markee-Winkler had been drinking and was involved in an argument with one of her roommates the night before her body was discovered. He said she left her residence and headed toward the 6800 block of Del Playa Drive, where she placed her sandals and cell phone behind a house along the cliffs. Plastino theorized Markee-Winkler then walked down a nearby path to reach the beach. In an interview with The Daily Nexus, Plastino explained that though Markee-Winkler was emotional when she left her home, there were no signs of foul play and it didn’t appear anyone had followed her.

Again taking pains to note that detectives are considering all possibilities as they look into the case, Plastino speculated that Markee-Winkler may have drowned that night. “It seems like a typical death of a person who is washed ashore,” he said. “Maybe she did just fall asleep and [when the tide came up] get hypothermia after about an hour.” Plastino explained that as authorities were removing Markee-Winkler from the beach, they were approached by a young woman who was concerned the body was that of her missing roommate. Using forensics and information provided by the woman, they soon positively identified Markee-Winkler.

Markee-Winkler was in her second year at UCSB and was double-majoring in philosophy and language, culture and society; she reportedly wanted to be a lawyer when she graduated. She worked at nearby Java Station and was remembered by her friends and colleagues as warm, smart, and selfless. A memorial service was held last Wednesday on the beach below Del Playa Park where family members, convinced Markee-Winkler fell from the cliffs, urged county officials to take action to prevent any more falls.

Sheriff’s officials ask anyone with information on the case to contact (805) 681-4179.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

there's no more information in this story than what was originally released. where are the new details?

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 2:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The new details are that she probably didn't fall off the cliff like what was originally speculated.

The most likely scenario, according to the information they have, is that she went down to the beach and may have fallen asleep on the low tide and a rising tide may have drowned her. They are still investigating.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

thiswasmurder (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 2:42 p.m.

Oh great, now this is starting to look like a feminist propaganda psyop..

Well that's certainly possible Sierra's friend, and I'm sure we all really hope it was not the case. But I don't understand exactly what you want "them" to do? Who is "them"?

The first amendment to the Constitution gives people the right to peaceable assemble. You live in town with thousands of other college students. Parties have always and will always be a reality in Isla Vista. Certainly the community can come together and watch out for each other and treat each other better, I've even encouraged them to hire more CSOs for IV on bike and walking around looking out for students in trouble and reduce the number of police officers giving tickets for alcohol citations. If you've been on here much before, you know I lived in IV for many years just before they put in the serving alcohol to minors ordinances and things have gotten worse since then. We used to drink mostly watery keg beer on del playa and played sloshball in the parks, now everybody is downing 12 shots before they go out because none of the parties serve alcohol.

It wasn't perfect, but we had less problems. Then once you put the protections in place ultimately it is each member of that community to decide if the risks are worth it and whether it is right for them. Or whether they are willing to walk around alone very late at night, especially if they have been raped before? Was this a violent rape she experienced from a stranger or was it one of those black-out drunk I don't remember I think my (ex)friend might have taken advantage of me rape?

There are plenty of UCSB students choose to live either on campus, in Goleta or downtown, outside of Isla Vista. Public transportation is available. IV isn't for everybody and certainly nobody should be forced to live there. Just like I wouldn't try to force those who do live there to stop partying.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 3:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Anything could have happened...passing out on the beach...or a myriad of other situations. Frankly, loonpt, you sound exTREMELY unsympathetic to the situation in IV with regards to rape cases. I can't imagine, why. Yes, many of us successfully navigated the waters of IV parties many years ago-but that fact has no bearing on a town that ranks at the top of the national list of dangerous campus'. Rape, is a violent act, that shows up in societies that are out of control. Humans who are violent usually harbor feelings of helplessness/loss of power/rage. Violence against women is a serious threat-all too familiar around the globe. Let's treat this topic with the levity it deserves and not make it "lite" so that you feel better about crime in America. Just my ill will intended.

therailer (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Frankly, loonpt, you sound exTREMELY unsympathetic to the situation in IV with regards to rape cases."

That's not true at all, as I've said I am all for increasing CSO presence in IV, what I'm NOT for is treating IV like a German Concentration Camp with a heavy police presence, showing your papers, citations for non-crimes like drinking or weed, etc.

"a town that ranks at the top of the national list of dangerous campus'"

Top 25 most dangerous campuses, I don't see UCSB on this list at all:

UCSB is not a dangerous campus, are you kidding me?? IV is historically not even that dangerous, I never felt safer drinking than when I lived in IV and had I been female I would have had a slightly different attitude, but for the most part, girls in IV are pretty safe as well (although it's never a bad idea to take extra precautions). There have been a couple troubling incidents lately, but I don't see why everybody else has to give up their rights because of a couple of bad people, or how that even improves the situation.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 4:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh gosh I'm just overwhelmed that such a sweet young life ended.

Anyone know what the article meant by `Del Playa Park'?

There is the Del Playa Open Space along the bluff between Sea Lookout Park and the UCSB West Campus. There is now a small memorial at the southwest corner of Sea Lookout. Is that where her body was found?

But there is no path down to the beach from there… unless she went down the Escondido access.

Sadly, this sounds like she was unhappy and inadvertently ended up taken by the angels.

Her family, at least on TV, complained about the `town', not UCSB.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 5:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Del Playa Park sounds like a racing track, maybe it's that patch of lawn between those two house over on DP.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 5:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is this speculation what passes for news in Santa Barbara? This is nonsense. It is extremely unprofessional and inappropriate for Lt. Plastino to speculate to the media rather than wait for evidence. Why in the world would you post this nonsense? Sierra fell from the cliff. Period. Consider this "new information". The speculations are wrong and extremely offensive to those who knew her. Please stop.

blue_meanie (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

a 20 year old college student drinking alcohol then something happens which results in her death...... maybe if she wasn't drunk, she'd be alive!!!

Just another alcohol related death of a college student (minor)

retprotector (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 6:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK Retprotector, thank you for your detailed and conclusive report. We can all go home now.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 9:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Honestly for some of you posting you should be ashamed of yourself. For Sierras friend who posted such personal information about her, she likely told you that with the expectation that you would keep that to yourself. For you to post that in such a public place is disgusting especially since it is completely unrelated to the events that led up to her death. Regardless of whether or not Sierra was drinking, the events were a completely tragic and unfortunate series of events. Have some respect for her family and friends who have to wait to understand what happened. None of us want to have to see these comments from ignorant individuals who don't understand the true nature of the story. We were with her that night. From our understanding the cliff collapsed, a completely unavoidable event. So please stop being so candid with your comments. It's hard enough having to read how everyone assumed our dear friend was drunk and being an idiot when this is so far from the truth. It's disrespectful to her memory and to those that love her and have to suffer with her loss. Sierra was one of the most amazing girls I have ever met and it seems to me that most people posting did not know Sierra nearly enough to remark on how she likely left us far too early.

Glitter (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2014 at 11:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I believe when the story broke on this site I was the first one to say something to the effect of "withhold your judgments until the facts come in".

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 12:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Two edits to this story:
1. That her body was " discovered below the Del Playa Park, which is fenced on its ocean side." The fence is composed of two shoddy rungs of wood that is only as high as one's knee. People easily step over this fence every day and most nights to look out to the ocean. In addition, there is insufficient lighting in the park, making it difficult for any person, intoxicated or not, to see beyond a certain distance during the night.

2. Falling from the cliffs is "an accident that has killed six people since 2001". There have bee 9 recorded deaths out of 14 falls since 2003.

FInally, it would be wise to mention that there are students and faculty at UCSB and SBCC who are working to improve fencing conditions, to ensure that safety regulations are met for these students. Isla Vista, unlike any other college neighborhood, is situation on a cliff. As this is unique to that area, there are dangers, and unfortunately, this is the only place where these kinds of events happen.

username123 (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen... perhaps you missed the statement by the IV Police Lt. "Had been drinking" she's a minor and should not have been drinking, at all!!

username123.... a knee high fence is a caution line to remind people to not pass this point..... what do you expect to see... an 8ft chain link fence with razor wire? Common sense applies here

retprotector (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 8:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

username123, cliff deaths do extend even longer… Peggi Donaubauer fell to her death in 1966. That was on the UCSB side, near the current Marine Sciences buildings, where there are now fences.

I applaud your efforts. Erosion and collapse add a new dimension to the problem, though. And it is true that alcohol is usually a contributing factor, but we are never going to end that, unless Santa Barbara County goes dry.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 8:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Chalk up another unhappy ending to the abuse of alcohol.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

to redprotector,

if you put a cliff on any other campus in america, people would fall. however, this is the only campus in this situation.

personal responsibility is an issue, as many realize, but there needs to be a sense of community instilled in IV for people to realize the bigger issue. the fence alone in gaffney park and sea lookout is incomplete, and gives people the ability to simply walk around the fence to the other side. There are people who do this every day, it's a matter of who falls that is the issue, which should not be in concern, but the general safety of all. Once a better fence is erected, there will be no more complaints from my side.

username123 (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2014 at 1:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Huh, the part about her parents urging UCSB to take action was changed to `County officials'. Good.

McKinley Krongaus wrote a good opinion piece for the UCSB Daily Nexus today. Thanks.

Ever seen an alcohol producer, distributor, or retail outlet do anything positive to solve the problems of excessive alcohol use in Isla Vista? I haven't. In my many years in IV.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2014 at 6:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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