Crime - Sacto 911

Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Any conclusions in death of Nevada Union High grad on beach near university?

Q: In 2014, Sierra Markee-Winkler, Nevada Union High School valedictorian and UC Santa Barbara student, was found dead on the beach near UCSB. What happened?

George, Carmichael

A: According to Santa Barbara news outlets, including The Daily Nexus, UC Santa Barbara’s independent student newspaper, the coroner’s report indicated that 20-year-old Sierra Markee-Winkler’s cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning.

Other injuries, including “complications of cervical vertebral fracture” and “blunt force injury of neck” indicated that Markee-Winkler suffered a broken neck, then drowned. According to the coroner’s report, she was intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of 0.25.

Markee-Winkler was in her second year at the university, pursuing a double major in philosophy and language, culture and society, when she apparently fell from a cliff at Sea Lookout Park May 4. A bicyclist discovered her on the shore below the 6800 block of Del Playa Drive that morning and called 911.

The Santa Barbara Independent, a weekly newspaper, reported that Markee-Winkler had spent the previous afternoon and evening partying with friends at a music and arts festival, and had gotten into a heated argument with one of her roommates, who then left town for the weekend. She was last seen by three remaining roommates about 1:30 a.m. as she ran toward the beach.

At high tide, the ocean was reportedly 6 feet deep at the base of the cliffs where she was found.

According to the reports, authorities said they believe her death was accidental, but because there were no witnesses, the manner of death was classified as undetermined.

Many falls from the cliffs at the park have been reported, with alcohol as a contributing factor, leading some to advocate for permanent fencing of the area.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.