SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office is investigating the death of a University of California, Santa Barbara student whose body was found on the beach in Isla Vista.
The sheriff’s office says the body of 20-year-old Sierra Markee-Winkler, a Nevada Union High School graduate, was found at about 7 a.m. Sunday by a bicyclist who called police.
Although the Associated Press is reporting her hometown to be Eureka, sources say she was actually originally from Nevada County.
Sierra Markee-Winkler was a valedictorian among the graduating class of Nevada Union High School in 2012. According to The Union’s archives, she was among those honored with scholarships on the school’s Scholarship and Awards Night.
According to sources, she was a member of the high school’s cheerleading and debate teams.
Nevada Union High School teacher Jeff Dellis said he had heard word of Markee-Winkler’s death through social media and from parents of debate team members Sunday evening.
“Sierra was a rare young woman — a cheerleader and a policy debater,” Dellis said. “She mentored novice debaters and competed in the national circuit. I’m devastated by her loss.”
Nevada Union Principal Mike Blake said school counselors are ready to assist any grief-stricken students who need assistance after hearing the news of Markee-Winkler’s death.
“We’ve put out an announcement to our teachers that if any students need help to send them to our counselors,” Blake said. “They would probably be the upperclassmen who knew her, but we have a number of staff members — Jeff (Dellis) being one of them — who worked with her. I’m sure it’s a shock to them, especially when you have somebody who was such a positive force on your campus.”
Markee-Winkler was living in Isla Vista while attending the university. The cause and manner of her death is under investigation.
The densely populated beachside community of Isla Vista borders the university and is known for partying.
In recent months there have been multiple sexual assaults and an annual spring party that devolved into a riot, injuring dozens of people including several police officers.
The half-mile area has roughly 23,000 residents, of which 60 percent are students.
“Sierra was a rare young woman — a cheerleader and a policy debater. She mentored novice debaters and competed in the national circuit. I’m devastated by her loss.”
Nevada Union teacher Jeff Dellis