A San Bernardino County man accused of fatally knifing an 18-year-old woman and attacking two others in the same house, where he once lived, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges.
William Gary Simpson, 19, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder and a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a burglary in the Dec. 20 fatal attack on Saskia Burke.
The decision on whether to seek capital punishment or life in prison without parole for the defendant, if he’s convicted, will be made by Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach in the coming months.
Simpson is also charged with two counts of attempted murder, as well as using a deadly weapon during a felony and causing great bodily injury.
The 6-foot-3, 140-pound defendant, who’s being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta, was arrested at his mother’s Hesperia home on Dec. 23.
Simpson allegedly broke into the two-story home of Paul and Catherine Burke at 40025 Milkwood Lane shortly before 4 a.m. on Dec. 20 and went on a rampage.
Witnesses alleged the defendant snuck inside the residence and attacked Saskia Burke, stabbing her multiple times.
The Murrieta Valley High School senior’s father, 48-year-old Paul Burke, tangled with Simpson, who allegedly stabbed the man in the neck and chest.
Saskia Burke’s 17-year-old boyfriend, who was visiting the house, also tried to subdue the defendant and was slashed across the neck, according to reports.
Police said neighbors rushed to the house in response to Catherine Burke’s screams for help, and Simpson fled the location.
Simpson had known the Burkes for years, before they relocated from the High Desert to Riverside County.
According to police, he lived at the Murrieta residence for several months in 2010 but left after a falling-out, returning to San Bernardino County.
The reason for the attack was unclear.
Both Paul Burke and the 17-year-old boy are recovering.