Saddleback student stabbed and killed at New Year’s Eve party



MaryAnne Curry Shults

A Saddleback College student died after being stabbed following a New Year’s Eve party at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa in the early hours of Jan. 1.

Robert Sickles, 27, of Mission Viejo and a group of friends were leaving the hotel at approximately 2 a.m. A man sitting on a bench near the valet parking area flicked a cigarette at the group, which started a verbal argument, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

The DA alleges that Adam Randy Baker, 23, Dana Point, approached Sickles and started pushing him. Baker is accused of pulling out a knife, first slashing Sickles across the chest, and then stabbing him one time in the chest. Brian McTeigue, 26, a friend of Sickles’, attempted to intervene to protect his friend and Baker is also accused of stabbing McTeigue one time in the back.

Other members of the group became involved in the fight to defend Sickles and McTeigue and detained Baker. The Costa Mesa Police Department, who were already at the location answering an unrelated disturbance call, responded immediately.

The police said when the fight broke up it was discovered that Sickles and McTeigue had been stabbed and that Baker had also been injured.

Sickles and McTeigue were transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana where Sickles was pronounced dead. McTeigue was treated and released.

The DA’s office filed charges this morning against Baker for one felony count of murder and one felony count for attempted murder, and a sentencing enhancement of the personal use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, Baker faces a maximum sentence of 23 years to life. The prosecutor will ask for $1 million bail once Baker is arraigned after he is released from Mission Hospital.

Sickles participated in various events including the javelin, long jump and decathlon for both the Diablos as well as the South Orange County Wildcats Youth Track Club. He was selected as a USATF National Medalist and was offered an athletic scholarship to Cal State San Marcos, according to the “Where Are They Now” page on the club’s website.

After graduating from Mission Viejo High School in 2001, Sickles attended Saddleback College. But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he changed direction and enlisted in the Air Force. He served four years as a mechanic for the F-16 fighter jets.

He then worked in Salt Lake City for Boeing until the facility shut down due to the economic downturn, according to the Orange County Register.

After returning home, he once again began his academic track at Saddleback, concentrating in physical science. Sickles’ parents told the Register he intended to transfer to the University of Oregon. They also said their 6-foot-4 inch son was planning to be part of the Gaucho’s track and field team this semester.

“On behalf of all our faculty, staff and management, our deepest condolences go out to the family of Robert Sickles and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this extremely difficult time,” said Saddleback College President Tod Burnett. “We are all shocked by Robert’s untimely death and will remember him as a beloved student and Air Force veteran who heroically served his country.”

Friends are invited to a celebration of Robert Sickles’ life Saturday, Jan. 8, from 1-4 p.m., at the Norman P. Murray Community Center, 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, V.A. Long Beach Healthcare System, 5901 E. 7th St., Long Beach, CA 90822.

Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to call Costa Mesa Police Department Det. Kevin Condon at 714-754-5361 or Sgt. Ed Everett at 714-754-5395.


A close friend of Robert Sickles from the Air Force, Zuki Roderick, shares memories with family and friends about how they first met. (Oliver Yu)

A close friend of Robert Sickles from the Air Force, Zuki Roderick, shares memories with family and friends about how they first met. (Oliver Yu)