SAN DIEGO — A parolee who allegedly stabbed a pair of transients — one fatally — in two separate Midway District attacks on Thanksgiving Day was charged Friday with murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Forrest Robert Brantley, 38, of Ventura County, is accused of fatally stabbing 55-year-old Robert Erbe in the neck at about 8 a.m. Nov. 28 outside a business in the 3100 block of Sports Arena Boulevard, according to San Diego police.
Brantley is also accused of stabbing another man three times in the back and arm on Sports Arena Boulevard about six hours prior to Erbe’s slaying, according to Deputy District Attorney Will Hopkins.
The prosecutor said that after stabbing the first victim around 2 a.m., Brantley returned to the area and approached Erbe and an unidentified second transient outside a 7-Eleven store.
Hopkins said he offered Erbe drugs in a bag and then stabbed the victim while Erbe was looking through the bag.
According to the prosecutor, Erbe asked Brantley why he stabbed him and Brantley responded, “This is war,” then stood over the victim and watched him bleed out.
In the days following the stabbings, San Diego police circulated photographs of the defendant, which included images captured from surveillance footage on the San Diego trolley.
Brantley was arrested in Ventura on Dec. 4 while walking near the intersection of the 101 Freeway and state Route 33, where officers recognized him from fugitive-suspect alerts, according to police in the coastal city north of Los Angeles.
According to the prosecutor, Brantley posted on social media days prior to the stabbings that he was going to “help the homeless,” though his true intention was to target homeless victims.
While the prosecution asked for no bail, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom set bail at $5 million due to the “totally senseless” nature of the attacks on “vulnerable victims,” as well as the flight risk he believed Brantley represented. Brantley pleaded not guilty to the charges and is due back in court Dec. 24 for a readiness conference.
The defendant has had a long history of run-ins with the law, including 34 arrests since 2000, according to Ventura police Cmdr. David Dickey said. “The charges included burglary, robbery, elder abuse, drug-related offenses and property crimes. At the time of his (latest) arrest … he was on active parole for attempted robbery, burglary, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon,” Dickey said.
His most public arrest, prior to the San Diego case, was a September 2016 incident, in which Brantley was arrested after allegedly breaking into a gift shop at a historic Spanish mission in downtown Ventura, stealing two crucifixes and using them to bludgeon five people, including a 75-year-old man, on nearby roadsides, according to Hopkins.