A 26-year-old Laguna Beach restaurant employee accused of using a fire extinguisher to kill a woman who worked at another eatery in the city pleaded not guilty on Monday morning, Nov. 20, to a special-circumstances murder charge.
Dino Fabrizio Rojas-Moreno, 26. was arrested as a suspect in connection with the murder of Tatum Goodwin in Laguna Beach. (Photo courtesy Laguna Beach Police Department)
During a brief hearing in a Santa Ana courtroom, a lawyer entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Dino Fabrizio Rojas-Moreno, who is facing a first-degree murder charge as well as enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon and for murder during the commission of another crime — an alleged kidnapping — related to the slaying of Tatum Lee Goodwin, 27.
Rojas-Moreno spoke only a few words, when asked by Orange County Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian to confirm his date of birth and to make sure he agreed to set his next pretrial hearing for Jan. 30. The judge ordered Rojas-Moreno to remain behind bars without the possibility of bail.
Around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12, prosecutors say, Rojas-Moreno approached Goodwin in a parking lot. He assaulted her near her parked car, prosecutors allege, then dragged her body down a short alley to a construction site by the old Laguna Beach movie theater in the 200 block of Ocean Avenue.
At the secluded construction site, prosecutors allege, Rojas-Moreno beat Goodwin to death with a fire extinguisher. Her body was left under a chain-link fence in a construction site with a sandbag placed over her head, prosecutors added.
About 8:20 a.m., a construction worker discovered Goodwin’s body.
Rojas-Moreno reportedly failed to show up for work after the killing. Prosecutors say he told co-workers that he had been jumped by several men in Santa Ana.
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The killing shocked the tight-knit Laguna Beach community, with more than 100 people gathering at the San Clemente Pier last week to honor Goodwin’s memory. Rojas-Moreno was arrested several days after the body was discovered.
Authorities have not publicly outlined a motive for the attack. Prosecutors say it is unclear whether Goodwin had a prior relationship with Rojas-Moreno, though a friend of hers told a reporter that there was no direct connection between the two.
At the time of Goodwin’s killing, Rojas-Moreno was reportedly employed at the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach. But he previously worked at the Cabana Restaurant and Beach Club, about a three-minute walk from Carmelita’s, where Goodwin worked as a server and bartender.
As a result of the special-circumstances murder allegation, prosecutors will have to decide whether to pursue life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.