The Laguna Beach man charged with the grisly murder of beloved restaurant manager Tatum Goodwin has pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance.
He was charged with the brutal attack on Goodwin, whose body was found bludgeoned to death by a fire extinguisher on November 12.
According to court filings, Rojas-Moreno is accused of using a fire extinguisher to kill the 27-year-old, which he allegedly committed ‘in the commission and attempted commission of the crime of kidnapping.’
Goodwin, from San Clemente, was found by construction workers battered to death outside the beachside bar where she had been drinking with friends.
Accused killer Dino Rojas-Moreno, 26, appeared in court on Monday
Beloved restaurant manager Tatum Goodwin was found dead on November 12
The Laguna Beach bartender is accused of using a fire extinguisher to bludgeon the 27-year-old to death
Prosecutors said her body was found ‘under a chain link fence on a construction site and a sandbag had been placed on her head,’ according to KTLA.
The young woman had recently broken up with a boyfriend and appeared to be ‘upset’ when she left the bar in the early hours, according to local website underlaguna.com.
She had gone to Hennessey’s Tavern on Ocean Avenue after leaving work and is also thought to have stopped for a drink at the Marine Bar on the opposite side of the street at some point in the evening.
In a filing released Friday, it was alleged Rojas-Moreno approached Goodwin in a parking lot at around 1am, and assaulted her near her car.
The bartender then ‘forcefully dragged her to the rear of the parking lot, down a short alley, and to a secluded area behind a movie theatre that was under construction,’ prosecutors said.
Investigators allege it was in the alley that he picked up a fire extinguisher and beat the 27-year-old to death.
Rojas-Moreno then failed to show up for work the next day, and prosecutors say he claimed he had ben ‘jumped’ by two men in Santa Ana.
Rojas-Moreno worked on the same Laguna Beach strip as Goodwin’s restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, according to the Orange County Register.
Despite working just minutes from each other, investigators have yet to establish if the two had met.
Rojas-Moreno is local to the area and became a bartender, working at trendy restaurants including Blossoms & Brass in Costa Mesa, after graduating high school.
The accused killer remains in custody without bail. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for January 30.
Goodwin was murdered yards from the Laguna Beach bar where she had ben enjoying a night out with friends
She was discovered by a construction worker near Carmelita’s restaurant where she worked
Tributes have been pouring in for the Carmelita’s restaurant employee and a candlelight vigil was held in her honor.
‘Her light shined so bright that it impacted so many different people,’ Goodwin’s sister, Kaylee, said.
Madison Moyer, Goodwin best friend, described the slain 27-year-old as her ‘soulmate, best friend, other half’ and ‘the person who brought me peace when I couldn’t find it myself.’
Marcos Salim Heredia, the owner of Carmelita’s Restaurants, left a message on a GoFundMe campaign organized by Goodwin’s sister.
‘I have had the great pleasure to have Tatum as our assistant manager, friend, and family member in our business for 4 years,’ he wrote.
He recalled Goodwin as someone who ‘always kept a smile on her face.’
The campaign seeks funding for her memorial services and the creation of a memorial in Laguna Beach.
It has raised over $37,000, exceeding its $20,000 goal.
‘We are still in disbelief and we don’t want her to go unforgotten,’ Heredia wrote.