Orange County bartender pleads not guilty to beating woman to death with fire extinguisher
An Orange County bartender accused of bludgeoning a woman to death with a fire extinguisher pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him Monday.
Dino Rojas-Moreno, 26, was arrested Wednesday in Laguna Hills and charged with one count of murder with two felony enhancements: that the killing was committed in commission of a kidnapping and that it was carried out with a personal weapon, the fire extinguisher.
Those enhancements would potentially make him subject to the death penalty, according to authorities.
“The loss of an innocent life is a travesty for the entire community,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement.
Rojas-Moreno’s attorney, Christopher Bou Saeed, said his client “unequivocally denies the allegations against him.”
“We look forward to fighting these allegations in a court of law — not in the press, not on TV and not online,” Saeed said. “We will do so based on facts admissible in a court of law, not press releases, not leaks and not rumor and innuendo.”
A man was arrested on suspicion of murder in the killing of Tatum Goodwin, 27, whose body was found last weekend near Carmelita’s restaurant in downtown Laguna Beach.
Rojas-Moreno is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 30.
Prosecutors allege that Rojas-Moreno, who lives in Laguna Hills, assaulted 27-year-old San Clemente resident Tatum Goodwin around 1 a.m. on Nov. 12 in a parking lot near Carmelita’s restaurant in Laguna Beach.
Goodwin had worked at Carmelita’s for four years, rising to the position of assistant manager, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up by the restaurant’s owner.
Rojas-Moreno, prosecutors allege, dragged Goodwin to the rear of the parking lot and down an alleyway to a secluded area. There, he beat her to death with a fire extinguisher, according to the district attorney’s office.
About 8:20 a.m., a construction worker found Goodwin’s body under a chain-link fence at a nearby work site with a sandbag placed on her head, authorities say.
“It is heartbreaking that a young woman with her entire future ahead of her had her life ended in such a brutal way and then discarded like her life never [mattered],” Spitzer said.
Matthew Zakrzewski, a 34-year-old Costa Mesa resident and former nanny, was sentenced to more than 700 years for molesting young boys under his care.
It is unknown whether there was a prior relationship between the two. Media reports that Rojas-Moreno had worked as a bartender for Goodwin at Carmelita’s were incorrect, according to Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
Rojas-Moreno called in sick to work the day Goodwin’s body was found, saying he had been assaulted in Santa Ana, according to the district attorney’s office.
He is being held without bail.
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