Suspect enters not guilty plea to killing of Laguna Beach restaurant worker
Dino Rojas-Moreno, charged with murder in the killing of 27-year-old San Clemente resident and Laguna Beach restaurant worker Tatum Goodwin, pleaded not guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Monday.
Rojas-Moreno, 26, of Laguna Hills was arrested on Wednesday, Nov. 15, three days after Goodwin’s body was found by a construction worker at a job site near the 200 block of Ocean Avenue in Laguna Beach.
Authorities allege that Rojas-Moreno, a local bartender, beat Goodwin to death with a fire extinguisher, then left her body at the construction site with a sandbag over her head behind an old movie theater. Rojas-Moreno allegedly assaulted Goodwin near her car in a parking lot, before dragging her to the back of the parking lot and down an alley to the job site.
It is unclear if Goodwin and Rojas-Moreno had a prior relationship.
The charges against Rojas-Moreno also include felony enhancements for committing murder in an attempted kidnapping and the use of a deadly weapon in commission of a felony, court documents show.
A pretrial court appearance has been scheduled for Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m. Rojas-Moreno is being held in custody without bail.
The death penalty could be in play with a conviction, authorities said.
“The loss of an innocent life is a travesty for the entire community,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “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. She mattered, and the Orange County district attorney’s office is committed to ensuring justice is served.”
Goodwin had worked at Carmelita’s in Laguna Beach, where she was an assistant manager. In the days after her death, mourners created a growing makeshift memorial near the location where her body was discovered.
On Monday, days after a few hundred showed up at the San Clemente pier for a candlelight vigil to remember Goodwin, dozens packed the courtroom for Rojas-Moreno’s arraignment.
Goodwin’s family members shared several moments of embrace while waiting for the court to come into session. The court appearance lasted just a few minutes.
Goodwin’s brother, Alex, said he felt “a lot of hurt,” adding, “there’s a lot of ‘I don’t understand’” following the hearing.
“I think that the support from the community has been outstanding,” he said. “I think the presence of what Tatum was and everyone she’s impacted is still showing here strong. I think she was an amazing person. She loved everybody, and I hope that she gets justice.”
Tyler Janes, who attended San Clemente High with Goodwin, was among the friends and loved ones who attended the proceedings. He remembered Goodwin as a person that was there in a time of need.
“She was like a bright ray of sunshine, honestly,” Janes said. “In San Clemente, I had a lot of issues with bullies and people, in general, but she was always very comforting and had open arms and [was] always there for me to talk to.”
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