Laguna Beach bartender pleads not guilty in Tatum Goodwin murder case

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Dino Rojas-Moreno, 26, faces death penalty if convicted 

Tatum Goodwin’s family and friends packed the front rows of a small Orange County Superior Courtroom early Monday morning, Nov. 20 to watch as Laguna Beach bartender Dino Fabrizio Rojas-Moreno, accused of killing Goodwin, 27, with a fire extinguisher, entered a not guilty plea to a special circumstances murder charge through one of his defense lawyers, Chris Bou Saeed.

Defense attorney Chris Bou Saeed stands in front of Dino Rojas-Moreno (right, seated) during the 26-year-old’s arraignment on Nov. 20 at the Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana. Clara Beard/LB Indy

Rojas-Moreno, 26, has been charged with one felony count of murder, as well as enhancements of special circumstances of murdering the commission of a kidnapping and personal use of a weapon – a fire extinguisher, related to the slaying of Goodwin on Nov. 12.

During the 26-year-old’s arraignment hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian addressed Rojas-Moreno only to verify his name, birth date and set his next pre-trial hearing date for Jan. 30.

The judge then ordered Rojas-Moreno to stay in jail with no chance of bail before dismissing him. Rojas-Moreno briefly looked around the gallery, then exited the courtroom.

Because of the special circumstances murder charge, Rojas-Moreno faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.

On Friday, Nov. 17, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office released a statement saying Rojas-Moreno, who worked at the Royal Hawaiian on Coast Highway, approached Goodwin in a nearby parking lot on Ocean Avenue around 1 a.m. and assaulted her near her parked car.

“Rojas-Moreno 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,” the DA said in the release. “Rojas-Moreno is then accused of beating Goodwin to death with a fire extinguisher.”

At about 8:20 a.m. the same day, a construction worker found Goodwin’s body at construction site behind the South Coast Theatre.

Authorities said Goodwin’s body was found under a chain link fence at the construction site, with a sandbag on her head.

Prosecutors said that it’s still unknown whether Goodwin had any previous connection with Rojas-Moreno.

On the day of the murder, Rojas-Moreno didn’t show up to his shift at the Royal Hawaiian, claiming several men in Santa Ana had jumped him, authorities said.

“The loss of an innocent life is a travesty for the entire community,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. “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 matter. She mattered, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring justice is served.”

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