OCEANSIDE — Barbara Novelich may have died on her boat in an Oceanside marina of a weak heart, but her actual killer was a 30-year-old convicted felon who had beaten and robbed her 24 hours earlier.
Police found Novelich, 67, dead on her boat on Nov. 17, 2008. Medical examiners linked her sudden cardiac death to the beating she received when Brian Lefler robbed the Tamarack Beach Resort where she worked around 4 a.m. the previous day.
Novelich, a longtime employee at the resort, sustained four fractured facial bones and hemorrhaging in her right eye. Prior to the assault she had suffered from heart problems.
Lefler made off with her car and $150 from the hotel’s cash register. He was arrested three days later as he was getting into Novelich’s vehicle. He has three prior felony convictions in San Diego County relating to burglaries and thefts.
In accordance to his plea agreement, Lefler was sentenced to 17 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in September to voluntary manslaughter, robbery with a great bodily injury enhancement, false imprisonment of elder and abuse of an elder.
“There’s really no sentence ideal for the loss of your mother,” the victim’s youngest son, Gary Novelich, said after the hearing. “We’re satisfied with the sentence that was given.”
He added, “I hope over the course of the next 17 years he gives serious thought to what happened, but there’s always a little bit of doubt in my heart to his remorse and being aware of what he did; not only his actions but how he affected our family.”
Gary Novelich, 35, said his mother was very active at the Oceanside Harbor where she had many friends and people enjoyed her company.
“She just loved being on the boat and being next to the ocean,” Gary Novelich said.