CARLSBAD — A 29-year-old man was charged Nov. 25 in the death of a hotel clerk who died one day after he allegedly beat and robbed her.
Brian Lefler pleaded not guilty to a single count each of murder, kidnapping for robbery and robbery, as well as three felony counts of elder abuse — imprisonment, false imprisonment and cruelty.
Bail was set at $5 million for Lefler, who has three prior felony convictions related to burglaries and thefts, all in San Diego County. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted, Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephen said outside the courtroom.
Superior Court Judge Marshall Hockett set a Dec. 11 preliminary examination. Lefler’s next court appearance is Dec. 9.
Barbara Novelich, 67, was found dead Nov. 17 on her boat in Oceanside Harbor. Novelich, a longtime clerk at the Tamarack Beach Resort, had been assaulted and robbed at the hotel the previous morning, Stephen said. After punching Novelich three times in the face and dragging her across the floor, Lefler stole $300 from the hotel’s register and the woman’s car, the lawyer said.
The 6-foot-2-inch and 165-pound defendant was arrested Nov. 19 after police spotted him getting into the victim’s vehicle.
Novelich initially refused medical treatment, but her son then took her to the hospital where she was treated for facial lacerations and released, Stephen said. Novelich, she said, died from acute cardiac failure.
Even if Lefler didn’t intend on killing Novelich, under the law his actions hold him responsible for her death, Stephen said. “When you choose to rob and brutalize an elderly person, then you are brutalizing somebody who might have a heart condition and that type of trauma may cause that heart to fail,” Stephen said.