OCEANSIDE — A 30-year-old man accused in the death of a hotel clerk who died one day after he allegedly beat and robbed her must stand trial, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled May 21.
After a full day preliminary hearing, Judge Harry Elias found enough evidence to order Brian Lefler to stand trial on a single count each of first-degree murder and robbery.
If convicted, Lefler faces 25 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
Lefler has three prior felony convictions related to burglaries and thefts, all in San Diego County.
Barbara Novelich, 67, was found dead Nov. 17 on her sailboat in Oceanside Harbor. She died of a sudden cardiac death brought on by the severe physical trauma she suffered less than 24 hours earlier, a medical examiner testified. Novelich suffered four fractured facial bones and sustained hemorrhaging in her right eye from the attack.
Prosecutors allege Novelich, a longtime clerk at the Tamarack Beach Resort, had been assaulted and robbed at the hotel around 4 a.m. Nov. 16, 2008. After punching Novelich several times in the face and dragging her across the floor, Lefler then demanded access to the hotel’s cash register and Novelich’s car keys, prosecutors said.
Lefler stole $150 from the hotel’s register and the victim’s car, authorities said. Police arrested Lefler on Nov. 19 as he was getting into Novelich’s vehicle.
Initially, Novelich refused medical treatment; however, she finally agreed to go with her son, according to court testimony. She was treated for facial lacerations and released.
Novelich had suffered from a heart condition, authorities said.
A witness who encountered Lefler prior to the robbery in the hotel’s lobby testified the defendant was intoxicated and said he had been kicked out of his hotel room at Tamarack Beach Resort, which he’d been sharing with his girlfriend and her mother.
Lefler, who remains in custody on $5 million bail, is next scheduled in court June 18. A July 9 trial date was set.