A Lompoc man who pleaded guilty to killing the mother of their 6-year-old daughter on Easter Sunday five years ago will be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to court today, prosecutors said.
Former District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced last December that Jorge Tovar Fernandez, 32, had pleaded guilty to the willful, premeditated and deliberate murder of Elyse Marie Erwin.
According to prosecutors, Ms. Erwin was returning to a friend’s residence on Goodwin Road in Santa Maria on Easter morning, April 16, 2017, when Mr. Fernandez confronted her.
“As Ms. Erwin was exiting her car, the defendant shot Ms. Erwin in the back of the head,” prosecutors said. “Ms. Erwin died on the scene.”
Mr. Fernandez’s jury trial had been scheduled to begin on Feb. 6.
The District Attorney’s Office had decided it would not seek the death penalty but instead seek a sentence of life in prison without parole if Mr. Fernandez were convicted.
However, Mr. Fernandez changed his mind and opted to forgo his trial and plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence that allows the possibility of parole. He entered that plea on Dec. 15.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Mr. Fernandez days after Ms. Erwin’s death.
He and Ms. Erwin, parents of a 6-year-old girl at the time, were involved in an intense custody fight that required law enforcement officers to keep the peace, according to testimony at his 2019 preliminary hearing.
Mr. Fernandez gave different stories to law enforcement officers about where he was at the time of the shooting, including that he had driven up State Route 1.
A detective, however, testified during the preliminary hearing that his story couldn’t be true because a massive landslide had closed a long stretch of the road.
Evidence showed a 9 mm handgun was used in the killing. Mr. Fernandez owned a 9 mm Beretta, but claimed he no longer had it in his possession.
However, when law enforcement officers searched his home, they found a 9 mm ammunition magazine in a plastic bag hidden in a cinder block fence.
“This horrific murder was the worst kind of domestic violence,” former District Attorney Joyce Dudley said at the time. “It occurred years after the couple separated, but the defendant continued to engage in relentless stalking behavior. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any form of domestic violence, or is being stalked, please call 9-1-1. In doing so, you could become a life-saver.” email: firstname.lastname@example.org