Murder defendant pleads not guilty in Army soldier’s death
Family and friends of slain Army Specialist Marlon Brumfield filled the front row of the Lompoc Superior Court on Thursday morning for the arraignment of his alleged killer.
Francisco Gutierrez Ortega, 24, appeared before Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca alongside his attorney Brian Carroll.
He pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder with an enhancement for criminal street gang activity.
Judge Montes de Oca accepted his plea and set the case for a preliminary hearing setting conference on Nov. 14.
Mr. Gutierrez Ortega appeared to fight back tears for a moment as he entered his plea and waived his right to have his preliminary hearing held within 10 days of his arraignment.
The preliminary hearing will determine if there is enough evidence for Mr. Gutierrez Ortega to stand trial as charged. He remains in County Jail custody on $2 million bail.
Spc. Brumfield was shot and killed in Lompoc in the early morning hours on Sept. 8. Lompoc Police Department officers found him near the intersection of Ocean Avenue and A Street.
Officers say he suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Paramedics attempted life-saving measures, but they were unsuccessful and Spc. Brumfield was pronounced dead at the scene.
The El Puente High School alumnus was home for a month while on leave from the Army at the time of his death. He was stationed in Germany.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office filed the murder charge against Mr. Gutierrez-Ortega on Sept. 23.
According to a report from the Lompoc Police Department, Mr. Gutierrez Ortega turned himself in to authorities on Sept. 19 after detectives attempted to serve an arrest warrant at his Santa Maria home the day before. Mr. Gutierrez Ortega was not home at the time of service, but officers told his family it was important he turn himself in.
Another suspect, 25-year-old Walter Alexander Morales Jr., has not been found.
Mr. Morales is a Hispanic male. He stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds. His has black hair and brown eyes.