A memorial of candles and flowers was placed near where Elyse Marie Erwin, 28, was found dead in Orcutt of a gunshot wound to the head.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)
Jorge Fernandez Tovar

Jorge Fernandez Tovar

A 26-year-old man has been charged with murder for the death of his ex-girlfriend found fatally shot on Easter Sunday in Orcutt.

Jorge Fernandez Tovar of Lompoc appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Friday morning for an arraignment hearing in connection with the death of Elyse Marie Erwin, 28.

She was found with fatal wounds in a parking lot in the 100 block of Goodwin Road just before 7 a.m. Sunday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department officials said. 

Erwin was visiting a friend in the neighborhood when a resident found the woman lying in a parking lot next to her car, the Sheriff’s Department said. The victim had been shot in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.

For Friday’s brief hearing, Deputy Public Defender Adrienne Harbottle asked to continue the hearing so a colleague from her office could be appointed to the case. 

Judge John Fisher ordered the defendant to return to court May 12 and declined to set bail at the request of Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian. 

Tovar has been charged with felony murder plus a special circumstance for lying in wait and allegations including discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury and use of a firearm.

The special circumstance means Tovar could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

He remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail.

Tovar, the father of Erwin’s 6-year-old daughter,  Leila, has been ordered to stay away from the girl under a criminal protective order signed by the judge Friday morning.

The defendant was immediately identified as a person of interest, located at his Lompoc residence and detained for questioning. He was taken into custody Wednesday while attending a custody hearing, the Sheriff’s Department said.

However, the arrest was not reported by the Sheriff’s Department until Friday, after the arraignment.

The child is now in the custody of family member, authorities said.

Erwin was born and raised in Santa Maria, attending St. Mary of the Assumption School, Tunnell Elementary School and Santa Maria High School. She later earned an associate’s degree from Allan Hancock College.

“She had a wonderful sense of humor that brightened everybody’s lives,” he family said in her obituary. “She was genuine, loyal, caring, and honest. She enjoyed showing her love for others by the way of her actions. 

“She was a selfless, dedicated, and charismatic woman who gave so much to the people around her. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out.”

Since July 2014, she had worked at Monarch Trilogy in Nipomo as an event coordinator.

Friday’s court hearing came days before family and friends gather to celebrate Erwin’s life. 

The rosary will be recited at 6 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church (414 E. Church St., Santa Maria. A Mass is planned for 10 a.m. Monday, also at St. Mary’s. 

After the Mass, a celebration of life will be held at the Santa Maria Country Club.

In addition to her daughter, Erwin is survived by her mother Denise, father Erin, siblings Brittany and Matthew, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

A GoFundMe page had raised more than $12,700 in four days.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.