Jorge Fernandez Tovar

Hearing date to be set in January for Easter Sunday murder suspect

The preliminary hearing date for the man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend outside an apartment complex near Waller Park in April will be set in January.

Jorge Fernandez Tovar, 27, of Lompoc, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole after allegedly lying in wait before fatally shooting Elyse Erwin with a short-barreled rifle as she was leaving a friend's home early Easter Sunday. 

Tovar pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations in June.

On Wednesday morning, Tovar's attorney requested that the case return to court Jan. 10 for continued preliminary hearing setting. The prosecution agreed to the continuance, citing some discovery/evidence issues that need to be resolved. 

While he granted the request, Judge Gustavo Lavayen reminded all parties that "my intention, quite frankly, on Jan. 10 will be setting a preliminary hearing."

The preliminary hearing may be set for this summer for a Lompoc man, who reportedly was lying in wait before fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend as she was leaving a friend's house in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday last year. 

Jorge Fernandez Tovar, 27, faces the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole in connection with the death of Elyse Erwin, 28, with whom he shared custody of their young daughter. The case is filed with a special circumstance -- commission of the murder by lying in wait. 

Tovar also faces a special weapons allegation. 

On Wednesday morning, Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede and Tovar's attorney, Jeremy I. Lessem, agreed to come back in two months to set a preliminary hearing, which at this time, has been tentatively scheduled for mid-June. 

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While Lessem said he didn't have an issue with setting a preliminary hearing date, he did note to Judge Gustavo Lavayen that the case "is still in its early stages of discovery" and that just last month alone he received 25 discs of evidence, a handful of which contained corrupt files that he couldn't access. 

"We still have more discs coming in," Lessem added.

Fede acknowledged the case was still awaiting additional reports, and all parties agreed to return to court March 21 to check the status of the matter. 

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210