The man accused of murdering a Lompoc resident who was home on leave from the U.S. Army last month pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance Thursday morning in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Lompoc.
Santa Maria resident Francisco Gutierrez Ortega, 24, was in court for an arraignment after being formally charged with murder in the Sept. 8 fatal shooting of Marlon Brumfield Jr., who was 22.
Ortega sat next to his attorney, public defender Brian Carroll, and said very little during the appearance, which culminated with having the hearing continued to 8:30 a.m. Nov. 14 in the same courtroom.
Judge Raimundo Montes De Oca presided over Thursday's hearing. A small group of Brumfield's friends and relatives attended the hearing.
Ortega was initially arrested by the Lompoc Police Department on Sept. 19 and had his bail set at $2 million.
In addition to the felony murder charge, Ortega is also accused of committing the murder for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal street gang.
Brumfield was home on leave from the Army — he had been stationed in Germany — when he was shot and killed in the early morning of Sept. 8 near the intersection of North A Street and East Ocean Avenue.
After arresting Ortega, the Lompoc Police Department announced that a second suspect remained on the loose.
Police are seeking information from the public to locate that other suspect, 24-year-old Walter Alexander Morales Jr.
Hundreds of Lompoc community members participated in a peaceful march and rally Sept. 20 in honor of Brumfield.
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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