Man Charged in Fatal Attack on Elderly Woman

A 29-year-old man was charged Tuesday with the murder of a resort clerk who died one day after being beaten and robbed.

Brian Lefler pleaded not guilty to murder and other felonies in a Vista courtroom.  The charges carry a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.  Bail was set at $5 million.  Lefler has three prior felony convictions.

The victim, Barbara Novelich, was found dead last Monday.  Novelich was working as a clerk at the Tamarack Beach Resort early Sunday when a man demanding money punched her in the face and stole her car, according to investigators.

Novelich had refused medical treatment from authorities after the assault, but friends said her son took her to a hospital on Sunday morning. Prosecutors say Novelich was treated for a fractured eyebone, cheekbone and sinus cavity and was released. The next morning her body was discovered aboard the boat on which she lived in north Oceanside Harbor.

Lefler was arrested in Escondido on Tuesday while getting into Novelich's stolen car. He attempted to flee on foot before being arrested. He admitted to the $300 robbery under questioning before he learned that the 67-year old victim had died of heart failure, according to investigators.

Novelich's son and Lefler's mother both were in court for today's arraignment. Neither spoke.

Lefler was assigned a deputy public defender and given a December 11th preliminary hearing date.

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