To those who knew her best, Tatum Goodwin was a mix of silly and goofy. But more importantly, she was kind and caring, only wanting to make everyone around her happy.
“Her whole mission in life was to make sure other people were happy and OK, and that they felt seen and heard and loved,” shared Madison Moyer, Tatum’s best friend. “She had a lot of hurt in her life, and she never wanted anybody else to go through that. She tried her damnedest.”
In the words of her mother, Stacy Goodwin-Pitino, Tatum was “just a happy-go-lucky person.”
She “would give you the shirt off her back … she’s just really special,” Goodwin-Pitino described to reporters of her 27-year-old daughter, a San Clemente resident and restaurant manager who was killed in Laguna Beach last weekend.
Tatum’s impact to the community was punctuated by the outpouring of love and support that was expressed during a candlelight vigil held on Wednesday night, Nov. 15, at the San Clemente Pier, where Goodwin-Pitino and Moyer were among hundreds of people who gathered in the rain to mourn.
“She had so much love around here and people that cared. Just knowing that she touched so many hearts, it’s …” the grieving Goodwin-Pitino said, unable to complete the thought.
“Her light shines so bright, it impacted so many different people, so many people around her,” Kaylee Goodwin, Tatum’s sister, jumped in to share. “I’m so glad that she had such an amazing support system around her that it means the world to me more than anything. Like the group of people that she had around her was just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”
A CASE OF MURDER
It was Sunday morning, Nov. 12, when a construction worker in Laguna Beach discovered Tatum’s body in a secluded location near the 200 block of Ocean Avenue—near Carmelita’s, the restaurant she worked at for four years and was assistant managing.
Detectives with the Laguna Beach Police Department launched a homicide investigation, which led to the arrest of 26-year-old Dino Rojas-Moreno on suspicion of murder, authorities announced the same day as the vigil.
“This arrest was the result of outstanding police work by our Investigations team that worked tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to bring justice to Tatum Goodwin and her family,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Jeff Calvert said in a statement.
By Friday afternoon, Nov. 17, new details began to emerge in the murder case.
Rojas-Moreno was formally charged with murder in court Friday, several news outlets reported. In the criminal complaint filed with the Orange County Superior Court, prosecutors alleged that Rojas-Moreno used a fire extinguisher to kill Tatum, while trying to kidnap her.
Rojas-Moreno’s bail was initially set for $1 million, according to Laguna PD. However, prosecutors recommended Friday that he be held without bail.
Addressing the news of the arrest on Wednesday night, Kaylee said it provides some peace of mind.
“We can provide everybody with peace of mind that there has been an arrest,” Kaylee said, adding, “So there is some type of peace there, but there’s never going to be full peace for what has happened to Tatum.”
FORMING DEEP CONNECTIONS
During Wednesday night’s vigil, Moyer spoke of Tatum’s deep appreciation for the ocean. Oftentimes, Moyer recalled, Tatum would profess to being a pirate.
“I’ll never forget your love for the ocean and calling me in the morning to ask me to go for coffee and walk by the ocean,” Moyer said. “You always loved the ocean so much, and said you were a pirate in a past life.”
According to Moyer, she and Tatum met two years ago last month through mutual friends and coworkers. The pair instantly clicked, and within two months they had decided to become roommates.
“I don’t know how to describe it, we clicked on so many levels,” Moyer told San Clemente Times this week.
“We would go out to eat and there would be a giant menu of like 100 things … we were like, ‘Let’s pick out two to share. Well, which two do you want?’ And we’d literally always pick—out of the hundred menu items—we’d pick the exact same two things,” Moyer recalled with a chuckle. “It was just so silly.”
Moyer called Tatum her “platonic soulmate,” as the two shared a deep connection, even having discussed plans in the future to buy a house and grow old together.
“We would hold each other’s hands, and we’re like ‘It’s so crazy to have a friendship like this,’” she said. “You see old ladies getting coffee or drinks in their 70s, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe somebody has been a best friend for that long.’ We knew that we had found that, it was so special.”
To the large crowd at the Pier, Moyer further described the type of friend Tatum was.
“Tatum was more than my best friend, she was a friend to everyone,” Moyer said before highlighting the myriad acts of kindness Tatum would do for those she cared about.
“She was a ‘hug you from behind and rest her head on your shoulder’ friend. She was a ‘wake you up in the morning with your favorite coffee’ friend,” Moyer said, later adding, “She was a ‘bring you Carl’s Jr. to work and sit with you while stuck working on Thanksgiving’ friend.”
Georgette Schuda, another one of Tatum’s close friends, echoed Moyer’s sentiments.
“Tatum was such a special person to everyone … she was a person who was nice to the meanest person to her. She would never talk (expletive) unless you went after one of her friends,” Schuda said.
Schuda later explained how happy Tatum was as she had been “thriving in life.”
“I’m so happy that I got to tell her I was proud of her because she was making strides,” Schuda said. “She worked so hard and she loved so hard, and she made sure that every person she came in contact with felt special and that when they left they were smiling.”
“She was happy. She was so happy,” Schuda added of Tatum. “And I’m so proud of her and she was thriving.”
Expounding with SC Times, Moyer explained that Tatum had just gotten a promotion at her work, and had previously expressed to Moyer that her life was moving in the right direction.
“She was finding her peace and life was finally coming together for her.”
In a GoFundMe page that Carmelita’s owner Marcos Salim Heredia started for Tatum’s memorial services, he shared how much of a hard worker she was and how she had become part of the fabric of the beachtown community.
“Tatum was a very hard working young lady and always kept a smile on her face,” Heredia wrote. “Over the years, she had expressed her pleasure to be in Laguna and have her opportunity with us. We felt that we really had a family member here with us.”
Heredia said the restaurant staff is in disbelief by the incident, further explaining that he launched the GoFundMe campaign to raise the capital for services as he didn’t want Tatum to “go unforgotten.”
Heredia set a goal of raising $20,000. As of Friday afternoon, the campaign raised just shy of $32,000.
SHARING ONE LAST LAUGH
The night before Tatum’s body was found, she had been working at the restaurant. After she got off work, she headed to Hennessy’s Tavern, where she video-chatted Moyer and Schuda who were at the Red Fox Lounge in Downtown San Clemente.
“She video-chatted me at 11:11(p.m.), and she was dancing at Hennessy’s, and Georgette and I were dancing at Red Fox,” Moyer recalled. “We video chatted for a bit, and then I had some missed video chat from her on Instagram, and the last I heard from her was sometime after midnight saying that she needed to get an Uber home.”
At the pier, Schuda expressed how thankful she and Moyer were that they got to talk with her that night.
“Me and Maddy are more than thankful that we got to sit there and talk with her and call her that night, and say, ‘I love you,’ and send kissy faces and make weird tongue faces at each other,” Schuda said, bringing a bit of levity to the evening.
With an arrest made in connection to Tatum’s murder, questions have been raised on whether there was any connection between Tatum and her suspected killer.
Asked by reporters Wednesday night whether they thought Tatum and Rojas-Moreno knew each other, Goodwin-Pitino and Kaylee said they didn’t know.
“That’s what I’ve been asking. Was it personal? Was it targeted? Was it somebody that she knew?” Kaylee asked.
“It was just something that she never deserved,” Goodwin-Pitino said.
Moyer told SC Times that Tatum didn’t know the suspect.
According to Laguna Beach PD, detectives believe this was an isolated incident, stating “there is no further threat to the community.”
A ‘LEGACY OF LOVE’
In addition to the family and hordes of friends and acquaintances, Tatum is also survived by her pet Rottweiler, who was “everything to her,” according to Kaylee.
“When I’m with him, I feel comforted,” said Kaylee, who, along with Goodwin-Pitino, is now caring for the dog.
Though the tragedy of Tatum’s death will be something Moyer suffers through the rest of life, she expressed a commitment to carry Tatum’s spirit of positivity and drive to make others smile.
“I will never recover from this,” Moyer said before concluding her speech Wednesday night. “But I will do my best to carry your legacy of love with everyone, because I know that’s what you would want is for everyone to smile.”
To close out the vigil, many of Tatum’s close friends and family huddled over the railing of the pier, where they tossed flowers out to the ocean—a befitting tribute to an honored pirate, as one member of the crowd pointed out.
“Cheers to our pirate!”