Sus­pect was about to flee, au­thor­i­ties say

Of­fi­cials no­ticed trou­bling as­pects in the case of Ara­mazd An­dres­sian Sr., ac­cused of killing his son

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Ni­cole Santa Cruz and Alene Tchekm­e­dyian

For more than two months, fam­ily mem­bers, vol­un­teers and more than 22 law en­force­ment agen­cies have scoured South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to an­swer one ques­tion: Where is 5-year-old Ara­mazd?

Los An­ge­les County sher­iff ’s de­tec­tives brought scent dogs and drones to comb a South Pasadena park near where the boy’s fa­ther lived. Divers searched a lake in Santa Bar­bara County. And a $30,000 re­ward was of­fered for in­for­ma­tion that could help find the boy.

Mean­while, sur­veil­lance teams mon­i­tored the only named per­son of in­ter­est in the dis­ap­pear­ance: the child’s fa­ther, Ara­mazd An­dres­sian Sr.

Re­cently, in­ves­ti­ga­tors no­ticed some trou­bling de­vel­op­ments. An­dres­sian, sher­iff ’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors said, had light­ened the color of his hair. He had shaved off his beard. And he had be­gun mak­ing plans to head to a coun­try where he could avoid ex­tra­di­tion back

to the United States.

Last week, the Los An­ge­les County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice filed a mur­der charge, and de­tec­tives scooped him up in Las Ve­gas, where he had stayed on and off since his son’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

De­tec­tives be­lieve An­dres­sian, 35, killed his son be­cause of tu­mul­tuous di­vorce pro­ceed­ings with his es­tranged wife, sher­iff ’s Lt. Joe Mendoza said.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve this was a pre-planned event,” he said.

Pur­su­ing a mur­der case with­out hav­ing found the vic­tim’s body poses a unique chal­lenge for pros­e­cu­tors, but Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said her of­fice has han­dled sev­eral cases with suc­cess. Four years ago, for ex­am­ple, an L.A. County jury con­victed Lyle Stan­ford Her­ring for the sec­ond-de­gree mur­der of his wife, who went miss­ing four years ear­lier.

Lacey said she was con­fi­dent there was strong ev­i­dence that An­dres­sian “com­mit­ted this hor­ri­ble crime.”

Sher­iff’s homi­cide Det. Louie Aguil­era said he and his part­ner had stayed in con­stant con­tact with Ara­mazd’s mother through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The de­tec­tive read aloud a state­ment that she pro­vided about her son, whose nick­name was Piqui.

“My heart is shat­tered, and I will miss my son im­mensely each and ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery day for the rest of my life,” Ana Estevez’s state­ment said. “Piqui was ev­ery­thing great in my life, and I can­not imag­ine the empti­ness and void that I will bear un­til we are to­gether again some­day.”

Neigh­bors in the tightknit area of Bald­win Park where the boy and his mother lived with his grand­par­ents were shocked to hear of the charges. On Mon­day, miss­ing-per­son fliers with pho­to­graphs of the boy were still sta­pled to a util­ity pole and taped to his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents’ home, where a neigh­bor said they’ve lived for more than two decades.

“It’s re­ally struck the com­mu­nity,” said Luis Martinez, 31. “I feel heart­bro­ken for them.”

Martinez said that the fam­ily would get to­gether at the home on hol­i­days and week­ends, and when Ara­mazd was born, his grand­par­ents were thrilled to wel­come a lit­tle boy into the fam­ily.

De­spite An­dres­sian’s ar­rest, Martinez said he’s not con­vinced that the boy was killed.

“There’s still no body,” he said. “Some­one’s be­ing held ac­count­able ... but at the end of the day you still have some­body else who’s still miss­ing.”

Long­time neigh­bor Rachel Gar­cia, 65, said that when she first heard of the boy’s dis­ap­pear­ance on tele­vi­sion news, she never imag­ined that the child was from her neigh­bor­hood. Each day, she said, she has hoped for good news.

“We’re still pray­ing that he’s alive,” said Gar­cia, whose daugh­ter went to high school with the child’s mother in Bald­win Park.

The mother told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she had handed off Ara­mazd to his fa­ther about 8 a.m. April 15 in Bald­win Park, au­thor­i­ties said.

Ara­mazd was last seen April 21 about 1 a.m. as he was leav­ing Dis­ney­land with his fa­ther, aunt and grand­mother. An­dres­sian told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he took his son the next day to the Cachuma Lake Re­cre­ation Area in Santa Bar­bara County.

Mendoza said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the child was killed in the hours af­ter leav­ing Dis­ney­land and be­fore his fa­ther went to the Cachuma Lake Re­cre­ation Area. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said there’s ev­i­dence that An­dres­sian was at the lake April 21, but there were no sight­ings of the boy.

On April 22 — the day the child was to be re­turned to his mother — the fa­ther was found un­con­scious in a South Pasadena park, his 2004 gray BMW doused in gaso­line. The man had taken pre­scrip­tion pills in an ef­fort, au­thor­i­ties be­lieve, to kill him­self.

An­dres­sian was ini­tially de­tained but re­leased be­cause of a lack of ev­i­dence.

An­dres­sian told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he didn’t know what had hap­pened to his son. Sher­iff’s of­fi­cials said he gave “in­con­sis­tent” and “mis­lead­ing” state­ments, hired an at­tor­ney and re­fused to co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

After­ward, An­dres­sian went to Las Ve­gas, where he spent 47 days on and off “so­cial­iz­ing,” sher­iff’s of­fi­cials said.

“His man­ner­isms were not con­sis­tent with a griev­ing par­ent,” Mendoza said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said the case against An­dres­sian re­lies on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence, but they have yet to re­lease any de­tails. They did not say what led them to be­lieve he was mak­ing plans to leave the coun­try or where he was headed.

An­dres­sian was taken into cus­tody about 1 p.m. Fri­day in Las Ve­gas by sher­iff ’s homi­cide de­tec­tives. He is be­ing held on $10-mil­lion bail and is ex­pected to be re­turned to Los An­ge­les County af­ter ex­tra­di­tion pro­ceed­ings. His at­tor­ney, Daniel A. Nar­doni, had no com­ment Mon­day.

In Mon­te­bello, res­i­dent Juliet Lizarraga said she of­ten saw An­dres­sian drop the boy off at his pa­ter­nal grand­mother’s house, some­times up to twice a week. Chills ran through Lizarraga’s body when she heard the news of the ar­rest, which she said was sur­pris­ing be­cause the boy and his fa­ther seemed to have a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship.

From the out­side, she said, “he looked like a lov­able dad, to me. I don’t know what hap­pened in­doors.”

Pho­to­graphs by Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

LOS AN­GE­LES COUNTY Sher­iff Jim McDon­nell re­leases new in­for­ma­tion about the ar­rest of mur­der sus­pect Ara­mazd An­dres­sian Sr. in Las Ve­gas last week. He is be­ing held on $10-mil­lion bail.

IN­VES­TI­GA­TORS said An­dres­sian had light­ened his hair and shaved off his beard. At right is his 5-year-old son, still miss­ing.

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