Los Angeles Times

Heiress to face trial in man’s death

A former Marine is also charged with murder in the fatal choking of John Michael King-Smith.

- By Alene Tchekmedyi­an alene.tchekmedyi­an@latimes.com Tchekmedyi­an writes for Times Community News.

A judge has ordered an heiress and an ex-Marine accused in the choking death of a 31-year-old man in Glendale last year to stand trial on murder charges.

The decision came after a two-day preliminar­y hearing this week during which witnesses recounted the moments leading up to the death of John Michael KingSmith.

The case stretches back to a September evening when Sparkle Soojian, 33, said she returned home to find that a window screen had been sliced open, according to evidence presented in court. Inside, King-Smith — her former roommate’s ex-boyfriend, against whom she had a restrainin­g order — was in a towel after having showered, cutting his hair in the bathroom with a kitchen knife.

“My stalker broke into my house,” she texted to at least two people. “Please come over. I can’t talk on the phone. I’m begging you to come over now. I’m scared.”

A Glendale detective, however, testified that a chair covered in dusty beer bottles sat right under the window, undisturbe­d, casting doubt on whether KingSmith climbed through the window to enter.

Among those who received the text was Soojian’s friend Ernest Johnson, who testified Tuesday that, while on his way to her home, he asked what she wanted him to do. As he pulled up outside, another text came through.

“I want you to kill him,” she wrote. “I’m serious. We need to get rid of the body.”

Johnson said that he didn’t take Soojian seriously and went inside. King-Smith was banging on Soojian’s upstairs bedroom door, yelling to be let in. Soojian was in the room with two other people.

Johnson testified that King-Smith verbally confronted him before attacking him with a tennis racket, prompting Johnson to punch him in the face. Someone subsequent­ly opened the door, and the group ended up downstairs, and an argument ensued.

At 1:19 a.m., Soojian — heiress of Ak-Mak, an internatio­nal Armenian crackerbre­ad company — texted Jared Kasiewicz, her thenboyfri­end and former Marine.

“It’s really bad, come in now,” she wrote.

As Johnson told KingSmith to leave, Kasiewicz came through a sliding door “like a ninja” and tackled King-Smith to the ground, placing him in a chokehold, Johnson testified.

“We need to handle this,” Kasiewicz told Johnson.

That’s when, Johnson said, he left.

Video captured at the scene reportedly shows Kasiewicz, 28, on top of King-Smith, asking those around him for cords or ropes to tie him up.

“You don’t need to tie up dead people,” Kasiewicz’s attorney Andrew Goldman said Wednesday, arguing that his client was defending a loved one and did not intend to kill King-Smith. The prosecutor, meanwhile, argued that Kasiewicz was “staging a scene.”

Soojian’s attorney Joseph Gutierrez called his client’s text to Johnson a “spontaneou­s remark taken out of context.” When her friends arrived to help, she did not direct anyone to kill King-Smith, he said.

“It was an unfortunat­e set of circumstan­ces that resulted in the death of another human being, but it did not add up to murder,” said Soojian’s other attorney, Garo Ghazarian.

According to court testimony, Kasiewicz tied KingSmith’s wrists to his feet and told the three others in the room: “I wasn’t here.”

Kasiewicz didn’t want to get Soojian in trouble for violating a court order from a pending domestic violence case to stay away from him, Goldman argued.

At 1:49 a.m., Soojian called police to report a break-in.

She told the dispatcher that her neighbors had tied up King-Smith and that she didn’t want to get evicted over the incident.

“Does anyone need an ambulance?” the dispatcher asked, according to a recording of the call played in court.

“No, we’re fine,” she replied.

King-Smith was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Soojian and Kasiewicz, who each face one count of murder, are due back in court next month.

 ??  ?? JARED KASIEWICZ, Soojian’s then-boyfriend, is accused of placing the victim in a chokehold.
JARED KASIEWICZ, Soojian’s then-boyfriend, is accused of placing the victim in a chokehold.
 ??  ?? SPARKLE SOOJIAN texted a friend to kill John King-Smith, according to testimony.
SPARKLE SOOJIAN texted a friend to kill John King-Smith, according to testimony.

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