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Suspect in Lily Burk slaying had gained pass out of rehab center hours before alleged abduction

A man arrested on suspicion of killing Lily Burk had a received a pass to temporarily leave a Los Angeles drug rehabilitation facility just hours before he allegedly abducted the 17-year-old student, officials told The Times.

Seth Unger, a Department of Corrections spokesman, said that Charlie Samuel, a 50-year-old transient, had been staying at a residential treatment facility since June. The stay was part of his parole after serving prison time for petty theft.

Unger said Samuel was supposed to return to the facility Friday evening but never returned. Officials learned later that he had been arrested by Los Angeles Police.

Releases from drug rehab centers are generally allowed, and such facilities are not designed to incarcerate those seeking treatment.

Police said earlier today that fingerprints recovered from inside the car in which Burk was found slain matched those of a transient.

They said Samuel, 50, encountered the girl near the Southwestern University School of Law on Wilshire Boulevard. Burk had gone to the campus at the old Bullock's Wilshire building Friday to collect some papers for her mother, an attorney who worked there.

Samuel was arrested at 5:30 p.m. Friday on suspicion of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia on 3rd Street in downtown Los Angeles -- at least 12 hours before Burk's body was discovered nearby in her black Volvo at 5th and South Alameda streets. Law enforcement sources said Samuel has a history of violent crime and drug abuse.

"This case strikes close to home for all of us with children," said Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz. "This is really a parent's worst nightmare."

Police said Burk left her Los Feliz home about 2:30 p.m. Friday to go to the law school. At a news conference, Diaz offered a chronology of what followed:

3 p.m Friday: Samuel allegedly approached Burk at her car, which was parked near the law school on Wilshire Place, north of 7th Street. Samuel abducted Burk.

3:35 p.m.: Samuel attempted to withdraw money from at least one location in downtown L.A. using Burk's credit card. But the credit car was not set up to be used at an ATM.

3:35 to 4 p.m.: Burk called both her mother and father, asking how to withdraw money using her credit card. She did not say she was in distress, police said.

4:52 p.m.: Samuel exited the driver's-side door of Burk's Volvo at 458 S. Alameda St. in downtown L.A.

5:25 p.m.: LAPD officers saw Samuel on 3rd Street drinking beer and in possession of a crack pipe. He was arrested.

Friday evening: Burk's parents reported her missing. A missing persons report was filed and detectives began searching for her.

6:15 a.m. Saturday: Burk's body was found by local workers inside her car at 458 S. Alameda St. They called 911, and police arrived.

A law enforcement source said Samuel had a previous history of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and kidnapping.

According to law enforcement records, Samuel also had been arrested April 23 on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood on a parole violation.

-- Richard Winton

Comments () | Archives (26)

As Clint Eastwood would say "Hang'em high".

Dear Editor:

You published photographs of the victim, the victim's car, the location, two witnesses, and the investigators.

Where is the photograph of the suspect?

Wow, look how well 'compassion' works when treating criminals and drug offenders. This animal should have been in prison, not on our streets!

Just to say what a fine job the LAPD did on this case, very fast and thorough, lets remember that when we are critical of them in the future......

Truly heartbreaking that an beautiful young white 17 year old female is brutually murdered by a coldhearted black, excuse me, African American male without any remorse. Dept of Justice statistics show this pattern of violence toward whites. No comments from Rev Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson and President Obama today regarding this tragedy. I'm sure if were White on Black it would have been a national headline. I pray the district attorney seeks the death penalty.

The perp is a mystery man... When will the LAT show his photo?

Kill him!

This is a horrible, horrible story.... To the parents... So sorry for your loss... I can't even imagine....your pain...

I am so sorry for this girl and her poor family. What a tragic story. Why on earth was this killer out on the streets? The system is so lenient on this offenders. This happens over and over. The parole department does not keep track of these freaks and they get away with whatever they want. This freak had violated parole already and was still out of jail. When are they going to learn. These people are scum of the earth and will never learn. God bless this girl and her family.

Kidnappers, rapists, and murderers must be kept inside for life. Everyone else --all other criminals-- should pay fines and have their income tax bracket increased!

See, we already knew this guy was a kidnapper. Why did we let him OUT?

Wouldn't a full reporting include the name of the person/office who felt Mr Unger should be walking among us?

Now this kind of thing makes me mad here. Why in the heck they let this man out anyways? IYpou know, if this man was not over this issue, why was he was out in the first place?

I hope the family after they have greived, should pursue legal action against the center.

A shocking end to a young person's life. Lily's mother and father must be grieving deeply, compounded by the fact that their daughter offered to retrieve papers from her mother's employer, Southwestern Law School, in broad daylight on Wilshire Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon. I echo the policeman's comments: " It is every parent's nightmare." May she rest in peace.

My heart goes out to her family.

This guy who was arrested did it. His fingerprints were in her car, and I'll bet dollars to doughnuts he had her credit card.

"Innocent until proven guilty" only applies to the legal system - as it should. For the rest of us, sometimes we just know. This guy Charlie Samuel did it. He killed the girl. He's going to spend the rest of his lousy worthless life in prison, and that's a good thing.

I pray there is a hell and that it is well staffed.

May this miserable waste of DNA perish from all memory.

May God help the family of this poor child.

May God help us to never forgive such evil.

Is this guy a ghost? What's wrong L.A. Times, where's his picture?

Does anyone know which drug rehab center Samuel was let out of?

THANKS STEVE LOPEZ! It's these drinking in public, and other petty crimes that LAT columnist Steve Lopez is against being enforced in Skid Row. He feels drug abusers need more rehab, not prison. If Charlie Samuel was in prison, where he belonged, Lily Burk would still be alive. Mr Lopez, I say to you, one innocent life is ONE TOO MANY! Maybe we should allow all the addicts of skid row to camp out on your front lawn and you can preach your gospel to them. As for me, a downtown resident, I say enforce the law, and lock up these criminals!

PLEASE!!! It is heartbreaking when you examine each and every aspect of a tragedy when it affects a white person and ignore the dozens of murders of children of color except to report the number (nine in the last month). You show the relative unimportance of the groups as a whole and the bias toward white loss. Every loss is as important as the last ones. This is partly why children of color lose esteem and hope. This is subtle racism as you are placing how you believe and perceive the world should view the relative importance scale on the front pages. Next Are the "teddy bear" tales of growing up. Show some balance..even a tiny bit, PLEASE!

Just another killer to add to California's death row...

I agree with CP that this case illustrates the need for arrests for drinking in public. Usually public intoxication goes hand in hand with other petty crimes, but it was a big surprise that it was part of a murder. Very well done by the LAPD, especially since the system worked and the suspect was still in custody when Lily was found and the computers indicated that.

My heart goes out to the Burk and Drooz family. It was only two weeks ago that Lily's mother and I were discussing how excited Lily was to see the new Harry Potter release.

Words can not begin to describe nor heal this tragic loss.

This is the only way I know how to possibly reach the Burk family. In Lily you had a jewel, a precious light in the universe, a cosmic wonder. I could tell just by looking at the photo and reading the brief outline of Lily's life that she had a talent she wanted to share with the world and a compassionate soul. You are living every parent's nightmare and there is no solice the rest of us can offer. I'll simply add my tears to yours and hold my own daughter, who is very much like your precious Lily, close to me.

It is time for people to wake up from their perpetual teenager mentality and realize that as long as we make it easy for people to live without responsibility, to themselves and society, there will just be more and more homeless, drug addled criminals on the street. Where's the motivation to stay clean?

As long as there are newspapers who diefy emotionally immature columnists who promote the lives of criminals over hard-working citizens, and politicians who favor irresponsible people over the responsible, the people who make the harder choice of goodness and responsibility, are forced into a virtual slavery to an evil and sometimes murderous master.

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