Accused killer of Lily Burk pleads guilty, avoids death penalty [Updated]
A transient with a long criminal history pleaded guilty Friday to kidnapping and murdering a 17-year-old girl who was killed after failed attempts to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine with a credit card.
The plea spared Charlie Samuel a possible death sentence for the killing of Lily Burk, whose body was found inside her car in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot. Her neck and been slashed and her head beaten.
As part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, Samuel will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Samuel, 50, was on parole at the time of the killing and enrolled in a residential drug treatment center south of Koreatown. He obtained permission to leave the facility on July 24 so that he could visit a Department of Motor Vehicles office, even though the office was closed.
The 5-foot-2-inch Burk went missing the same day while visiting Southwestern Law School in the Westlake area of the city as she ran an errand for her mother, a lawyer who taught at the school.
Authorities said surveillance cameras showed Samuel driving Burk's black Volvo away from the area of the law school with the high school student in the front passenger seat.
Surveillance images from a downtown ATM kiosk later showed a burly, bald man resembling Samuel with an arm tightly around a petite, teenage girl, barefoot and in a sundress.
Just over an hour later, video footage showed a similar-looking man walking away from a parked black Volvo, where authorities later found Burk’s body. A medical examiner testified at a preliminary hearing earlier this year that Burk suffered injuries all over her body that were consistent with a violent struggle.
A fingerprint found on a soda can in the Volvo matched Samuel’s. A bloodstain on the shirt he was wearing at the time of his arrest contained DNA that matched Burk’s. Samuel's criminal record stretched back decades and included a violent robbery that bore a striking resemblance to the abduction of Burk.
In 1986, he was accused of kidnapping an elderly man in San Bernardino, driving the man's car to an ATM, and beating the victim when no money appeared. Samuel pleaded guilty to robbery, residential burglary and car theft and was sentenced to six years in prison.
[Updated at 3:25 p.m.: Wearing orange jail scrubs and shackled to a waist chain, Samuel stood and said he hoped Burk's family, who was sitting in the front row, would forgive him.
"I'd like to deeply, truly apologize to the family for the grief I've caused," he said. "I pray to God that you may forgive me one day."
Immediately after Samuel sat down, Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.]
Use The Times' interactive timeline to see Charles Samuel's arrests and convictions dating to 1979.
Photo: (left) Lily Burk
Photo: (right) Charles Samuel
Credit: Los Angeles Times