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Text-slaying suspect's bail set at $8 million

Artak Yepremyan and his wife Ani Atajyan look at a photograph of their son Mike Yepremyan, 19, who was shot to death in November 2009.

The Van Nuys murder suspect who was the subject  of an intercontinental manhunt pleaded not guilty Friday to killing a teenager he’d just met in a North Hollywood Parking lot, a prosecutor said.

Zareh Manjikian, 23, is facing one charge of murder in connection with the November 2009 slaying of 19-year-old Mike Yepremyan. Authorities allege he shot Yepremyan in the back of the head just hours after the teen sent an insulting text message about another teen.

On Thursday, Manjikian arrived at the courthouse in Van Nuys to turn himself in. Authorities arrested Manjikian in May in Puerto Rico, but he disappeared after a judge there granted him bail.

Prosecutor Ed Nison said Friday that Manjikian’s new bail was set at $8 million.

“Flight risk alone is not enough for no bail. However, because of his fugitive status and what happened [in Puerto Rico] a higher bail … was definitely appropriate in this instance,” Nison said.

Manjikian’s attorney, Michael Levin, acknowledged that his client had assumed his brother’s identity in his flight out of Puerto Rico. 

Levin said he doubted the strength of the case against his client, noting that shortly after the slaying,  another man had been charged with the killing but was cleared after providing an alibi.

Levin also rejected the argument from the victim’s family that innocent people don’t run and hide from authorities.

“He wasn’t trying to run, he was simply trying to avoid spending time in custody,” Levin said. “Innocent people don’t take kindly to going into custody.”

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--Robert Faturechi

Photo: Artak Yepremyan and his wife, Ani Atajyan, look at a photograph of their son Mike Yepremyan, 19, who was shot to death in November 2009. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

 
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