Text-message killers get prison terms for parking lot shooting
Two men who made headlines after becoming fugitives were sentenced Friday to lengthy prison sentences for killing a teenager in a North Hollywood parking lot over an insulting text message three years ago.
Zareh Manjikian was sentenced to 50 year to life in state prison, while Vahagn Jurian was given a 25-years-to-life term in the 2009 shooting death of Gombert "Mike" Yepremyan, 19.
"The life of a young man ... is lost over a single, thoughtless word in a text message," said Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Dohi. "This is the epitome of senselessness, and that strikes me."
A jury found Manjikian and Jurian, both 25, guilty in August of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit assault in the North Hollywood shooting.
The 2009 murder case grew out of an insulting text message that led to a violent confrontation in a North Hollywood parking lot where Yepremyan was shot in the head.
Prosecutors said Yepremyan was targeted after firing off a text message to his girlfriend in which he referred to one of her friends as a “bitch.”
That person, Khatun Vardanian, reportedly saw the message, became enraged and asked her brother to beat up Yepremyan.
Yepremyan later received a phone call from a stranger who asked to meet at a parking lot outside a Sears in North Hollywood, witnesses said.
There, Yepremyan and several friends encountered two men; and after talking briefly, one of the men hit him while the second pulled out a gun and shot the him in the back of the head, prosecutors said.
Manjikian was identified as the shooter and Jurian as the second man, but neither was arrested until 2011 after having become fugitives.
Manjikian was initially picked up in Puerto Rico, but a judge there granted him bail, and he vanished, authorities said. He then apparently used his brother's ID to fly out of the island territory, first to Philadelphia and then to Las Vegas, before finally surrendering in Van Nuys.
Jurian, who police believed had fled to Armenia, was arrested in 2011 after police staked out his Van Nuys home.
Vardanian, 23, and her brother, Hovik Dzhuryan, 20, were convicted in August of conspiracy to commit assault. They were each sentenced Friday to five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.
-- Hailey Branson-Potts at Van Nuys Superior Court
Photo: Gombert "Mike" Yepremyan was shot to death Nov. 18, 2010. Credit: Courtesy of Artak Yepremyan