D.A. admits error kept alleged Northridge killer of 4 free
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office admitted Monday that its prosecutors erred in allowing a suspect -- now accused of four slayings in Northridge -- to receive drug treatment instead of prison time when his case was heard in September.
The suspect, Ka Pasasouk, was in Van Nuys Superior Court after being arrested for drug possession. He was on probation at the time, and the L.A. County Probation Department urged that he be sent back to state prison for “long-term detention” because of his long criminal record. But prosecutors told the judge that Pasasouk was eligible for a drug diversion program under Proposition 36, which he was granted instead of being returned to prison.
Two months later, authorities allege, he killed four people outside a home in Northridge.
The D.A.'s office said it completed an investigation Monday into how that hearing was handled. “The review shows that the office inadvertently erred in indicating the defendant was eligible for a Proposition 36 drug program,” said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons in a statement. “Training issues raised during the review will be addressed by the district attorney's office countywide.”
Gibbons would not comment further or say whether officials were being disciplined.
Pasasouk is accused of fatally shooting four people early Dec. 2 outside a home in the 17400 block of Devonshire Street in Northridge. Three of the victims were wearing hooded sweat shirts and were about two feet apart, with at least one bullet wound each to the head.
The fourth victim was farther away and appeared as if he had been trying to run to the backyard when shot. He had at least one gunshot wound, according to the source.
Officials identified the dead as Amanda Ghossein, 24, of Monterey Park; Jennifer Kim, 26, of Montebello; Robert Calabia, 34, of Los Angeles; and Teofilo Navales, 49, of Castaic.
Detectives have not revealed any information about a possible motive. But law enforcement sources told The Times that the killings appeared to stem from a dispute over personal property, including a computer.
Pasasouk has an extensive criminal record. Last year, he pleaded no contest to unlawful taking of a vehicle and was sentenced to state prison. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to second degree robbery and assault likely to produce great bodily injury and sentenced to state prison. In 2004, he pleaded guilty and no contest in separate cases again involving unlawful taking of a vehicle.
During the September hearing, Pasasouk pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine. The Probation Department argued in a report that he should be sent back to prison.
“The defendant is an ineligible and unsuitable candidate for continued community supervision,” the probation report stated. “It is recommended that probation be denied and the defendant be sentenced to state prison.”
In an interview last week, Reaver Bingham, Los Angeles County deputy chief of adult field services, said his department's recommendation was also based on his record and the fact that Pasasouk did not report to his probation officer in one instance before the September hearing.
Judge Jessica Silvers ordered Ka Pasasouk to attend a drug treatment program and be released to the oversight of the Probation Department, according to court records and law enforcement officials.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Frank Shyong
Photo: A body is removed from the shooting scene in Northridge. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times