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Lily Burk autopsy shows evidence of a violent struggle, coroner's official says [Updated]

January 25, 2010 |  1:13 pm

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0115723bc34b970b-800wiA 17-year-old girl killed last July, allegedly by a transient parolee, had bite marks to her face and ear and had injuries all over her body showing she violently struggled with her attacker, a coroner’s official testified this morning.

Jeffrey Gutstadt, a medical examiner for L.A. County, testified Monday at the preliminary hearing of 50-year-old Charles Samuel, who is accused of kidnapping and murdering Lily Burk. Burk left her Los Feliz home on July 24 on an errand for her mother and never returned. Prosecutors allege Samuel killed the girl after failed attempts to get her to withdraw cash with a credit card.

[Updated at 3 p.m.: Samuel was ordered to stand trial this afternoon for the murder of Burk and other felony counts, including kidnapping, robbery and carjacking.

Judge David S. Wesley found there was “sufficient cause” to believe Samuel is guilty of the crimes, and ordered him to return to court in February for arraignment. The judge denied a motion by Samuel’s attorney to dismiss the case.]

Gutstadt said most of the injuries occurred while Burk was still alive. She was killed by an incision to the right side of her neck, possibly caused by a broken bottle, which would have caused her to lose consciousness within minutes, the examiner testified.

A forensic print specialist for the Los Angeles Police Department testified later in the morning that broken shards of green-colored glass, possibly from a Pellegrino water bottle, were found in the black Volvo where Burk’s body was found. No fingerprints were found on the glass, she testified during cross examination by Samuel’s attorney, Albert DeBlanc Jr.

Gutstadt also testified that more of the wounds were on the left side of the girl’s body. On Friday, prosecutors presented video surveillance images and suggested Samuel drove Burk’s black Volvo. Burk’s body was later found on the passenger side of the vehicle.

The examiner also testified that Burk had sustained abrasions and contusions to her scalp, possibly indicating that her head had been hit against the car’s dashboard or struck from above with an object.

Burk’s mother, Deborah Drooz, clutched onto a handkerchief and quietly sobbed, her body shaking, as the coroner’s official testified. The girl’s father left the courtroom before the testimony began.

Judge David Wesley is expected to rule today on whether there is enough evidence to try Samuel, who had walked out from a residential drug-treatment facility on the day of the killing, in Burk’s murder. Samuel is also accused of committing the murder in the course of a kidnapping, robbery and carjacking, making him eligible for the death penalty.

The hearing is expected to resume this afternoon.

-- Victoria Kim

Photo: Times file