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Hollywood girl finds mother shot dead, two years after discovering slain father, sister

March 29, 2010 |  3:00 pm

On a fall afternoon in 2008, a 12-year-old girl arrived home from school and discovered her father and 9-year-old sister shot to death inside the family’s Hollywood apartment.

Eighteen months later, the girl, now 14, came home to an empty apartment Friday night. She got worried when her mother didn’t come home from work, so the girl walked down to the carport looking for her.

There, she found the body of Karine Hakobyan, 38, slumped in her Honda CRV, with a gunshot wound to the back of the head. On Monday, a team of Los Angeles police detectives were trying to piece together the three killings, which occurred a few blocks from each other in Hollywood’s Little Armenia district.

Detectives believe the killings are connected but declined to provide more details. Det. Michael Whelan stressed that police have no evidence that the victims were involved in criminal activities either in the United States or in Armenia, which they left in 2003. The father, Khachik Safaryan, had worked as a butcher in Hollywood, and the mother worked as a patient care service aid at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Sitting in the family living room Monday next to a shrine of roses and framed family pictures, the girl tried to make sense of what has happened to her family. She told The Times that Friday was a typical day – she and her mother exchanged cellphone calls throughout the day, and she expected her mother home by 8 p.m. What the girl saw when she got to the carport horrified her.

“I just saw blood,” she said. “That’s when I knew something was seriously wrong.”

The girl was surrounded Monday by grandparents, extended family and friends, all wearing black and huddling on a sofa. Amid the mourners, the girl made clear she wants justice for her sister and parents.

“We just want them to find the people who did this, so they can finally get their punishment,” she said.

Detectives said they are keeping a close eye on the girl, making sure she has access to counseling and protection as she deals with the trauma. Whelan described her as good student who planned to go to college.

She’s showing remarkable strength amid the violence that has befallen the family, he added.

“She’s very intelligent, and very well grounded despite of this horrific thing that has happened to her,” Whelan said. “She’s held up in some regards better than some of the family members around her.” 

The violence began Dec. 11, 2008. That morning, the girl’s sister Lucine was set to recite her first  poem she'd written in English at school.

But she never got the chance.

Police believe that the gunman entered the family’s apartment between 7:30 and 8 a.m. – after the 12-year-old left for school but before her younger sister did.

There were no reports of gunshots, and the bodies were not discovered until the older girl came home from school that afternoon. The slaying shocked the neighborhood of low-rise apartments in east Hollywood, particularly because the assailants killed a 9-year-old girl.

After the slayings, the girl and her mother moved to another apartment nearby. It was there, in the carport, where the girl found her mother shot dead in her car Friday night.

As in the first killings, there were no witnesses, and no one reported hearing gunshots.

“We have a theory and are running with that,” Whelan said of the investigation. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

-- Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles, Ching-Ching Ni in Hollywood

Photo: A man walks through the apartment building where Karine Hakobyan lived. Hakobyan's body was found in the driver's seat of her car last Friday night at her apartment. She had been shot. (Katie Falkenberg / For The Times)