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Suspect in bizarre text-message slaying arrested after fleeing Puerto Rico

July 14, 2011 |  3:00 pm

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.

A suspect in a fatal Los Angeles shooting who was captured in Puerto Rico only to flee again after being released on bail was arrested in Van Nuys on Thursday afternoon, law enforcement sources said.

Zareh Manjikian is suspected of fatally shooting a 19-year-old just hours after the teen sent an insulting text message in a bizarre slaying that drew wide-scale media attention.

More than a year after the slaying, Manjikian was tracked down to a beach town outside Puerto Rico's capital city, San Juan, where federal authorities arrested him. Despite a no-bail arrest warrant issued by authorities in Los Angeles, he was released by a Puerto Rican judge on a $50,000 bond.

Then he disappeared, a turn of events that shocked police in Los Angeles, who have been investigating the case for more than 18 months, and the slain teenager's family.

But on Thursday afternoon, Manjikian was arrested by a federal fugitive task force at the courthouse in Van Nuys. The murder suspect was attempting to turn himself in, but was arrested before he could, said LAPD Det. Thomas Townsend.

When Manjikian was first captured by U.S. marshals in Puerto Rico, his brother was arrested with him on unrelated charges. Authorities said that it appears Manjikian, after being released on bail, may have assumed his brother’s identity to fly from the island territory to Philadelphia, and then to Las Vegas, before coming to Los Angeles. The decision to turn himself in may have been motivated by pressure from “close associates” in Los Angeles who had come under scrutiny from police and federal agents since Manjikian fled, authorities said.

His arrest was welcomed by the family of slain teenager Mike Yepremyan.

“This is what we’ve all been waiting for,” said the family’s private investigator, John Nazarian. “We’re all very pleased that the error in judgment we watched in Puerto Rico has been corrected by police here in Los Angeles.”


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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 TimesClick to visit The Times' interactive Homicide Report