Brother arrested in North Hollywood text message slaying
A new arrest was made Thursday evening in the 2009 North Hollywood slaying of a teenager who was shot in the head just hours after sending an insulting text message about another teen.
According to authorities, 19-year-old Mike Yepremyan sent a text message to his girlfriend, calling her friend a “bitch.” The girl he insulted saw the text, authorities said, and asked her brother to beat up Yepremyan.
Soon after, Yepremyan began receiving phone calls from a stranger who asked him to meet him at a Sears parking lot in North Hollywood, according to witnesses.
Yepremyan and several friends drove to the parking lot and encountered two men; one struck the 19-year-old and the other pulled out a gun and shot him in the head, authorities said.
The alleged shooter and the woman who was insulted were previously arrested and charged, but on Thursday, authorities arrested the woman’s brother, saying he was an accessory to the crime.
Hovik Dzhuryan, 19, was taken into custody late Thursday evening at his Van Nuys home, said LAPD Det. Thomas Townsend.
An indictment released Friday accuses Dzhuryan of setting up the fatal parking lot meeting after getting the call from his sister. Authorities, however, say Dzhuryan was not in the Sears parking lot when the slaying occurred.
Dzhuryan and his sister, Kat Vardanian, have both pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The alleged shooter, Zareh Manjikian, and the man who allegedly struck the victim, Vahagn Jurian, are charged with murder. Both have also pleaded not guilty.
Thursday’s arrest is the latest turn in an investigation that had initially left the family of the slain teen deeply frustrated.
Manjikian, the alleged shooter, was not arrested until more than a year after the shooting and, even then, a judge in Puerto Rico, where he was picked up, granted him bail and he disappeared.
Manjikian was able to use his brother’s ID to fly out of the island territory, first to Philadelphia and then to Las Vegas, before surrendering in July in Van Nuys.
Authorities are planning on trying all four defendants together.
“This sends a message to everyone,” said John Nazarian, a private investigator hired by the slain teen’s family. “You can’t just kill an innocent boy and with some clever manipulation get away with it.”
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Art Yepremyan and Ani Atajyan in their son's bedroom. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times