Gold Chain Homicide
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The LA Times has an update on a local 2009 murder that I've referenced a number of times as being characteristic of the more upscale sort of homicides in the modern San Fernando Valley. It turns out that it fits into a couple of my themes: First, that Armenians shooting each other tends to be at least more interesting than Mexicans shooting each other; and second, that social networking technology may be contributing to the decline in crime by making it easier to build a case.
The November 2009 killing that Manjikian is accused of committing drew national attention after being detailed in The Times last year. The events that led to Mike Yepremyan's death began after he sent a text message to his girlfriend, calling her friend Kat Vardanian a bitch.
According to prosecutors, Vardanian saw the text message and, enraged, called her brother to beat up Yepremyan. Soon after, Yepremyan began receiving phone calls from a stranger who eventually told him to meet him at a Sears parking lot in North Hollywood, according to witnesses.
There, Yepremyan and several friends encountered two men. The conversation appeared to be coming to a peaceful conclusion when, suddenly, one man struck Yepremyan. Right after that, authorities said, Manjikian brandished a gun and shot the 19-year-old in the back of his head.
Manjikian and the other man, identified by prosecutors as Vahagn Jurian, sped off in a black BMW with no front license plate. ...
So, this is a pretty standard lunkhead killing. But, then it got interesting as the bereaved father set about data-mining social networks to figure out whodunnit.
In the months after his son's death, Art Yepremyan lost hope that police would find a suspect. He hired Nazarian, and together they began identifying individuals they believed might have been involved based on relationships with Jurian, Vardanian and others. They created a list of hundreds using online social networking sites and other sources, then began honing that list.
Armenian Americans hail from all over world, but the construction of their last names can reflect their origins.
Art Yepremyan, an Armenian immigrant himself, said he isolated names that could be traced to Armenia, where he believed his son's killer was from. Using connections from that country, he further narrowed the names down to families that lived in a particular neighborhood there, where he believed the killer's family had lived.
In an interview in his backyard last year, he scrawled a haphazard web of links from one supposed suspect to another. As unconventional as his methods may have been, he identified Manjikian as the man he thought killed his son, the same man the LAPD eventually accused.
The LAPD finally tracked Manjikian down to a resort town in Puerto Rico and had him arrested, but a local judge let him out on bail and he vanished again. But the larger point is that today's youths' urge to document every bit of their social lives in text and pictures means that they have even more incentive to behave.
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