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Two Indicted for Valley Text Murder, Two Others Facing Conspiracy Charge

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Two Van Nuys men pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and conspiracy charges in a grand jury indictment stemming from the November 2009 shooting death of a Granada Hills man over an insulting message.

The grand jury indictment unsealed Friday accuses Zarek Manjikian and Vahagn Jurian, both 24, in the Nov. 18, 2009, slaying of Gombert “Mike” Yepremyan.

The indictment also accuses the two of conspiring with Jurian’s cousins, Hovik Dzhuryan, 19, and Khatun Vardanian, 22, to commit assault with great bodily injury. The cousins pleaded not guilty.

The indictment alleges that Vardanian contacted her brother, Dzhuryan, that day about a text message in which Yepremyan referred to her as a “bitch” and that she told him to assault Yepremyan.

Dzhuryan, Jurian and Manjikian set up a meeting with the victim at a Sears parking lot at the intersection of Victory and Laurel Canyon boulevards in North Hollywood, and Jurian and Manjikian went to the meeting and “became verbally aggressive” after Yepremyan explained his text message, according to the indictment handed up Thursday.

Manjikian allegedly shot the victim in the back of the head with a 9 mm handgun after Jurian hit him in the face.

Manjikian was arrested in Puerto Rico earlier this year, but despite pleas from Los Angeles prosecutors, a judge allowed him to post a $50,000 bond and he was released, only to disappear again.

He remained on the run until July 14, when he turned himself in at the Van Nuys courthouse.

Separate cases accusing Manjikian and Jurian of Yepremyan’s murder are expected to be dismissed as a result of the indictment.

All four defendants are due back Monday in Van Nuys Superior Court for a pretrial hearing.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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