LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – The body of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy missing since April has been found in Santa Barbara County.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS2 Saturday that the body of Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found after homicide detectives returned to the Lake Cachuma area of Santa Barbara County Friday “in an effort to locate additional evidence.”
What prompted detectives to return to Santa Barbara County was also not immediately disclosed, although the sheriff’s department said that it was based on “additional leads developed in the case.”
In a short news conference Saturday afternoon, Ed Winter, assistant chief for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, told reporters that his agency was notified about the body at around 4 a.m.
“Early this morning, we were advised by the sheriff’s department that a body of a young child was found, approximately 5-years-old,” Winter said. “In conjunction with Santa Barbara County Sheriff, Santa Barbara County Coroner, the body was recovered.”
The body was flown by helicopter to Los Angeles Saturday morning.
“The body just came in,” Winter said. “There’ll be an investigator assigned to it. And there’ll be a physical exam of the body. And we have to positively identify this young child.”
Winter would not confirm the child’s identity or provide any information on a possible cause of death.
“We’ll try and do dental records and any medical X-rays, and go further as needed,” Winter said.
Winter said a security hold on the case issued by LASD prevents the coroner’s office from releasing any details.
The discovery comes as Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, the boy’s father, was flown into Los Angeles from Las Vegas early Friday afternoon to face murder charges in his son’s disappearance.
Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, arrived at Long Beach Airport a little after noon Friday. He is being held at the Los Angeles County Jail, according to the sheriff’s department. He is expected to be arraigned Monday in Alhambra.
Andressian Sr. was arrested on June 23 on suspicion of killing Andressian Jr., and had been in custody in Nevada since then in lieu of $10 million bail. Andressian Sr. spent the 47 days prior to his arrest “socializing” in Las Vegas, sheriff’s Homicide Lt. Joe Mendoza said.
At an extradition hearing in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Andressian Sr., sporting dyed, light-colored hair, calmly told a judge that he would not resist being sent back to Los Angeles.
“If California wants me, they can come get me,” Andressian told the judge.
LATEST COVERAGE: The Case of Aramzd Andressian Jr.
The boy was last seen at 1 a.m. on April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father, who was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena the next day and was unable to account for his son’s whereabouts. His car had been doused with gasoline and prescription drugs were found at the scene.
Andressian told investigators he arrived at the park with his son and waited for the golf course to open, and admitted ingesting prescription medication that was not prescribed to him, Mendoza said.
Aramazd Jr. was supposed to be dropped off to his mother at Arroyo Seco Park at 9 a.m. on April 22 — part of the estranged couple’s custody agreement.
The father said he did not remember what happened to his child or any details that were useful in locating the boy, according to Mendoza, who said a prescription bottle was found inside Andressian’s vehicle.
The investigation into the death included several weeks of surveillance, during which the suspect “significantly” changed his appearance, acted in a manner inconsistent with the behavior of a grieving parent and appeared to be planning to flee to a country from which he could not be extradited, Mendoza said.
The intensive search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties. Investigators had previously scoured the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area near Santa Barbara, where Andressian told authorities he took the boy after the Disneyland trip.
Andressian was originally arrested in Los Angeles County shortly after his son went missing, but was later released for lack of evidence.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed one count of murder against Aramazd Andressian Sr. last week. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.
Mendoza said the killing was “pre-planned” and took place between the time father and son left Disneyland and the man was discovered unconscious at the South Pasadena park, the result of an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
The elder Andressian has been uncooperative and gave false information to investigators since he fell under suspicion, Mendoza said.
Andressian was in the middle of a divorce and custody battle with the boy’s mother, Ana Estevez, who investigators have said is not a suspect in the child’s disappearance. Andressian planned his son’s murder to get back at his estranged wife during a “tumultuous” divorce and then tried to commit suicide — before heading to Las Vegas to prepare to flee the country, sheriff’s department officials said after Andressian’s arrest.
The family of Andressian Jr. told CBS2 that a prayer vigil previously scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia had been postponed to a later date.
Neighbors were outside the Baldwin Park home of the boy’s grandparents Saturday evening, where flowers, balloons and candles were placed in memory.
Savannah Voskanian, a cousin of Andressian Sr., accused him of fooling the family into thinking he didn’t have anything to do with his son’s disappearance and death.
“We’re going to be mourning for the rest of our lives,” she said.
“I hope justice is served.”
Meanwhile, Andressian Sr. switched attorneys Saturday. His former lawyer, Daniel Nardoni, told CBS2 in a written statement that he is no longer representing Andressian. The statement read, in part:
“It is with a heavy heart that I extend my sincerest condolences to the family of little Ara ‘Piqui’ Andressian. Words are inadequate to express the sadness that I feel upon learning of today’s heartbreaking news.
“Please note that I am no longer providing legal counsel to Mr. Aramazd Andressian.”
Andressian’s new criminal attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, held a news conference in Beverly Hills Saturday afternoon. In his own statement to CBS2 he wrote:
“This is a sad and solemn day for the Andressian family, one they all hoped would never come. The family mourns the death of Ara, Jr. and are in seclusion grieving. All thoughts and prayers are with the Andressian family and all of Ara, Jr.’s relatives on this sad day.”
Rodriguez said Andressian Sr. would be entering a plea of not guilty during his arraignment Monday.
“We’ll have further statements on that day given where the case is going,” Rodriguez said.
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