ALHAMBRA (CBSLA.com/AP) — A South Pasadena man pleaded not guilty Monday morning to the murder of his 5-year-old son, whose body was found in Santa Barbara County.
Aramazd Andressian Sr. wore an anti-suicide vest when appeared before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cathryn Brougham, who set bail at $10 million and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 16.
“He is wearing a suicide vest,” his attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, said. “He’s being evaluated by (the) L.A. sheriff’s department. Part of that, they’ve taken the precaution to make sure…he isn’t a danger to himself.”
The 35-year-old was arrested in Las Vegas on June 23. He waived extradition and was returned to Southern California on Friday to face murder charges in the death of his son, Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose body was found later that day near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County.
Rodriguez did not answer questions about media reports indicating Andressian may have told sheriff’s detectives where to find his son’s body.
Andressian Sr. is being held on $10 million bail and could face up to 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.
“We’re still in shock. There’s no word to describe how we feel, a parent, as an uncle to wrap your head around – why would a father do this to his own son?” asked the boy’s uncle, Shaun Estevez, as he choked back tears.
Estevez told reporters outside the courtroom that his nephew “never ” wanted to go with his father and cried every time he was told to do so.
The uncle said he wanted justice for his newphew. “This little boy paid the ultimate price with his life for no reason,” he added.
Amid a bitter custody battle, little Aramazd was last seen at 1 a.m. April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father, who was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena the next day.
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, authorities said. Andressian has been uncooperative and gave false information to investigators since he fell under suspicion.
A prescription bottle was found inside Andressian’s car, which had been doused with gasoline inside and out.
The investigation into the boy’s disappearance included several weeks of surveillance, during which Andressian “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, authorities said when he was arrested in Las Vegas.
The search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties. Authorities focused on the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area because Andressian Sr. told them he took the boy there the day after the Disneyland trip.
Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, said an autopsy would be conducted on the boy early this week. Winter also said tests would have to be conducted before his office officially identifies the body, but sheriff’s detectives believe it is Andressian Jr.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)