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Hundreds Mourn Boy's Death

Memorial: 'Enough is enough,' says the mother of Christopher McCullough, one of two teenagers found beaten in a La Crescenta school playground.

July 29, 2000|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA CRESCENTA — Several hundred families crowded into La Crescenta Presbyterian Church on Friday evening to mourn the death of 13-year-old Christopher McCulloch.

Christopher's bludgeoned body was found Sunday lying beside that of his friend, 14-year-old Blaine Talmo Jr., at Valley View Elementary School here. A memorial for Blaine will be held today at 11 a.m. at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose.

Inside the church Friday, Christopher's mother, Aileen Bristow, spoke about the loss of her son and the impact he had had on those around him. Blaine's parents, Alana and Blaine Talmo Sr., sat in the congregation. Bristow was among eight people who spoke to the standing room only crowd, some coming from as far as Canada and Scotland, where Christopher was born. A photograph of Christopher rested against an urn among bouquets of flowers at the altar.

"This week I've been to hell and back, and I'd like to take this opportunity to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough,' " Bristow said in apparent reference to the violence that befell her son and his friend. "We mothers struggle for a reason to bring these precious children into the world.

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Bristow spoke in a strong, composed voice, telling the mourners that in the last few months of her son's life, he would only come home to change his clothes, preferring to spend time with his friends.

"It was like he was in a hurry," Bristow said. "Only when he was really tired did he come back for a few days to lay his beautiful head on his own pillow.

"Some of you are probably asking, 'Why didn't you stop him?' God knows, I tried."

She recalled the time he got his ear pierced over her objections. Afterward, she complimented him, she said, and told him, "If only we could find a way to channel that in another direction."

The last week of his life was full of positive changes, Bristow said, pointing out that he had gotten in touch with the church and was spending time with volunteer Angus Hall, 18.

"It was like a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "I know many of his friends saw a change in Christopher in the last week."

His best friend, Michael Humami, broke down as he talked about Christopher.

"He was like a brother to me," Michael said, his voice cracking as he began to sob. "We would do everything together. We would sleep over; we would have water gun fights. All of you be careful: See what happened to them; be very careful."

Michael H. Demirdjian, a 15-year-old La Crescenta boy, has been charged with two counts of murder and robbery in the case. His arraignment is set for Aug. 9 to allow his defense attorney to challenge a new state law that requires him to be tried as an adult.

Glendale police say they are still conducting extensive interviews with people who may have knowledge of the killings.

"Whether that pans out to be additional suspects or more, we don't know," said police spokesman Chahe Keuroghelian.

Keuroghelian said drugs may have played a role in the slayings, but said he could not be more specific.

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During the memorial service, the Rev. Andrew M. Wilson, pastor of the church, warned the young people gathered there to stay away from drugs.

"Blaine and Chris made some choices that put them in danger," he said. "We don't know all the details, but we know that Blaine and Chris had gotten involved to some extent with drugs. There are kids in this Valley who buy and use drugs all the time.

"When you buy drugs or share even a joint or pass it around at a park, you're putting yourself and your community at risk."

Police arrested Adam Walker, 19, in connection with the case Tuesday, but Walker was later released to Burbank police on an unrelated burglary charge.

Glendale police said Walker is not a suspect in the killings.

On Friday, Burbank Municipal Judge Alan S. Kalkin postponed Walker's burglary arraignment until Aug. 10 to allow him to retain defense counsel.

Walker was accompanied by his parents, who are separated. His father, Steve Walker, said his son was not connected to the killings of the two boys.

"He wasn't there; he wasn't involved. He didn't even know them," Steve Walker said. "He's a good kid who makes friends easily. That's why he's involved in this."

Steve Walker also asked officials to keep his son in the Burbank city jail, instead of transferring him to the Twin Towers jail operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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Because one of the victims, Blaine, is the son of Sheriff's Sgt. Blaine Talmo, Steven Walker said the initial allegations against his son could put him in danger, since he would be guarded by sheriff's deputies.

Despite the request, Burbank police said the city jail is a temporary holding facility and Walker was transferred to the county system Friday.

Walker said his son had been in trouble before but had never been sentenced to Juvenile Hall or jail.

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Times staff writer Jeffrey Gettleman contributed to this story.

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