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Taking Lessons From the Sadness

Grief: Friends say they have learned from the death of 15-year-old Deanna Maran, killed during fight at a party.

April 23, 2002|MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Of Maran, he said: "She might have been a great kid, but that night she acted very unwisely and aggressively. As a result, Katrina's dead and [my daughter] is still not out of the woods."

Here is Natale's account--corroborated by other witnesses--of the incident:

Sarkissian's half-sister was horsing around, chasing one of Natale's friends around the backyard. They repeatedly upset a flower pot.

Maran, known for being fearless, grabbed the girl by the shoulders, telling her to stop. "I don't recall the exact words," Natale said, "but she said something like, 'Show respect for someone else's house.'" The other girl told Maran not to touch her; they pushed each other and then began fighting.

The other girl was thrown off a short ledge and landed in a flower bed, still holding Maran's hair. Some boys broke up the tussle. Maran began shouting "Samo! Samo!"--a nickname for Santa Monica High. It was clear that the other girl, not a Santa Monica High student, was humiliated. "She was dirty but not hurt. Her pride was hurt," Natale said.

Then, Natale said, he overheard the girl on her cell phone: "Katrina, you've got to get here right now. Some bitch just pushed me down."

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 25, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Concord High--A story in Tuesday's California section implied that Katrina Sarkissian, who fatally stabbed a 15-year-old girl last fall, was once a full-time student at Concord High School in Santa Monica. Sarkissian, 17, took two summer courses at Concord in 1999 but was never a regular student. Such students must pass an interview for admittance and their academic records are scrutinized, according to Susan Packer Davis, Concord's administrator.

About an hour later, as Maran was trying to find a ride home, Natale said, Sarkissian pulled up in a white sport utility vehicle and asked, "Who pushed my sister?" Maran raised her hand.

The girls argued for about five minutes and then, Natale recalled, Sarkissian rushed Maran, and the two pushed each other. One or two punches were thrown.

Sarkissian quickly ran away, and Maran stumbled backward. Another girl, he said, came in and grabbed Maran, pushing her to the ground and holding her down.

After a few seconds, that girl backed off. Sarkissian's half-sister came up and kicked Maran's midsection. By that time, Natale said, some kids were yelling "Fight! Fight! Hit her already."

"No one even knew what happened," he said. "Not a single witness saw a blade at any time."

Indeed, no weapon was ever recovered. Authorities concluded that the weapon was a "punch knife," in which the blade pops out between the user's fingers.

Maran, wearing a dark blue sweatshirt and jeans, got up, stumbled and leaned against a tree, staring off into space. Natale, who at the time had a cast on his right wrist, tried to pick her up but "she was completely lifeless." He then saw that his cast "was completely stained with blood."

At that moment, he said, everybody panicked. When another student pulled up in his car to join the party, several kids piled Maran into the back seat. They sped off for Santa Monica Hospital, apparently unaware that UCLA Medical Center was blocks away.

Natale heard later that one boy in the car had his hand on Maran's chest and felt her heart stop beating. She was declared dead just after midnight.

What, her friends have wondered since, can be learned from such a tragedy?

James Yoo, 15, who attended the party, said it taught him to be less eager to lash out at people who annoy him. "I'm just more cautious about fights," he said. "I just let things go."

For Lee Livingston, whose son Tim rode the bus with Maran to the party and then watched as she was mortally wounded, it has reminded him that parents need to set and enforce rules. But parenting teenagers, he said, involves leaps of faith.

"You pray to God they're telling you the truth," he said. "We have reiterated the rules. We keep bringing it up and telling him, 'You've got to let us know where you are.'"

If this has been a grim lesson in growing up, Maran's death has also shown teenagers that it's possible to simultaneously mourn and celebrate a life. Witness the empty chair in the alto section of the Samohi Chorale.

Maran's voice is no longer raised in song, but her picture hangs on the choral room bulletin board. In March, two choirs dedicated their performance of the Mozart Requiem to her. She had struggled with some of the passages, said choral director Christopher Rhodes, but she was "always very much the cheerleader, saying 'Don't give up.'"

At the birthday gathering, partygoers admired the shrine that Maran's mother, Harriet, maintains in front of the house, with its crown of large plastic sunflowers. Not long ago, that shrine drew a visitor, Julie Freitas, who three years ago also lost a child when her son was murdered.

She has since become a friend, visiting once a week with muffins and conversation, seeking to help the Marans along a "long and pretty unbearable journey of grief."

The party at the Maran home helped too. It was good, somehow, to see so many of Deanna's friends--hugging, laughing and, of course, weeping.

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