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Killer Overdosed, Coroner Says

Autopsy: Authorities say Katrina Sarkissian took a large amount of antidepressant pills after stabbing a girl to death at a Westside party.

February 02, 2002|MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Katrina Sarkissian, who stabbed a popular 15-year-old girl to death at a Westside party in November, killed herself the next day by taking a large dose of antidepressant tablets, the Los Angeles coroner's office has concluded.

The ruling, released Friday, settles only one of many questions lingering in the aftermath of an unchaperoned Saturday night teen party that went wildly awry.

Police say many of the circumstances are not in dispute: About 30 teenagers gathered Nov. 17 at a home in an upscale Westside neighborhood.

Deanna Maran, a sophomore honors student who was on Santa Monica High School's volleyball, water polo and track teams, attempted to stop Sarkissian's younger half-sister from damaging items in the backyard.

The chastised girl called Sarkissian to complain. When Sarkissian, 17, arrived about 10:30 p.m., another girl pinned Maran to the ground at the front of the Thayer Avenue house.

Authorities said Sarkissian pummeled Maran and then stabbed her, possibly with a T-shaped "punch" knife in which the blade pops out between the user's fingers. No weapon was ever recovered.

According to other party-goers, Maran pleaded for Sarkissian to stop hitting her, to no avail. Several teenagers loaded the bleeding Maran into a car and drove her to Santa Monica Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The next afternoon, Sarkissian, who sported a tattoo reading "Princess" on her lower back, was called in for questioning by Los Angeles police. But she collapsed and stopped breathing. She died 3 1/2 hours later at UCLA Medical Center.

Some teens speculated that she had swallowed some sleeping pills to calm her nerves before being questioned by police.

But the autopsy report leaves no doubt that Sarkissian was intent on suicide. According to a test of a blood sample taken at the hospital, she had an extraordinarily high concentration of nortriptyline and died of "acute nortriptyline intoxication." The coroner's office concluded that she might have taken as many as 43 75-mg pills.

Nortriptyline is often prescribed to treat depression under the brand names Pamelor and Aventyl.

The coroner's office also released its autopsy report on Maran, confirming that she died of a stab wound. The report showed that she had consumed some alcohol that night.

Still to be determined is whether Sarkissian's 15-year-old half-sister or anyone else will face charges.

"We're trying to figure out what can we prove and what should we do," said Alex Karkanen, a deputy district attorney in the Inglewood Juvenile Office, which is investigating. "No matter what we do, someone's going to go ballistic."

Noting that this case is "right up there on the top of the difficulty scale," he said that the office is taking its time.

Police Det. Ron Phillips, supervisor of the homicide unit in West Los Angeles, said investigators are also looking into the possibility that another teenage girl played a part.

Family members of those involved said they remain perplexed by the event.

Guilt and remorse continue to plague many of the students who stood by, as well as those directly involved.

"All I care about now is my daughter's sanity," said Matthew Bernstein, the father of Katrina's half-sister.

*

Times researcher Maloy Moore contributed to this report.

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