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Friend Testifies in Trial of 2 Accused in Teen's Death

A witness in the fatal attack at Hoover High says her companion hit a Latino student. The defense brings out contradictions.

October 11, 2003|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

A 17-year-old girl testified Friday that her Armenian American friend hit a Latino teenager on the head with a tire iron and then bragged about the bloody attack, which occurred three years ago in front of a Glendale high school.

But during cross-examination, Anait Msyran contradicted her earlier statements and said that she had only seen Rafael Gevorgyan swinging the tire iron and wasn't sure that it had actually hit the victim in the head.

She also told jurors that she had no idea that someone had been seriously hurt when she drove away from Hoover High School that afternoon.

Msyran was testifying in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Gevorgyan and Karen Terteryan, who are charged with murder and attempted murder stemming from the incident on May 5, 2000, that left high school senior Raul Aguirre with fatal stab wounds.

Msyran, who drove the defendants to the school in her mother's black Nissan and helped Gevorgyan get away, was also charged in the murder. She testified against her co-defendants as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to attempted murder last month and is expected to be sent to the California Youth Authority for seven years.

All three were charged as adults under Proposition 21, the juvenile crime initiative passed by voters in 2000. Msyran was 14 at the time, Terteryan was 17 and Gevorgyan was 15. The defendants both face life sentences if convicted.

Prosecutors believe the defendants murdered Aguirre just days before his 18th birthday in a show of gang pride. But defense attorneys maintain that Aguirre's death was a result of an ethnic fight between Armenians and Latinos and that their clients acted in self-defense.

Msyran contradicted herself several times Friday, explaining the events differently than she had in earlier interviews with police and prosecutors. She gave different accounts about how long the incident lasted, whether Terteryan told her to turn the car around and what Gevorgyan said after the fight.

During her testimony Friday, she said she had been playing Nintendo with Terteryan when Gevorgyan called and asked her to drive him to Hoover High School so he could see his girlfriend and pick up some CDs from her. According to Msyran, when the three arrived at the school, a Latino man standing on the sidewalk asked Terteryan where he was from and then started yelling racial epithets and flashing rival gang signs.

Terteryan answered that he was a member of the Armenian Power gang, prompting each to start "dissing each other's hood," she testified.

She testified that she turned the car around and Terteryan got out and took his shirt off, revealing his gang tattoos. Gevorgyan, who was not a gang member, followed him out of the car carrying the tire iron, she testified. A fight ensued between the defendants and at least two Latino men and continued when the group ran across the street, she testified. But she said she didn't know who had thrown the first punch or exactly what had happened during the incident.

Then, she testified, Terteryan ran down the street. According to Msyran, Gevorgyan jumped back in the car and told her about the fight. She said there was blood on his shoe.

Under questioning by defense attorneys, Msyran said that, as they were driving to the school, the defendants did not talk about Armenian Power or about going to get into a fight. She also testified that she had never seen Terteryan with a knife and didn't know that a knife was used.

Msyran revealed how young she was at the time of the killing, saying that she had initially lied to police about being at the school because she was worried about having driven without a license. She also testified that she had known she could get into trouble for waiting for Terteryan and Gevorgyan, but said, "I didn't know I would come to jail and stuff for that."

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