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Transient is charged with murder in Lily Burk's death

A judge postpones the man's arraignment at the request of his court-appointed attorney. The suspect, 50, also is charged with kidnapping and robbery in the 17-year-old's slaying.

July 29, 2009|Joel Rubin

A transient accused of abducting and killing teenager Lily Burk was charged Tuesday with murder, kidnapping and robbery -- charges that could make him subject to the death penalty.

A hulking, handcuffed Charles Samuel, 50, was led into Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Bald and dressed in jail-issued, light-blue clothing, Samuel sat in the prisoner dock with his back to the courtroom and his shoulders slumped.

Samuel spoke only once, uttering a soft "yes" when Judge Henry J. Hall asked him if he agreed with his court-appointed attorney's request to postpone his arraignment.

Burk, 17, never returned to her family's Los Feliz home Friday after running an errand for her mother at Southwestern Law School in the city's Mid-Wilshire area.

In the afternoon, she made two odd calls to her parents asking how to use a credit card to withdraw cash at an ATM. About 7 p.m., they contacted police to report her missing.

Later that night, police tracked Burk's cellphone and ATM activity to the skid row and Little Tokyo areas, but a search into the early hours of Saturday morning turned up nothing.

At dawn, however, Burk's lifeless body was discovered in the passenger seat of her Volvo in a downtown parking lot. Her head had been beaten and her neck slashed.

Police said they have collected footage from surveillance cameras showing Samuel driving away from the area of the law school in Burk's car with her in the passenger seat, with Burk at a downtown ATM machine and then abandoning the car late Friday afternoon in the parking lot where Burk's body was found.

Fingerprints lifted from the inside of the car have been matched to Samuel, who reportedly made incriminating statements to detectives after his arrest.

They believe that Burk was killed within about 45 minutes of her last call to her parents and hours before she was reported missing.

Samuel faces charges of murder, kidnapping to commit robbery, robbery and attempted robbery from an ATM.

His arraignment, when he would be expected to enter a plea, was put off for three weeks.

A decision whether to seek the death penalty against him will be made on a date closer to the opening of his trial, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com

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