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Suspect ordered to stand trial in Lily Burk's slaying

Charles Samuel, 50, is accused of kidnapping and killing the teen in July 2009. A coroner's official testifies that Burk had wounds all over her body, indicating she struggled with her attacker.

January 26, 2010|By Victoria Kim

A 17-year-old girl killed last July, allegedly by a transient parolee, had bite marks to her face and ear and had injuries all over her body showing she violently struggled with her attacker, a coroner's official testified Monday.

Jeffrey Gutstadt, a medical examiner with the L.A. County coroner's office, took the stand at the preliminary hearing of 50-year-old Charles Samuel, who is accused of kidnapping and murdering Lily Burk. The teen left her Los Feliz home July 24 on an errand for her mother and never returned. Prosecutors allege Samuel killed Burk after failed attempts to get her to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine with a credit card.

After hearing the evidence presented by the prosecution over two days, L.A. County Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley ordered Samuel to stand trial for Burk's slaying and other felony counts, including carjacking, robbery and kidnapping. Samuel had been permitted to leave for the day from a residential drug-treatment facility on the day of the killing. Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek the death penalty against Samuel.

Wesley denied a motion Monday by Samuel's attorney to dismiss the case on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Burk, who was 5 feet 2 and weighed 100 pounds, had blunt-force trauma injuries and hemorrhaging on her scalp, wounds consistent with bite marks on the left side of her face and her left earlobe, as well as bruises and other injuries to her back, knees, legs, forearms and the bottom of her feet, Gutstadt testified. He also said that Burk had bruising on both wrists, possibly indicating that someone was holding them in a tight grip. The injuries on her scalp could suggest that her head had been hit against the car's dashboard or struck from above with an object, he said.

According to sheriff's records, Samuel is 5 feet 9 and weighs 185 pounds.

Gutstadt said most of the injuries appeared to have occurred while Burk was still alive. She was killed by a cut to the right side of her neck, possibly caused by a broken bottle, which would have caused her to lose consciousness within minutes, the examiner testified.

A forensic print specialist for the Los Angeles Police Department testified later in the morning that broken shards of green-colored glass were found in the black Volvo where Burk's body was found. No fingerprints were found on the glass, she testified during cross-examination by Samuel's attorney, Albert DeBlanc Jr.

But a print found on a soda can in the Volvo matched Samuel's, a different forensic expert testified. Additionally, an L.A. County sheriff's criminalist said on the stand that a bloodstain on the shirt Samuel was wearing at the time of his arrest contained DNA that matched Burk's. The criminalist testified that the shirt also had smaller quantities of DNA, possibly what is known in forensics as "wearer's DNA," that could belong to Samuel.

Gutstadt also testified that more of the wounds were on the left side of the girl's body. On Friday, prosecutors presented video surveillance images and suggested Samuel drove Burk's car. Burk's body was later found on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Burk's mother, Deborah Drooz, clutched a handkerchief and quietly sobbed, her body shaking, as the coroner's official testified. The girl's father left the courtroom before the testimony began.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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