22 Aug 2014
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Murder Over Text Insult To Woman Earns 50-Year Sentence

Two young men receive heavy sentences for their roles in a 2009 murder.

Murder Over Text Insult To Woman Earns 50-Year Sentence

Two Van Nuys men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms Friday for the execution-style slaying of a Granada Hills man over an insulting text message about a woman.

Zarek Manjikian was sentenced to 50-years-to-life imprisonment, and Vahagn Jurian got a 25 years-to-life sentence for the killing of Gombert "Mike" Yepremyan over the electronic insult in 2009. Both defendants are 25- year-old Van Nuys men.

The case revolves around a woman being called a "bitch" in a text message, and a group of men plotting revenge, prosecutors said.

"Referring to her as a bitch was the equivalent of calling her a whore" in the Armenian community, prosecutor Edward Nison told reporters after the sentencing.

The murder was "the epitome of senselessness," Superior Court Judge Gregory Dohi said in passing the sentences. "How much is lost for so little?"

The slain victim's mother, Ani Atajyan, said "we've been waiting for a long time. Thanks God, we got justice."

During the sentencing, Dohi rejected requests from the defendants for a new trial or for lesser charges to be entered.

Jurian's cousins -- Hovik Dzhuryan, 20, and Khatun Vardanian, 23 -- were both convicted of conspiring to commit assault with great bodily injury and were sentenced to 270 days in the county jail, five years' probation, and 1,000 hours community service. They were also ordered to stay away from victim's family

Vardanian, the woman who was called the nasty name in the text from Yepremyan, triggered the deadly chain of events she she asked her brother, Dzhuryan, to assault Yepremyan.

Sobbing at times, Vardanian today insisted "I am not cold blooded, I am not a sociopath ...

"I didn't conspire to do anything," she said.

After learning of the insult, Dzhuryan, Jurian and Manjikian set up a meeting with the victim, who had received several telephone calls asking why he had made the comment about Vardanian, according to a grand jury indictment.

Manjikian and Jurian met with the victim at a Sears parking lot at the intersection of Victory and Laurel Canyon boulevards in North Hollywood about 3- 1/2 hours after the text message was sent, according to testimony.

Yepremyan was struck in the face and then shot in the back of the head with a 9 mm handgun during the confrontation.

In court today, Jurian's sister Anna said "my brother is not a murderer. not a gang member. He was a great kid."

Manjikian was arrested in Puerto Rico last year, but despite pleas from Los Angeles prosecutors, a judge allowed him to post a $50,000 bond and he was released, only to disappear again.

He remained on the run until just over a year ago, when he turned himself in at the Van Nuys courthouse.

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