Ak Mak heiress accused of killing man was 'in fear for her life,' lawyer says

The attorney for a 32-year-old heiress accused of murder said Thursday that the victim broke into her apartment and threatened her before he was killed.

Glendale resident Sparkle Soojian pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in connection with the death of John Michael King-Smith, 31, who was beaten and choked to death in her Glendale apartment this month.

Police said the two knew each other, although it's unclear how. Soojian's attorney, Daniel Behesnilian, declined to comment on their relationship.

He said Soojian was "in fear for her life" when King-Smith broke into her apartment, prompting her to call her friends for help.

Several people, including Soojian's boyfriend, Jared Kasiewicz, showed up at her apartment in the early morning hours of Sept. 10, and a fight ensued. Kasiewicz, 28, who prosecutors say was involved in the victim's beating, pleaded not guilty this week to one count of murder. His attorney could not be reached.

"Sparkle had no physical contact with him," Behesnilian said of the victim, adding that Soojian was upset and distraught. "These are serious charges — she is absolutely convinced of her innocence," he said.

Soojian, a Fresno native, is the heiress of Ak Mak, an international Armenian cracker-bread company started by her grandparents, according to her website.

She has domestic violence and assault charges pending against her stemming from an incident this year in which she is accused of attacking her boyfriend — co-defendant Kasiewicz — with a glass shard, court records show.

Courtney Argue, 25, was among those present during the fight after Soojian called her for help, said Argue's attorney, Alex Kessel.

Argue was charged — and pleaded not guilty — to one count of accessory after the fact of murder.

Kessel, denying the allegations against his client, said Argue called 911 and captured some parts of the fight on video.

Around 2 a.m. on the day of the killing, police were called to the apartment, on the 200 block of West Windsor Road, where King-Smith was reportedly badly injured. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

If convicted, Soojian and Kasiewicz each face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. They are being held in lieu of bail of at least $1 million apiece.

Argue, who was released after posting $50,000 bail, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

a.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter:@atchek

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