Boy ‘Took Life From the Womb That Gave Him Life,’ Prosecutor Says
A 17-year-old Canoga Park boy accused of strangling his mother showed a friend a puppet with a noose around its neck the day of his mother’s death and said, “I’m going to do it tonight,” a prosecutor asserted Wednesday.
Torran Lee Meier “took life from the womb that gave him life,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Feldman told jurors as the youth’s trial got under way in Van Nuys Superior Court.
Meier, a former El Camino Real High School student, and two friends are charged with murdering Shirley A. Rizk, 34, after wrestling her to the floor of her Canoga Park home and taking turns strangling her on Oct. 13.
They also are charged with attempting to murder Meier’s 8-year-old half brother, Rory Rizk, after the boy wandered into the room during the attack.
The two accused of being accomplices, Richard Allan Parker, 23, of Antelope Valley, and Matthew Adam Jay, 18, of Woodland Hills, are to be tried after Meier.
In his statement to jurors, Deputy Public Defender James H. Barnes depicted Meier as a lifelong victim of psychological abuse who had tried but failed to escape a tyrannical mother.
Barnes said the youth had repeatedly run away from his mother, only to be brought back by her or by police.
Meier was subjected to mental abuse by a woman who had “too many emotional problems of her own” to be a mother, Barnes said.
He said Rizk screamed at her son constantly, “degrading him in the presence of friends,” and forced him to paint the house and mow the lawn at night with a flashlight as illumination.
She gave the youth “no praise and no love,” Barnes said.
The defense attorney urged jurors to consider what Meier’s “state of mind was, and whether he was capable of the acts the prosecution has accused him of.”
At Meier’s preliminary hearing in January, Rory Rizk testified that, after he was awakened by his mother’s screams on Oct. 13, Meier gave him a peanut-butter sandwich and a malt that he refused to eat because they tasted “sort of yucky.”
Prosecution witnesses said the food was laced with rat poison and snail bait.
Rory testified that Meier, Parker and Jay blindfolded him, tied his wrists and drove him to a cliff along Malibu Canyon Road in Malibu.
After placing his mother’s motionless body in the driver’s seat, they set fire to the car and pushed it down the cliff, Rory said.
The 8-year-old said he escaped through a window and was rescued by a passing motorist.
Judge Again Bars Press
In another development Wednesday, Judge George Xanthos for the second day granted Barnes’ request to exclude the press from hearing arguments on a defense motion to suppress evidence.
Howard Soloway, an attorney representing the Daily News, urged the judge Wednesday to open the hearing, suggesting that the session could include evidence of police misconduct, which the attorney termed a “vital area of interest to the public.”
But Xanthos said that, if jurors learned about matters discussed in the closed session, it would be “prejudicial” to the case.
Although the judge Tuesday had permitted three spectators to remain while ordering two reporters out, on Wednesday Xanthos excluded spectators and reporters.
The judge has sealed the transcript of the closed hearing and ordered defense and prosecution teams not to reveal what happened at it.
After the hearing, Xanthos confirmed in an interview that he had ruled on Barnes’ motion, but refused to disclose his ruling.
Before the hearing was closed, participants in the case said the disputed evidence includes a tape-recorded statement Meier made to police and police photographs of the crime scene.