Dispute Ends in Deaths of Couple : Violence: Hrach Nalbandian shot his wife during an argument, then killed himself, police say. Neighbors report that he often seemed depressed.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A North Hollywood man whom neighbors described as obsessed about his wife's whereabouts and fidelity fatally shot her with a handgun before turning the gun on himself, Los Angeles police said Sunday.

Sgt. John Stilo said Hrach H. Nalbandian, 35, shot his wife, Lusin S. Nalbandian, 28, Saturday afternoon in the couple's house in the 5400 block of Morella Avenue. He then shot himself to death.

Stilo said the shooting occurred during a domestic dispute between the pair, who had been married eight years. The couple's two children, ages 4 and 7, were staying with relatives at the time of the incident and remained in their care Sunday.

Neighbors on the shady, quiet street said they heard shots ring out from the Nalbandians' one-story stucco house about 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

"We weren't sure if it was three or four shots," said one man, who identified himself only as Tom. Then there was "a delay and then another shot," he said.

"It sounded like gunshots, but we thought maybe he's working on his house or something," he said. "So we waited to see if anybody was going to come out. But after about two hours, nobody came out."

Roger Cognata, who lives across from the slain couple, said he went to the house to investigate around 5 p.m. He peered through a window by the front door into the den--where a television was on--and saw the husband's body lying supine on the floor, Cognata said.

"It was dark, but you knew he was dead," he said.

Neighbors alerted police, who found both bodies inside.

Cognata said Hrach Nalbandian was a successful businessman who had retired by the time he moved to Morella Avenue from Hollywood with his wife and children three years ago. Although the Nalbandians were friendly, especially Lusin, they kept mostly to themselves and the many relatives who often came to visit, neighbors said.

However, Hrach Nalbandian often seemed depressed. His wife told neighbors that he suffered from some kind of mental illness, for which he saw a psychiatrist and took medication.

"He was really quiet--passive," Cognata said. "You never saw him on an up day."

At times, Nalbandian seemed to believe that his wife was cheating on him, Cognata said. At one point last year, he asked Cognata to listen to his wife's explanation of how some upholstery in their home had been damaged, believing it to be the fault of an alleged lover rather than the couple's children, as Lusin Nalbandian had explained.

Cognata said he assured Nalbandian that his wife's explanation was reasonable.

And despite his jealous behavior, Nalbandian did not appear to be physically abusive toward his spouse, said Chris Cognata, Roger Cognata's wife.

Judith Arias, a supervisor at the May Co. store where Lusin Nalbandian had worked for a little more than a year as a gift wrapper, said her employee was a pretty, sweet-tempered woman well liked by colleagues. But Arias said the woman was also "scared to death" of her husband because "he would be violent for no reason."

"Lucy was really nervous all the time," Arias said. She added that Hrach Nalbandian seemed "very possessive" and would repeatedly call the store to make sure that his wife was at work.

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