3 Charged in Stabbing Death of Homemaker

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three Altadena teen-agers have been arrested and charged in the May 1 stabbing death of an Altadena homemaker.

O'Dell Whitley, 18, and two unnamed 17-year-old high school students were charged Tuesday in Pasadena Municipal Court and in Juvenile Court with murdering Lucie Maronian, 52, on the second day of the rioting that occurred in the wake of the Rodney G. King verdicts.

The two juveniles pleaded not guilty and Whitley--who is also charged with a special allegation that the murder occurred during an attempted robbery--is scheduled to enter a plea Monday.

"It's a halfway relief," said Sooren Maronian, the victim's husband, who had criticized prosecutors for failing to charge the suspects, two of whom were first arrested two days after the slaying. "At least they are behind bars where they are supposed to be. Until they are proven innocent, they have got to be there."

In the scenario they presented to prosecutors, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies said the suspects had been trying to steal an electronic beeper device from a friend of the Maronian's 14-year-old son, Raffi.

Raffi and his friend fled to the back yard of the Maronian house. While the boys were hiding, the suspects broke into the house and stabbed Lucie Maronian to death, deputies said.

However, the suspects were released when prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to file murder charges.

With the suspects back on the street, Sooren Maronian said he feared for the safety of his family, particularly that of his son, a probable witness in the case. Maronian pulled Raffi from school, moved his family to a relative's home in neighboring Pasadena, and complained to the district attorney's office and to Pasadena city officials.

On Friday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel V. Nixon said, prosecutors reviewed the evidence--including additional statements from witnesses collected over the last few weeks--and decided they could now file charges against two of the original four suspects.

They were rearrested over the weekend.

"We did come up with what we felt to be more evidence that put us over the top," said Nixon, who declined to elaborate.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Marlene Sanchez said the other two original suspects are no longer believed to have been involved. The third youth charged with the crime was initially questioned only as a witness.

A June 24 hearing has been scheduled in Pasadena Juvenile Court to determine whether the two 17-year-olds will stand trial as adults.

Despite the developments, Maronian said he has no intention of allowing his son to return to school.

"These kids have friends, relatives. My son is still in danger," he said. "Let's see how efficiently they move (through the court system). For me, it seems to be going very slow."

Maronian also disputes authorities' contention that his wife's murder was not related to the urban upheaval that broke out in the wake of the not-guilty verdicts involving Los Angeles Police officers charged with beating Altadena motorist King.

"If there were no riots, if school were not closed, these kids would not have been on the streets," he said. "That's directly related to the riots."

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