Friends and family of Dr. Jeanine R. Chalabian-Baliozian remembered her Sunday as an extraordinary person who wanted nothing more than to help people through her work as a surgeon.
“Her whole life, she worked saving everybody, and nobody could save her,” said Jacqueline D. Chalabian, her younger sister.
Chalabian-Baliozian, 35, was fatally shot in her car at a local restaurant Friday night, police said.
Her estranged husband, Hratch Baliozian, 51, of San Marino, confessed to the shooting and was being held without bail pending arraignment in Municipal Court in Westminster on Tuesday, authorities said.
The doctor, who has sons ages 3 and 7, was discovered about 10:15 p.m. in her car in the parking lot of an Arby’s restaurant on Edinger Avenue in Huntington Beach, police said.
About half an hour later, Baliozian turned himself in to San Marino police, Huntington Beach Police Lt. Dan Johnson said. The motive for the shooting is unknown.
Chalabian-Baliozian and her sons had moved into her parents’ home in Huntington Beach about six weeks ago, about the same time that she and her husband put their San Marino home up for sale, family members said.
The couple’s neighbors in San Marino said they were astonished to hear about her death.
“It’s unbelievable, unthinkable,” said June C. Cowgill, one of the neighbors. “We went to Hratch’s 50th birthday party last year. He was like a big, loving bear, so proud of his wife. On Saturdays, you would see them coming home with a bag of Armenian pastries. We never got any sense of an unhappy household.”
She said Baliozian told her that he worked as an interpreter for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An FBI spokesman said Sunday that he could neither confirm nor deny that Baliozian was employed by the agency.
Chalabian-Baliozian’s colleagues at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights expressed sorrow and disbelief Sunday.
“She was a very well-liked, very dedicated doctor,” said Adelaida De La Cerda, the center’s public information officer. “The staff is in total shock.”
De La Cerda said Chalabian-Baliozian was completing her third year of general surgery residency at the center.
Chalabian-Baliozian was specializing in breast-cancer surgery, family members said. She recently won a $3-million grant for a surgical technology skills research and education center, set to open in January. She was to be the center’s director.
“She just hired her secretary on Friday,” Jacqueline Chalabian said, adding that her sister was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the American College of Surgical Board Conference in Chicago today.
The center that Chalabian-Baliozian created was to be a “premier center for surgical skills research and education,” according to a USC newsletter.
In the newsletter, Chalabian-Baliozian said: “The idea is, if you can build a certain level of skills in a cost-effective, low-pressure, educationally sound setting, it will make the training process better for everyone.”
Chalabian-Baliozian held an undergraduate degree in psychobiology, a master’s degree in health services administration and a doctorate in educational psychology and technology. She also worked as an instructor at USC, her family said. She served on the admissions board for the medical school at USC and traveled to different colleges and universities across the country, teaching instructors how to teach surgical procedures.
In addition, the doctor started a free clinic for low-income Armenian immigrants in Hollywood.
Through tears, Jacqueline Chalabian, 33, described her sister as an “incredible and humble person, . . . an angel on Earth.
“She was a star, so bright,” she said.
Funeral arrangements were pending Sunday. The family said a memorial fund to provide scholarships is being established.
The two young sons are with their maternal grandparents in Huntington Beach, family members said.