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Insults About Girlfriend May Have Led to Killing

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Burbank High School student stabbed to death last week had insulted the girlfriend of a fellow student arrested on suspicion of the killing, other students said Monday.

Authorities said the 16-year-old suspect would be arraigned Wednesday in Pasadena Juvenile Court on a charge of murder in the stabbing death of Adam Smith, 17.

Smith and the suspect had been arguing after a summer school class at Burbank High on Friday when the younger boy pulled out a knife and stabbed the other, witnesses said.

Friends said Monday that the alleged assailant was angered by insults to his girlfriend, who had dated Smith last year. Smith had recently disparaged the girl, said John Santiago, 17, a fellow summer school student.

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The taunts apparently continued in the halls Friday, and the younger boy grew increasingly angry, threatening retaliation, other students said.

“Nobody really thought he was going to do it,” one said.

Police said they were looking into accounts that the attack resulted from a quarrel over the girl. Investigators have interrogated the teenage suspect, who is being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.

A young man who answered the door at the suspect’s home Monday declined to comment.

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While students tried to return to their normal summer routine, Smith’s parents were only beginning to mourn.

“I’m in a bit of a dream world,” Michael Smith said. “We loved our son very much.”

The elder Smith said neither he nor his wife, Mary, knew of any looming schoolyard trouble when Adam left for school Friday.

“He didn’t say anything to us. I’ve been told it was something over a girl, but that’s all I’ve heard,” Smith said. “I’d like to know what happened like everybody else. I’m sure I will at some point. Right now it’s not the most important thing for us.”

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Friends of Smith, who described him as an outspoken but friendly youth whose dyed hair made him stand out in a crowd, were also bewildered. Dozens of students requested sessions with crisis counselors at the school Monday, as carnations and sympathy cards piled up next to the parking lot wall where Smith was stabbed.

As students settled into their morning classes, summer school Principal Emilio Urioste read a biblical passage over the public address system: “My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to your word. This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has given me life.”

Urioste called the stabbing--the first fatal on-campus attack in Burbank--a “tragic, isolated incident,” even as district officials undertook a top-to-bottom review of school security procedures.

School administrators placed two additional guards at the Burbank High campus Monday and pledged to keep them there for the remainder of the six-week summer session.

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City officials also noted that Friday’s stabbing, the latest of several incidents of campus violence in recent years in the Los Angeles area, came just four days before a previously scheduled summit of city, school and police officials today to review security.

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Burbank schools Supt. David Aponik said each of the district’s secondary school campuses had metal detectors but that they were not used “on an everyday basis to check every student as he or she enters the campus.”

Neither the metal detector nor the presence of a police officer on the campus prevented the suspect from carrying a knife to school Friday, and students themselves called for stepped-up enforcement of the district’s “zero tolerance” weapons ban.

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“They really should do something because I’m scared something like that is going to happen to me,” said Aris Darabedyan, 15, who saw Smith writhing in pain moments after the stabbing.

“This really shocks you because it’s Burbank, it’s not East L.A.,” said Dian Yaghoobi, 16. “It seems like it can happen anywhere.”

In the parking lot where Smith collapsed Friday, students remembered him as an attention-seeking cutup.

Tears streamed down the face of 15-year-old Annie Karapetyan as she watched the shrine of flowers and cards grow. She briefly dated Smith last year.

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“I really miss him,” she said. “He was not the kind of guy you would expect to die like that. He was just kind of a jerk sometimes. But he always tried to be nice.”

A bass player in a punk band, Smith “always said exactly what he thought,” said Alawna Green, 17, who had known Smith since she was 11. “Some people didn’t like him because he dressed how he wanted and acted how he wanted.”

Cris Lim, 17, who described himself as Smith’s best friend, recalled how the attention sometimes got Smith into trouble with other students.

“A lot of people picked on him,” Lim said. “He never wanted to start any trouble, but he [also] never backed down from anybody.”

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Times staff writer Jeff Leeds contributed to this story.


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