A South Pasadena father who admitted murdering his 5-year-old son, whose body was found in Santa Barbara County after a roughly two-month search, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison.
Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to first-degree murder for smothering his son, Aramazd Andressian Jr., who was known as "Piqui."
"Everything good in my life is missing since my son, Piqui, was taken from me," the boy's mother, Ana Estevez, told Superior Court Judge Cathryn F. Brougham. "I wish that I was taken instead of my son ... Your honor, life without my son is my sentence."
She said her life was thrown "into a chaos that can only be described as cataclysmic devastation" when her only child disappeared, and the day she learned her son's remains had been found was "the most earth-shattering day of my life."
"Piqui was and always be the love of my life," said the boy's mother, who carried his ashes in an urn to the Aug. 1 court hearing when Andressian pleaded guilty.
Speaking directly to her estranged husband, Estevez said, "For Aramazd Andressian Sr., I pity you. You are a failure as a father, you are a failure as a man. You are a failure as a human being." Some in the packed courtroom wore white T-shirts with a large photo of the boy and the words "Justice for Piqui."
Authorities said Andressian killed his son in the midst of a bitter divorce from Estevez, who called police when Andressian failed to return their son as planned on April 22.
Andressian had planned to speak during the sentencing hearing, but opted against it when the judge said he would have to give his statement under oath and it would be subject to cross-examination.
Andressian's attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, spoke on his behalf, saying, "I want to pass on his deep, deep regret and remorse as to what happened."
Rodriguez said there were "no words to justify what happened," while noting that his client quickly took responsibility for his actions after being arrested by pleading guilty in the early stages of the criminal case.
The defense lawyer told reporters outside court his client opted not to speak because "he decided that the moment was so powerful and he wanted to let Ana and the rest of her family make their statement and there was no point in saying anything."
"He was not afraid of cross-examination," Rodriguez said outside the courthouse. Aramazd Andressian Jr. was last seen alive at 1 a.m. April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Detective Louie Aguilera said after the hearing that Andressian had driven with his son from Disneyland to Santa Barbara County, where Andressian killed the boy within an hour by smothering him with a jacket that was in the car and left him about a mile or two past Lake Cachuma.
"Through our investigation, we learned it was planned for about three months, four months in advance. His intentions were to kill the child, kill himself and to have everyone point the finger at Ana as her having something to do with it," Aguilera said. "He had put some things in motion ... in advance to point towards her alleging that she may have had something to do with following him. ... We proved that wasn't the case."
Andressian spent about eight hours in the Lake Cachuma area without his son before driving to Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena, where he took prescription medication and poured gas all over the interior and exterior of his vehicle and "passed out before he was able to do anything to the car," the detective said.
Andressian was initially arrested April 22, then released three days later due to lack of evidence. He was arrested again June 23 in Las Vegas, sporting dyed light-colored hair, and was returned to Los Angeles County June 30 after waiving extradition.
The boy's body, which was not buried, was found the same day in a wooded area about 50 feet from a parking lot at Vista Point near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, Aguilera said. Andressian -- who traveled to Las Vegas where he went to several concerts and a boxing match, went skydiving and took "a lot of prescription medication" as authorities searched for his son -- was arrested there after applying for a new passport, Aguilera told reporters.
The detectives said investigators believed that his son was dead when the case was turned over to them because of Andressian's inconsistent statements. After being returned to Los Angeles County from Las Vegas, Andressian confessed and told investigators where they could find his son's body, Aguilera said.
He did not accompany investigators to the site where he had left the body, the detective said. "He wanted to basically have a proper burial for his son, according to him, and wanted to plead guilty and go to prison right away," the detective said.
Andressian's attorney had said earlier this month that the killing was "not planned" and that Andressian is "beyond words in regretting having committed such an act." Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said he saw "absolutely no remorse at all" from Andressian, adding that there is a "good possibility he will never get out of prison."
Hum told reporters the prosecution didn't feel there was sufficient evidence to support a special circumstance allegation against Andressian in his son's death, which could have led to a sentence of either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Andressian's attorney said one of the reasons his client pleaded guilty early in the case was to avoid having the District Attorney's Office file a special circumstance allegation against him. The search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties. Authorities focused on the Lake Cachuma area because Andressian Sr. told them he took the boy there the day after the Disneyland trip.
Funeral services for the boy were held July 18 in South Pasadena. Speaking outside court Wednesday following the sentencing hearing, Estevez thanked friends and others who supported her during the search for her son and the legal proceedings involving her husband.
"I truly believe that it is your love and prayers that have allowed me to survive this atrocity thus far," she said.
Estevez also had harsh words for the family court system and the county social workers who were involved in her bitter custody battle with Andressian, saying she is still searching for justice for her son.
"The fact that this cowardly man changed his plea to guilty and has now been sentenced does not change anything, nor does it bring satisfaction," she said.