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Valley Plaza 'Text Message' Homicide Trial Underway

Zareh Manjikian and Vahagn Jurian are accused of murder and conspiracy in the 2009 shooting death of a Granada Hills man at the Sears parking lot in North Hollywood.

On Monday, testimony is expected to continue in the trial of Zareh Manjikian and Vahagn Jurian, two Van Nuys men indicted for murder and conspiracy in the 2009 shooting death of a Granada Hills man over an insulting text message. The trial began in June.

Manjikian was arrested in Puerto Rico in 2011, and on May 20 a judge released him on a $50,000 bond, even though the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office asked that he remain in custody. Manjikian later surrendered in June of 2011 at the Van Nuys courthouse with his lawyer and also called CBS news in advance.

“I wanted to surrender and straighten things out,” Manjikian told KCBS-Channel 2. “I want people to know that I am innocent and I'm coming clean once and for all.”

Two others, Hovik Dzhuryan and Khatun Vardanian, were indicted on a conspiracy charge.

Witnesses told police that Manjikian's sister read an insulting text message that had been sent by Gombert "Mike" Yepremyan, 19, of Granada Hills, which resulted in his shooting death on Nov. 18, 2009 in the Sears parking lot of at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood.

The Los Angeles Times published a detailed history of the case in 2010, before Manjikian and Jurian were arrested. According to the Times' account, witnesses claim Yerpemyan and the four defendants had never met before the night of the killing, but the text message sent off a series of phone calls and events that led to the victim and the suspects agreeing to meet at the Sears lot to settle the dispute.

Private investigator , who says he was hired by Yepremyan's parents, has commented about the story here on Patch, and has also posted a detailed account of the trial so far on his blog. Nararian wrote:

Some feathers are being ruffled as to having Mike Yepremyan’s parents, Artak and Ani sit outside the courtroom while certain witnesses testify. Former friends of Mike’s that both of the parents had spoken to after the murder of their son. Is this any kind of violation of “victims rights?” I am not sure. What I am hearing and understanding, is a Judge not wanting to make any mistakes that, in the event of a conviction, will start the appeal process. If there are convictions and there is any money left certainly there will be an appeal, that is fairly common in cases like this.

Nazarian also wrote that the NBC news magazine show Dateline is working on a story about the case.

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