People v. Maskovian, B278097

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtROGAN, J.
Docket NumberB278097
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. HACHIK MASKOVIAN et al., Defendants and Appellants.
Decision Date25 May 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
HACHIK MASKOVIAN et al., Defendants and Appellants.



May 25, 2018


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. PA076771)

APPEAL from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Ronald S. Coen, Judge. Affirmed.

Jennifer L. Peabody, under appointment by Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant Hachik Maskovian.

Lyna A. Romero, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant Hovanes Maskovian.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr., and Stephanie A. Miyoshi, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

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Defendants Hachik "Kriss" Maskovian and Hovanes "John" Maskovian1 appeal from their convictions by separate juries for the attempted kidnapping and first degree murder with special circumstances of Joshua West, John's former boyfriend. We affirm the judgments.


1. Prosecution Case

a. Events preceding the homicide

Defendants are brothers. A mutual friend described them as "very close." Around 2005, John began dating West. They eventually moved in together. Kriss often spent time with John and West. Kriss said he and West "became good friends; brothers."

In 2009, John and West each purchased life insurance policies from State Farm agent Jodie Boytos with the other designated as the primary beneficiary. John's policy was for $3.5 million, and West's was for $2.5 million. The two policies were consolidated for payment purposes such that one payment covered both premiums. The monthly payment was approximately $534.

John and West broke up just after Thanksgiving 2012. West's friend Angela Elmore testified that West and John

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remained "good friends" and continued living together, although West and Elmore had plans to move elsewhere. West told Elmore that he was unhappy in the relationship with John because it was sexually unsatisfying and he did not like supporting John financially. He told both his father and Elmore that John was still his life insurance beneficiary and he needed to change that. West had no plans to reunite with John, and was actively dating other people in 2013.

On April 22, 2013, two days before he was killed, West told Elmore that his cell phone was broken, and he was going to get a new phone from Kriss. Kriss, who repossessed cars for a living, sometimes had cell phones retained from those repossessions that he provided to West and John.

On April 23, 2013, John called his State Farm insurance agent Veronica Costa and said he had received a cancellation notice for the life insurance policies and wanted to make sure they were still in place. Although John frequently called Costa to pay his insurance premiums by credit card, and in the past had expressed concern about his automobile policies lapsing when he fell behind on payments, to Costa's recollection this was the first time he had asked her about the life insurance policies lapsing. The next morning, April 24, Costa confirmed with the regional office that both policies were in place and informed John.

b. The homicide

On April 24, 2013, around 9:30 p.m., 14-year-old Adriana S. was in her room in her second floor apartment on Vinedale Street in Sun Valley. Kriss lived in the same apartment complex with his parents. Adriana heard a car pull up. She looked out her window and saw a man standing next to a white car talking on his phone. She turned away from the window, but

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returned later when she heard talking. A tow truck was now parked next to the white car. The truck "was slanted" and "like halfway in the middle of the street." There were three men in addition to the first one she had seen. They were talking but she could not hear what they were saying. They were talking in normal voices and did not appear to be arguing.

Adriana S. again stepped away from the window. A minute later, she heard someone screaming for help. She looked out the window and saw two of the men beating the first man she had seen. Although Adriana could not identify the men, other evidence indicated the attackers were defendants, and the victim was West. Defendants were hitting West with their fists and a "metal stick." They lifted him into the open passenger doorway of the tow truck and slammed his head with the door. Adriana told the police that "in the beginning half [the victim's] body was inside [the truck] and like his legs were like dangling out." At trial, however, Adriana said it never appeared to her that the assailants were trying to put the victim in the truck, or that any part of the victim's body other than his head was in the truck.

During the attack, the fourth man, identified by other evidence as Nazaret "Nick" Bayamdzhyan, was in front of the truck on the driver's side motioning cars to drive by. Adriana S. testified that the truck door would have blocked the view of the passing cars.

Adriana S. saw a woman in a black car slow down and yell at the assailants to stop. Bayamdzhyan told her to keep moving. During this time, West got away from his attackers. He tried to get the attention of the woman in the black car. Defendants got in the white car and drove after West, hitting him with the car from behind. The white car stopped and the person in the

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passenger seat opened the door and grabbed the victim. At this point, Adriana S.'s father turned her away from the window. Adriana heard several gunshots.

Adriana S.'s mother and father also saw two men beating West with their fists and the truck door while a third man waved traffic by. Adriana's father saw the white car strike West, although he testified that only one of the attackers was in the car at the time. Both her mother and father heard gunshots after they had turned away from the window.

The woman in the black car, Cheryl Litchfield, testified that she was driving on Vinedale when she saw a white tow truck parked diagonally with its front facing out into the street such that other cars had to go around it. A white Mercedes was parked very close to the tow truck. The passenger door of the truck was open such that it almost touched the Mercedes and blocked her view of whatever was happening behind it.

As Litchfield passed, she looked under the truck and noticed three pairs of feet. The two feet in the middle were stumbling. In her statement to the police, Litchfield said it appeared that the person in the middle was being moved towards the truck. Bayamdzhyan, sitting in the driver's seat of the tow truck, rolled down the window and motioned her to keep moving. He told her everything was fine and they were just helping with a broken car.

Litchfield rolled her car forward past the truck and saw defendants beating West. One was hitting him with a crowbar, the other was closing the truck door on West's head. West broke away and came towards her car asking for help, saying "they were going to kill him." Litchfield did not let West into her car but told him she was calling the police. The white Mercedes

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drove past her and turned around, blocking her car. West had fallen to the ground, although Litchfield did not see the white car hit him. Litchfield heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash. The Mercedes drove back past her towards the tow truck. Litchfield drove off. On cross-examination, Litchfield said she never saw anyone try to put West in any of the vehicles.

West's body was discovered on another street less than a mile from the site of the attack. It appeared to have been discarded hurriedly. The medical examiner testified that West had suffered blunt and sharp trauma (the latter indicating injury from a sharp object), a fractured fibula and tibia, and had been shot in the chest from a distance between a few inches and three feet. West had also been bitten; a dentist confirmed the bite was human. The gunshot was fatal; the other wounds by themselves were not fatal.

c. John's statements to the police and his friends

John was detained by police and interviewed on April 26, 2013. When the police told John that West had been murdered, John "began to cry" and "acted in disbelief" as if "he had no knowledge of what had happened to" West. John denied being present at the time of West's murder. The police told him witnesses had identified him and his car at the crime scene and that there was video of him at the location.

The remainder of the interview was recorded and presented to John's jury only. John said that Kriss had killed West. John said he and West had met with Kriss to get a new cell phone. Kriss and West chatted, and suddenly Kriss started hitting West. Another man was there as well; he and Kriss tried to put West in the tow truck as John tried to stop them. West broke away and ran. John got into his car. The car had a spare tire and John

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could not control it. He hit West by mistake. John heard gunshots, then saw Kriss dragging West's body. Later, Kriss asked John if there had been a life insurance policy for West. John said no, and Kriss accused him of lying.

The police at that time considered John a witness, not a suspect, and let him go. Kriss was arrested on April 27, 2013. Kriss denied being present at the murder.

The police interviewed John again on April 29, 2013. The recorded interview was presented to John's jury only. Again, John said that he and West met with Kriss near their parents' apartment so that Kriss could provide a phone. John began to cry while describing the meeting and the police stopped the interview.


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