The South Pasadena father of a missing 5-year-old boy spent 47 days socializing in Las Vegas since the boy disappeared and had become a flight risk, prompting authorities to arrest him last week, investigators said Monday.
Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, was arrested Friday in Las Vegas on suspicion of killing Aramazd Andressian Jr., according to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. No body has turned up two months after the boy was last seen with his father at Disneyland in Anaheim.
At a Monday news conference, authorities did not provide details about the father's activities in Las Vegas, but said surveillance of his behavior suggested it was "not consistent with a grieving parent."
Investigators said they were concerned Andressian, who has been charged with murder, was about to flee to another country, authorities said Monday. Andressian tried to change his appearance by shaving his beard and coloring his hair, said Lt. Joe Mendoza.
"I can only speak for myself. If my son was missing, I would be doing things that (the boy's mother) was doing. Circulating fliers, looking for your son," said Mendoza. "He was not doing that. He was socializing in Vegas."
When asked whether Andressian has provided information to investigators, Mendoza said, "He has not been cooperative, whatsoever."
Andressian's attorney said Monday that his client is looking forward to pursuing the case in court and that nothing new was presented at the news conference. He declined to comment on the length of time Andressian spent in Las Vegas.
The arrest came after two months of searching for the boy throughout Southern California, including Lake Cachuma and about 30 miles of road in the Santa Ynez Mountains northwest of Los Angeles.
Andressian was being held in Las Vegas in lieu of $10 million bail pending extradition. His arrest was coordinated by Sheriff's Homicide Bureau detectives along with Las Vegas police and the U.S. Marshal's Service, officials said.
Arraignment is expected later this week.
"This is one of those cases that tore at many people's hearts," said LA County Sheriff's Department Capt. Christopher Bergner.
He was originally arrested in Los Angeles County shortly after his son went missing, but was later released for lack of evidence.
"It's been 60 days since that time. We've had a chance to gather evidence," said Mendoza. "That time has given investigators the tools and the evidence needed to present this case to the district attorney's office."
The boy was last seen on the evening of April 20 at Disneyland, in the custody of his father, who was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park two days later and was unable to account for his son's whereabouts.
Andressian admitted to ingesting prescription medication that was not prescribed to him that day, Mendoza said. The father said he did not remember what happened to his child or any details that were useful in locating the boy.
Andressian was in the middle of a divorce and custody battle with the boy's mother, Ana Estevez, who investigators have said is not a suspect in the child's disappearance. Authorities said Monday the divorce was part of the criminal investigation.
Court documents show that the father made allegations that the boy was being sexually abused by the son of the mother's boyfriend.
Both police and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services became involved, but no evidence of abuse was found. Police were never able to identify either a boyfriend or his child, the documents show.
Little Ara said in an interview with officials from Children and Family Services that his father had coached him to talk about the sexual abuse.
There were claims of abuse on both sides. Police also investigated the father.
During a DCSF interview Ara said he is not afraid to go home with his mother, but when asked about being afraid to go home with his father, he replied, "I don't want to talk about that."
During interview with the mother, police learned that she divorced his father because he was gone all day, six days a week. He had told her that he was a dean at ITT Technical Institute. But when she called ITT she learned that he was never employed there.
She did not know her husband was unemployed. He claimed that he used his income to pay off debt so she paid all the bills. When they divorced, the father claimed that he was never employed and demanded spousal support.
A statement from Estevez was read at Monday's news conference.
"Although most have never met Piqui, it is immensely claer that he has touched your lives in a positive and heartfelt way," Estevez's statement said. "My heart is shattered and I will miss my son immensely each and every second of every day for the rest of my life."
Detectives also served a warrant at the Montebello home of the boy's paternal grandmother on May 25. The boy's father had reportedly recently moved into the home, where investigators "seized various items of evidence," according to a sheriff's statement released at the time.
The father's attorney, Robert Nardoni, has previously said his client is innocent and that last week's arrest came as a surprise. On April 28, the day a search warrant was served at his South Pasadena home, Andressian released a statement through his attorney saying, in part, that he hoped and prayed "for the safe return of my only child, my namesake."
It was his only public comment on the boy's disappearance.
Estevez contacted police at 9 a.m. on April 22 to report her son missing. She said her estranged husband had failed to drop off the child at a pre-arranged meeting place.
A $20,000 reward has been offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for information that helps authorities locate the child, who is white, with brown hair and brown eyes and a small mole on the bottom of his right shoulder. He stands at 4-feet, 1-inch and weighs 55 pounds.
"It may seem unusual to file murder cases when we have not yet found the child’s body, but rest assured, my office has successfully prosecuted such cases before," District Attorney Jackie Lacy said. "I am confident, however, that the evidence proves that Mr. Andressian committed this horrible crime."
Anyone with information on the case was urged to call homicide detectives at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.