By MICHAEL BALSAMO
ALHAMBRA, Calif. (AP) – A couple’s bitter custody battle became a tragedy that ended Tuesday with the father acknowledging he killed their 5-year-old son as his estranged wife gripped an urn with the boy’s ashes and sobbed uncontrollably in the front row of a California courtroom.
Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, had his hands shackled at the waist and spoke softly when a prosecutor asked him if he willfully killed his son, Aramazd Jr. Andressian simply replied, "Yes."
He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the April death of the boy after a family trip to Disneyland. Authorities said Andressian wanted to get back at his estranged wife, and the slaying set off a two-month search.
Andressian’s attorney declined to comment on the theory but said the killing was "not planned" and his client told investigators where to find the boy’s body.
Prosecutors called the evidence in the case overwhelming but have refused to say how Aramazd Jr. died.
"This is a tragedy. Cases like this really tug at your heartstrings," Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said outside Los Angeles County Superior Court in suburban Alhambra.
Andressian’s attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, said his client pleaded guilty partly to avoid the possibility of prosecutors adding a charge that could result in the death penalty.
"He is beyond words, in regretting having committed such an act," Rodriguez said.
Andressian faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 23.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said they believe the boy was killed April 21 after a trip to Disneyland. The next day, his father was found passed out in a park and police began searching for the boy.
Andressian had taken prescription pills and was found in a car doused in gasoline in an apparent suicide attempt, sheriff’s officials have said.
The boy’s body was found on June 30 near Lake Cachuma outside Santa Barbara – about 145 miles (233 kilometers) away from Anaheim, where Disneyland is located.
Andressian told investigators that he drove to the lake the day his son was killed. Investigators had searched the lake several times before the boy’s remains were found.
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