By Edwin Folven, 5/10/2012
Victim Languished on Sidewalk for Hours Before Police Were Notified
A suspect charged in the murder of a 70-year-old victim who was killed in 2008 while out for an evening walk in the Melrose District is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on May 23.
The suspect, Angel Jesus Gonzalez, 30, has been in custody since being arrested last June, and has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder. Gonzalez is charged with murdering Katan Khaimov, a resident of the Melrose District who was stabbed to death on March 9, 2008 in the 6400 block of Romaine Street, just south of the border between West Hollywood and the city of Los Angeles. The murder received much publicity when it occurred four years ago, but investigators did not publicize the arrest last year at the request of the victim’s family, according to Det. Paul Funicello, a lead investigator on the case.
“We didn’t make much fanfare about the arrest,” Funicello said. “We had talked with the family and they didn’t want their privacy being impacted, so we were pretty discreet about [the arrest] to protect the family and the investigation.”
Funicello added that finding Khaimov’s killer was always a priority for investigators, and that both detectives from the LAPD’s Hollywood and Wilshire Divisions worked on the case.
“We interviewed quite a few possible witnesses, and received information early on that possibly identified [Gonzalez],” Funicello said. “It took some time to track him down.”
Funicello said detectives located Gonzalez in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was reportedly staying with friends. He was arrested last June 27. The detective described Gonzalez as being a transient at the time of the murder who lived in and around West Hollywood and the Melrose District, and frequented Poinsettia Park. He would not divulge any information about a motive or any other evidence linking Gonzalez to the murder, citing the upcoming court proceedings. Funicello said Gonzalez fled the Los Angeles-area after the murder, likely to avoid being arrested.
Khaimov lived near the location where the murder occurred, and routinely went on evening walks to Plummer Park, along Romaine Street and Martel Avenue. He is believed to have been stabbed around 9 p.m., according to initial reports. Witnesses told police at the time that they saw Khaimov lying on the ground and moaning, but thought he was a transient who was intoxicated or suffering from mental illness. Police were finally notified by a citizen around 11 p.m., and Khaimov was taken to the hospital, where he died. Det. Wendy Berndt, who was then-head of homicide detectives for the Hollywood Division, said at the time that the delay in the reporting of the incident possibly contributed to his death. Khaimov had immigrated to the United States from Kazakhstan and had lived in the neighborhood with his family since 1995. He was described by investigators as a family man who had been married for 48 years, and had four children.
“It was an unusual crime. It’s one of those situations where it is hard to put your finger on it,” Funicello said. “Certainly, the victim’s age is most striking; someone of his age falling victim to a crime like this.”
Shiara-Davila Morales, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, confirmed that Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which includes the allegation that he used a knife. Lt. Robles, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said the suspect also has previously been charged with narcotics violations. Gonzalez remains in custody at the Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.