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The Last Hours: 17-Year-Old Girl Kidnapped and Murdered for Nothing

(Family Photo via Los Angeles Times)
Family photo of Lily Burk via the LA Times.

LOS ANGELES (AP) The last hours of Lily Burk's life were spent trying to get money for a kidnapper who finally beat the 17-year-old to death and left her body in her car in a downtown parking lot, police said Monday.

Burk was found dead Saturday in her black Volvo. A 50-year-old parolee, Charlie Samuel, was booked Sunday for investigation of murder after fingerprints in the car linked him to the killing, Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz said at a news conference.

Samuel was arrested a half-hour after the killing — and before Burk's body was discovered — for an unrelated drug crime.

He got a pass to temporarily leave a drug rehabilitation center just hours before he allegedly abducted Burk, Department of Corrections spokesman Seth Unger told the Los Angeles Times.

The suspect had been staying at a residential treatment facility since June as part of his parole after serving prison time for petty theft, Unger said. Samuel did not return to the home Friday evening as scheduled.

Samuel was arrested April 23 in North Hollywood on a parole violation, according to police records.

Samuel remained jailed Monday. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

The teenager crossed paths with "one of these monsters that unfortunately we have living amongst us," Diaz said.

Burk, who was about to begin her senior year at Oakwood School in North Hollywood, left her Los Feliz-area home Friday afternoon on an errand to the downtown Southwestern University School of Law, according to police and neighbors.

She went to pick up exams for her mother, Deborah Drooz, 54, who is an attorney and an adjunct professor at the school. About 15 minutes after she arrived at the school, Burk was approached by a man and abducted, Diaz said.

The teen and her kidnapper then drove to an automatic teller machine where she tried several times to get money, according to a police statement. The attempts failed because her credit card was not set up to be used as an ATM card.

Over the next hour, Burk called both of her parents to ask how to use the card and was told by her father that it could not be used at an ATM, police said.

"She didn't tell them that she was in distress," Diaz said.

She said she needed money to buy shoes and was told to come home, her parents told the Los Angeles Times.

"Burk then made arrangements with her father to go to their home to pick up an unspecified amount of money," the police statement said. "She never made it home."

About two hours after Burk was kidnapped, Samuel got out of the Volvo and left it in a downtown parking lot, with Burk's body in the passenger seat, Diaz said. Burk suffered head injuries, apparently from striking the passenger side of the windshield, and there were signs of a struggle, according to police.

Less than a half-hour later, Samuel was seen drinking beer on a Skid Row street and arrested for investigation of possessing narcotics paraphernalia because he allegedly had a crack cocaine pipe, Diaz said. He was still jailed when Burk's body was found.

VIDEO COURTESY OF CBS AFFILIATE CBS 2 LOS ANGELES

"We are grateful that the police apprehended someone so quickly and that this man is off the streets," said a statement issued Monday to KTLA-TV from her mother and her father, Los Angeles Times freelance music writer Gregory Burk.

"The thing we want people to know about Lily is that she was a beautiful person and that she was looking forward to her life. She was funny, warm, kind and empathetic. She was deeply and widely loved," the parents said in an earlier statement.

Samuel, originally from San Bernardino County, was in Los Angeles to complete a program he was ordered to take as a parole condition for previous crimes, police said.

"We believe he's not homeless, he has a place to live," police spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera said.

She did not know where he lived, however.

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