ALHAMBRA (CBSLA.com) — A South Pasadena man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing his 5-year-old son and burying his body in Santa Barbara County was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cathryn Brougham sentenced Aramazd Andressian Sr. to 25 years to life in state prison for the killing of Aramazd "Piqui" Andressian Jr.
Andressian, 35, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in the murder of Andressian Jr., who was last seen alive at 1 a.m. April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives told reporters outside the court Wednesday that Aramazd Jr. was murdered within an hour of arriving in Santa Barbara County on April 21.
Aramadz drove his son to the Lake Cachuma area, then smothered the little boy with his own clothes, detectives said. He then sat in the car with the boy's body for eight hours before burying him. He went to a store, went shopping, and then returned to South Pasadena, where he intended to commit suicide.
Andressian had planned to speak during the sentencing hearing, but opted against it when Superior Court Judge Cathryn Brougham told the defendant his testimony would have to be given under oath and subject to cross-examination.
Andressian's attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, spoke on his behalf, saying, "I want to pass on his deep, deep regret and remorse as to what happened."
Rodriguez said there were "no words to justify what happened," while noting that his client quickly took responsibility for his actions after being arrested, pleading guilty early in the criminal case.
LATEST COVERAGE: The Case of Aramazd Andressian Jr.
The boy's mother, and Andressian's estranged wife, Ana Estevez, lashed out at the defendant in court, tearfully describing him as a "failure as a father, a man and a human being."
Speaking through tears, Estevez said, "On April 22, my life was thrown into a chaos that can only be described as cataclysmic devastation," referring to the day her son disappeared.
She said the day she learned her son's body had been found was "the most earth-shattering day of my life."
"Everything good in my life is missing since my son Piqui was taken from me," she said " ... I wish that I was taken instead of my son."
She added, "Piqui was and always will be the love of my life."
Andressian was initially arrested April 22, then released three days later due to lack of evidence. He was arrested again June 23 in Las Vegas, sporting dyed light-colored hair, and was returned to Los Angeles County June 30 after waiving extradition.
The boy's body was found the same day near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County, in an area that had been searched before.
Authorities said Andressian killed his son in the midst of a bitter divorce from Estevez.
During the Aug. 1 hearing when Andressian pleaded guilty, Estevez sat in the audience, carrying her son's ashes in an urn.
Authorities have not disclosed how the boy died.
"It was Mr. Andressian, who when he was brought back from Las Vegas, that gave the officers the information as to where his son was buried," Rodriguez said earlier this month.
"... This was not planned," Rodriguez said of the killing, telling reporters that Andressian is "beyond words in regretting having committed such an act."
Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said earlier this month that it's the prosecution's position that "the evidence clearly supports the fact that it was planned, that it was premeditated, it was deliberate, he had this in mind before he actually committed the murder."
But Hum told reporters the prosecution didn't feel there was sufficient evidence to support a special circumstance allegation against Andressian in his son's death, which could have led to a sentence of either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Andressian's attorney said one of the reasons his client -- who was on suicide watch at one point after his arrest -- pleaded guilty early in the case was to avoid having the District Attorney's Office file a special circumstance allegation against him.
Following his son's disappearance, Andressian was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena on April 22, and was unable to account for the child's whereabouts.
The elder Andressian told investigators he arrived at the park with his son and waited for the golf course to open, and admitted ingesting prescription medication that was not prescribed to him, according to Lt. Joe Mendoza, a detective with the LASD Homicide Bureau.
The father said he did not remember what happened to his child or any details that were useful in locating the boy, according to Mendoza, who said a prescription bottle was found inside his car, which was doused inside and outside with gasoline.
According to a L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services report obtained by the Southern California News Group, Andressian told investigators around the time of his arrest in Las Vegas that he had "harmed" the boy and "left him." He also told investigators where to find the boy's body, according to the report.
The boy's mother called authorities when the father failed to return him as planned.
Mendoza alleged that the elder Andressian planned the murder to get back at his estranged wife during a "tumultuous" divorce and then tried to commit suicide -- before heading to Las Vegas where he was preparing to flee the United States.
The search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties. Authorities focused on the Lake Cachuma area because Andressian Sr. told them he took the boy there the day after the Disneyland trip.
Funeral services for the boy were held July 18 in South Pasadena, with Estevez reading a letter she wrote to her lost son.
"My dearest Piqui, at no time did I ever imagine having to write such a letter, nor did the thought of life without you ever enter my mind," she said.
"Although I find myself living with an eternal shadow of devastation and emptiness because I don't have you here with me, I want the world to see what an amazing child you were, through my eyes, and to see you as the gift that God blessed me with for five years, two months and two days."
(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)
for more features.