Lily Burke, 17
As this entry posts I'm at the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Justice Center, Department 102, Judge Wesley's courtroom covering the preliminary hearing in the case against Charlie Samuel. The hearing is expected to continue next Monday.
Seventeen year-old Lily Burk's life tragically ended on Friday, July 24th, 2009 when she crossed paths with Charlie Samuel, a 50 year old transient with a violent criminal past who was recently released from prison after serving time for petty theft. That afternoon, Lily was at the Wilshire Boulevard Southwestern University School of Law on an errand for her mother, Professor Deborah Drooz, who worked there.
Described as a funny, warm and empathetic girl, she was an aspiring writer like her journalist father Gregory Burk. A merit scholar, Lily regularly carried two heavily laden book bags to school and was set to star that week in a school production of The Boston Marriage a play by David Mamet. She was also looking forward to her senior year at Oakwood School in North Hollywood.
Lily left her Los Felitz home around 2:30 pm. About an hour after picking up exam papers for her mother, Lily made cell phone calls to both her parents asking how to get cash out of an ATM using her credit card. ATM video recovered showed Samuel by Burk's side as she repeatedly tried to withdrawal cash. Her parents told police she "seemed rushed but not frightened." Lily's explanation to her parents was she needed the money to buy shoes. Her parents told her to come home. Sadly, the credit card was not set up to make cash withdrawals.
When Lily didn't return home by 5:00pm, her parents contacted police, who initially appeared to treat the case as missing person/runaway case. 6:00 am the following morning, her badly beaten body was found inside her black Volvo near 5th and Alameda Streets near downtown Los Angeles. Her neck had been slashed.
Not long after Lily was reported missing by her parents, Charlie Samuel was arrested and detained on an unrelated charge of suspicion of drug possession and drug paraphernalia. He had been given permission earlier that day to leave drug treatment facility located near the law school. While in police custody, a cell phone belonging to Burk and the key to her car were found on Samuel as well as blood stains on his clothing. After Samuel's fingerprints were found in Lily's car, he was charged with murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Sadly, from what I've been able to gather from news reports, it appears that back in 2006, Samuel broke into a Van Nuys home. When he was confronted by the owner Samuel attacked him, grabbed a phone, keys and fled. Unfortunately, several clerical errors in the accurate reporting Samuel's complete rap sheet meant Los Angeles County prosecutors were not informed of all of his prior convictions. At that time, Samuel would have fallen under the three strikes law, meaning he could have received 25 years-to-life for his third strike.
DDA Alan Jackson, assistant head of LA County's Major Crimes Division who successfully convicted Phil Spector of second degree murder last year, will be prosecuting the case. I don't know at this time if there will be a second chair. Although I'm still recovering from a deep cough and lingering sinus infection, (I will have to step out of the courtroom if I start coughing) I hope to cover this case once it reaches a trial date.
There are several other cases I have my eye on that I would like to cover and it will just depend on how quickly I can recover as well as other personal commitments.
Lily encountered suspect near law school
Suspect had history of violent crimes
Lily Burk's Neck Slashed
Friends and Family mourn Lily Burk
Clerical errors and luck keep suspect on the streets
RIP Lily Burk Facebook Page
Lily's Law Flaw
James Elroy: Remembering Lily Burk