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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 17, 2001
Date of birth: 1984
Victim profile: Deanna Maran, 15
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Westwood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Killed herself the next day by taking a large dose of antidepressant tablets

November 17, 2001: Santa Monica CA, Katrina Sarkissian, fatally stabbed Deanna Maran, a 15-year-old girl, in the heart at a crowded Westside party. The next day, Sarkissian, collapsed while being questioned at a West Los Angeles police station and died at UCLA Medical Center. An autopsy revealed that she had taken an overdose of antidepressant tablets.


Katrina Sarkissian

On November 17, 2001 fifteen-year-old Deanna Maran was killed senselessly, stabbed to the heart. Her death devastated family and friends alike. She was a popular Santa Monica High School student, a volleyball, water polo, and track star.

Deanna had taken the bus with a friend to a party in nearby West Los Angeles. Like many teen parties, the event lacked adult supervision. What began as a small get-together blossomed into a 40-person house party. "There was drinking, and a girl was running in the backyard, and Deanna told her to stop running," party-goer J.C. Flores recalled. "Deanna was trying to keep everything calm and prevent damage to the house" (Los Angeles Times, 11/21/01). "Deanna always stood up for what was right," recalled friend Julian Mehra (Los Angeles Times, 11/24/01). "So none of her friends batted an eye when Maran confronted a 15-year-old Brentwood girl who apparently had broken two backyard flower pots and damaged a stairway railing at" (Ibid).

The Brentwood girl called her older sister to complain about being chided. It was 10:30 p.m. when 17-year-old Katrina Sarkissian arrived at the party. A fight ensued. Zoe Blake recalls Deanna pleading for Sarkissian to stop hitting her while she was pinned to the ground. "She said, 'Please just listen to my side of the story!' several times."

Witnesses remember razzing and egging-on by onlookers. Grieving friends are now asking themselves why someone didn't intervene to stop the fight" (Ibid). Deanna was pummeled, then stabbed. "Authorities wondered why other young party-goers loaded the bleeding Maran into a car and drove her to Santa Monica Hospital instead of dialing 911 and calling the scene" (Los Angeles Times, 11/21/01).

Deanna was pronounced dead at the hospital. During police questioning the next day, Katrina lost consciousness. She died later of an alleged drug overdose.


Suit Settled in Slaying at Party

Victim's parents reach a deal with the alleged killer's mother. Case against father is voided.

By Martha Groves - Los Angeles Times

November 13, 2003

The mother of a 17-year-old girl who police say killed a Santa Monica High School sophomore at a party two years ago has settled a lawsuit by the victim's parents rather than face a jury trial.

Angelique Bernstein's insurance company, Allstate, will pay $300,000 to Harriet and Ilja Maran, the parents of Deanna Maran. The 15-year-old athlete was fatally stabbed at an unsupervised Westwood party in November 2001.

The Marans sued Bernstein and her ex-husband, Sarkis Sarkissian, in Santa Monica Superior Court in May 2002, alleging that the parents should have known that their daughter Katrina Sarkissian was emotionally unstable and dangerous.

The day after the party, Katrina took an overdose of a prescription antidepressant, collapsed during LAPD questioning and was pronounced dead that afternoon.

Anthony Michael Glassman, an attorney for the Marans, said they plan to continue their effort to bring Sarkis Sarkissian to trial. Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz threw out the suit against him last week, saying he had no opportunity to control his daughter's behavior the evening of Nov. 17, 2001, when Deanna Maran was attacked in front of dozens of guests.

Glassman said he plans to appeal the dismissal on grounds that Sarkissian was just as responsible as his ex-wife.

The judge also ruled that Bernstein should stand trial before a jury beginning Dec. 15, prompting Bernstein to settle rather than face "a trial in front of a jury or an outrageous demand," said Paul V. Ash, her attorney. Allstate will pay the settlement under Bernstein's homeowners policy.

Lefkowitz's ruling portrays Katrina as a troubled adolescent who abused drugs and alcohol. Beginning in eighth grade, the judge wrote, the girl began missing classes and having "confrontational episodes" with other students.

Court papers say Katrina had also had physical altercations with her mother.

In January 1999, Katrina's parents admitted her to a therapeutic residential school in Utah. She tried to run away.

Despite school officials' recommendation that she stay at least nine months, her parents took her home on a pass that June and never returned.


Taking Lessons From the Sadness

Friends say they have learned from the death of 15-year-old Deanna Maran, killed during fight at a party

By Martha Groves - Los Angeles Times

April 23, 2002

Perhaps Ryan Natale, all of 15, best captures how friends and family struggle to make sense of the murder of Deanna Maran.

"I just want to take it as a learning experience," said Natale, a Santa Monica High School classmate who held Maran in his arms after she was stabbed by a 17-year-old girl at a crowded Westside party. How tragic, he said, that "God had to take someone so great to teach us all a lesson."


Concord High--A story in Tuesday's California section implied that Katrina Sarkissian, who fatally stabbed a 15-year-old girl last fall, was once a full-time student at Concord High School in Santa Monica. Sarkissian, 17, took two summer courses at Concord in 1999 but was never a regular student. Such students must pass an interview for admittance and their academic records are scrutinized, according to Susan Packer Davis, Concord's administrator.

Although Maran's was one violent teen death among the many that occur each year in California, her killing has generated a remarkable amount of controversy and national media attention. First, there was the girl-versus-girl aspect. Moreover, the killing occurred on a tree-lined street in an upscale neighborhood. Maran was known by those closest to her as LaLa, and she was famous for her prodigious appetite. So it was fitting that her relatives, friends and teachers gathered last week to celebrate her life with a feast--chow mein, steamed salmon with dill, satay, strawberries dipped in chocolate. It would have been her 16th birthday.

Dozens of admirers young and old crowded into the Maran family's Ocean Park home to revel in memories of the brainy, fun-loving sophomore. The partygoers reminisced over scrapbooks and swapped tales about Maran's dogged determination, wacky wit and penchant for treating friends' refrigerators as her own.

A strapping 5-foot-6, 158-pound water polo and volleyball player, Maran was stabbed in the heart Nov. 17. The next day, Katrina Sarkissian, her killer, collapsed while being questioned at a West Los Angeles police station and died at UCLA Medical Center. An autopsy revealed that she had taken an overdose of antidepressant tablets.

Friends of Maran who went to the Saturday night party last November say the stabbing was so swift and unexpected that they had no chance to intervene. Others are tortured by thoughts that they could have stopped a tragedy, if only they had been there.

Questions--the need to take lessons from the tragedy--abound:

How did so many unchaperoned kids--from Santa Monica High as well as from some of the area's best private schools--gravitate to the party that night? Why did some partygoers urge the girls on, cheering, "Fight! Fight!"? Why didn't anyone try to stop it? Where were the adults?

"Everyone's looking for a greater meaning in this," said Harland W. Braun, an attorney representing a girl who some witnesses say had a role in the incident but has not been charged. "If it had happened in South-Central Los Angeles, nobody would be looking for a greater meaning."

The fallout from the party continues. This month, Sarkissian's younger half-sister, whose scuffle with Maran triggered the fight, was charged with one count of battery and one count of making a criminal threat. The battery charge relates to an allegation that she kicked Maran, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The other charge involves a threat made on the Internet months after the party. The girl, who is 15, is to be arraigned Friday. As for Katrina Sarkissian, Deb Hof, a dean at a private school in Palo Alto, recalls a different girl from the one who has been vilified but whose death, she said, is also tragic.

"She was bright; she was a wonderful kid who had a lot going on in her life," said Hof, who was a dean at Harvard-Westlake, where Sarkissian attended seventh and eighth grades. "I know she was struggling and unhappy, [but] there was a lot to like about her."

Sarkissian, Hof recalled, "looked like a woman at 13 [and] got constant attention from every male on the planet." Her father and mother were divorced, and her mother, Angelique, married ophthalmologist Matthew Bernstein, with whom she had another daughter. The Bernsteins later divorced as well.

In middle school, Sarkissian was a textbook case of a girl who needed adults to guide her and set boundaries, Hof said.

"Katrina was trying to figure out where she fit in," she said.

Hof recalled that Sarkissian struggled during ninth grade at Harvard-Westlake, one of the region's most rigorous private schools. "I think her academic light was extinguished by worries about boys, friends and her universe," Hof said.

"Katrina just wasn't a kid to back down, and then she would be in tears because nobody liked her," Hof said. She withdrew from the school in early 1999 (although her death certificate inexplicably lists her "profession" as student and her "employer" as Harvard-Westlake) to seek a "smaller, more structured school."

At some point, according to her stepfather, Sarkissian landed at Concord High School in Santa Monica. She left that private school as well and, he said, was home-schooled for the last eight months of her life.

Bernstein's chief concern now, he said, is his 15-year-old daughter. She has received 20 death threats, he said, some of which have come to his office. Rattled by the calls, one of his employees quit.

Of Maran, he said: "She might have been a great kid, but that night she acted very unwisely and aggressively. As a result, Katrina's dead and [my daughter] is still not out of the woods."

Here is Natale's account--corroborated by other witnesses--of the incident:

Sarkissian's half-sister was horsing around, chasing one of Natale's friends around the backyard. They repeatedly upset a flower pot.

Maran, known for being fearless, grabbed the girl by the shoulders, telling her to stop. "I don't recall the exact words," Natale said, "but she said something like, 'Show respect for someone else's house.'" The other girl told Maran not to touch her; they pushed each other and then began fighting.

The other girl was thrown off a short ledge and landed in a flower bed, still holding Maran's hair. Some boys broke up the tussle. Maran began shouting "Samo! Samo!"--a nickname for Santa Monica High. It was clear that the other girl, not a Santa Monica High student, was humiliated. "She was dirty but not hurt. Her pride was hurt," Natale said.

Then, Natale said, he overheard the girl on her cell phone: "Katrina, you've got to get here right now. Some bitch just pushed me down."

About an hour later, as Maran was trying to find a ride home, Natale said, Sarkissian pulled up in a white sport utility vehicle and asked, "Who pushed my sister?" Maran raised her hand.

The girls argued for about five minutes and then, Natale recalled, Sarkissian rushed Maran, and the two pushed each other. One or two punches were thrown.

Sarkissian quickly ran away, and Maran stumbled backward. Another girl, he said, came in and grabbed Maran, pushing her to the ground and holding her down.

After a few seconds, that girl backed off. Sarkissian's half-sister came up and kicked Maran's midsection. By that time, Natale said, some kids were yelling "Fight! Fight! Hit her already."

"No one even knew what happened," he said. "Not a single witness saw a blade at any time."

Indeed, no weapon was ever recovered. Authorities concluded that the weapon was a "punch knife," in which the blade pops out between the user's fingers.

Maran, wearing a dark blue sweatshirt and jeans, got up, stumbled and leaned against a tree, staring off into space. Natale, who at the time had a cast on his right wrist, tried to pick her up but "she was completely lifeless." He then saw that his cast "was completely stained with blood."

At that moment, he said, everybody panicked. When another student pulled up in his car to join the party, several kids piled Maran into the back seat. They sped off for Santa Monica Hospital, apparently unaware that UCLA Medical Center was blocks away.

Natale heard later that one boy in the car had his hand on Maran's chest and felt her heart stop beating. She was declared dead just after midnight.

What, her friends have wondered since, can be learned from such a tragedy?

James Yoo, 15, who attended the party, said it taught him to be less eager to lash out at people who annoy him. "I'm just more cautious about fights," he said. "I just let things go."

For Lee Livingston, whose son Tim rode the bus with Maran to the party and then watched as she was mortally wounded, it has reminded him that parents need to set and enforce rules. But parenting teenagers, he said, involves leaps of faith.

"You pray to God they're telling you the truth," he said. "We have reiterated the rules. We keep bringing it up and telling him, 'You've got to let us know where you are.'"

If this has been a grim lesson in growing up, Maran's death has also shown teenagers that it's possible to simultaneously mourn and celebrate a life. Witness the empty chair in the alto section of the Samohi Chorale.

Maran's voice is no longer raised in song, but her picture hangs on the choral room bulletin board. In March, two choirs dedicated their performance of the Mozart Requiem to her. She had struggled with some of the passages, said choral director Christopher Rhodes, but she was "always very much the cheerleader, saying 'Don't give up.'"

At the birthday gathering, partygoers admired the shrine that Maran's mother, Harriet, maintains in front of the house, with its crown of large plastic sunflowers. Not long ago, that shrine drew a visitor, Julie Freitas, who three years ago also lost a child when her son was murdered.

She has since become a friend, visiting once a week with muffins and conversation, seeking to help the Marans along a "long and pretty unbearable journey of grief."

The party at the Maran home helped too. It was good, somehow, to see so many of Deanna's friends--hugging, laughing and, of course, weeping.


Killer Overdosed, Coroner Says

Autopsy: Authorities say Katrina Sarkissian took a large amount of antidepressant pills after stabbing a girl to death at a Westside party

By Martha Groves - Los Angeles Times

February 2, 2002

Katrina Sarkissian, who stabbed a popular 15-year-old girl to death at a Westside party in November, killed herself the next day by taking a large dose of antidepressant tablets, the Los Angeles coroner's office has concluded.

The ruling, released Friday, settles only one of many questions lingering in the aftermath of an unchaperoned Saturday night teen party that went wildly awry.

Police say many of the circumstances are not in dispute: About 30 teenagers gathered Nov. 17 at a home in an upscale Westside neighborhood. Deanna Maran, a sophomore honors student who was on Santa Monica High School's volleyball, water polo and track teams, attempted to stop Sarkissian's younger half-sister from damaging items in the backyard.

The chastised girl called Sarkissian to complain. When Sarkissian, 17, arrived about 10:30 p.m., another girl pinned Maran to the ground at the front of the Thayer Avenue house.

Authorities said Sarkissian pummeled Maran and then stabbed her, possibly with a T-shaped "punch" knife in which the blade pops out between the user's fingers. No weapon was ever recovered.

According to other party-goers, Maran pleaded for Sarkissian to stop hitting her, to no avail. Several teenagers loaded the bleeding Maran into a car and drove her to Santa Monica Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The next afternoon, Sarkissian, who sported a tattoo reading "Princess" on her lower back, was called in for questioning by Los Angeles police. But she collapsed and stopped breathing. She died 3 1/2 hours later at UCLA Medical Center.

Some teens speculated that she had swallowed some sleeping pills to calm her nerves before being questioned by police. But the autopsy report leaves no doubt that Sarkissian was intent on suicide. According to a test of a blood sample taken at the hospital, she had an extraordinarily high concentration of nortriptyline and died of "acute nortriptyline intoxication." The coroner's office concluded that she might have taken as many as 43 75-mg pills.

Nortriptyline is often prescribed to treat depression under the brand names Pamelor and Aventyl.

The coroner's office also released its autopsy report on Maran, confirming that she died of a stab wound. The report showed that she had consumed some alcohol that night.

Still to be determined is whether Sarkissian's 15-year-old half-sister or anyone else will face charges.

"We're trying to figure out what can we prove and what should we do," said Alex Karkanen, a deputy district attorney in the Inglewood Juvenile Office, which is investigating. "No matter what we do, someone's going to go ballistic."

Noting that this case is "right up there on the top of the difficulty scale," he said that the office is taking its time.

Police Det. Ron Phillips, supervisor of the homicide unit in West Los Angeles, said investigators are also looking into the possibility that another teenage girl played a part.

Family members of those involved said they remain perplexed by the event.

Guilt and remorse continue to plague many of the students who stood by, as well as those directly involved.

"All I care about now is my daughter's sanity," said Matthew Bernstein, the father of Katrina's half-sister.


The victim

Deanna Maran, 15.



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