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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Iranian immigrant - Parricide - Arson
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: February 6, 1996
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1953
Victims profile: His wife Turan, 37, and their six children, ages 4 to 17
Method of murder: Fire (torching their apartment)
Location: Glendale, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on July 1, 1999. Suicide by hanging from a bedsheet in the prison infirmary on May 14, 2005

Jorjik Avanesian (7)

On February 6, 1996, this 40-year-old Iranian immigrant, killed his wife and six children by torching their Glendale, California apartment. Jorjik, after years of anger at his wife, set the lethal fire out of jealousy because "his wife was involved with drugs and had been with another man." The lethal familicide fled the one-room inferno with burns on his hands and headed to the offices of Asre Emrooz, a Farsi-newspaper in Encino, to tell his side of the story. Jorjik, unaware of having charred his wife and six children, ages 4 to 17, said that he burnt down their home to scare his wife. He was hoping to get a divorce and get her deported.

However, as news came that the whole family was dead, Houshiar Nejad, the publisher, called the cops. Later, his sister Maro Ovanesyan told authorities that he had been arrested in Iran for trying to stab his wife. He was also arrested in the United States for using excessive force disciplining one of his children. His wife complained to police that he threw a chair at one fo the children and brandished a knife. He served no jail time but received counseling.

Fire officials could not explain why the Avanesians where trapped in their one-bedroom apartment and could not escape the fire. Three bodies were found in the bathtub and another on the bathroom floor. The bodies of two small children and a teenager were found in the bedroom.


Jorjik Avanesian

Around May, 1995, the Avanesian family, from Iran, immigrated to the United States via Turkey.

Nine months later, on February 6, 1996, Jorjik Avanesian, 43, poured gasoline on a towel, lit it and tossed it into a room where his six children and wife slept.

His wife, Turan, 37, and their children, ages 4 to 17, died of smoke inhalation in their one-bedroom apartment.

"Another boring family massacre," I hear you moan. Please stick with this one.

The reasons are pretty amusing.

When arrested Jorjik Avanesian told investigators he killed his family because he believed his wife and two older daughters shamed the family by taking drugs that made them promiscuous. Pretty good drugs, I reckon.

During Jorjik's trial his lawyer took this further and said that Jorjik feared that his wife and daughters were tainted by drugs and were making pornographic movies. Their was no proof whatsoever that this was the case. So maybe it was Jorjik that was using drugs?

Also during his trial the prosecution showed videotape in which Avanesian told police he waited for a sign from God telling him not to set the fire, but the sign never came. "I wanted us all to die," Avanesian told police on the tape.

On Thursday, July 1, 1999, jurors took only 75 minutes to find Jorjik Avanesian guilty on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson.

Unfortunately I have been unable to find out what the penalty was in this case, although I am quite certain that a jury that would find someone guilty this quickly would rule in favour of the death penalty.

Following his guilty verdict Jorjik's only request was to see the coroners photos of his dead family.

The Wacky World of Murder


Jorjik Avanesian

June 8, 1999

The trial of Jorjik Avanesian, a 43-year-old Armenian immigrant accused of killing his wife and six children by setting the family apartment ablaze, is set to begin in Los Angeles.

Defense lawyers contend that Jorjik ill. Prosecutors say he is a mass murderer and want the death penalty. Avanesian was arrested Feb. 6, 1996, just hours after the bodies of his family were found in their smoldering apartment in suburban Glendale.


Jorjik Avanesian

June 30, 1999

Family annihilator Jorjik Avanesian, 43, was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder for setting a fire that killed his wife and his six children. Angry that his wife would not grant him a divorce, the lethal arsonist poured gasoline on a towel, lit it and tossed it into a room where his children ages 4 to 17, and 37-year-old wife slept. Defense lawyers argued their client was "delusional" and feared his family was tainted by drugs. The family of immigrants from Iran moved to Glendale about nine months before the fire.


Mass killer found dead

Prison hanging likely suicide

By Charles F. Bostwick - Los Angeles Daily News, CA

June 15, 2005

LANCASTER -- A prison inmate convicted of murdering his wife and six children nine years ago in Glendale's worst mass murder was found dead Tuesday, hanging from a bedsheet in the prison infirmary, officials said.

The 49-year-old inmate, an Iranian refugee serving a life sentence without possibility of parole, had been in state prisons since his 2000 conviction and had been at the Lancaster prison since April, officials said.

"Preliminary reports have suggested that the inmate committed suicide," California State Prison-Los Angeles County spokesman Lt.

Ken Lewis said in a written statement. "As a result, an investigation has been initiated by prison officials to determine events leading up to the death."

Prison officials did not release the man's name because they could not locate his next of kin to inform them of his death.

But coroner's officials confirmed he was Jorjik Avanesian, who was convicted of dousing his family's one-bedroom apartment in Glendale with gasoline and setting it on fire in 1996, four months after the Avanesians came to America as religious refugees.

Psychiatrists testified that Avanesian was delusional, but he denied he was insane. His trial was delayed for more than two years while he was treated in a state mental hospital.

Prosecutors said bystanders heard his family screaming from inside the burning apartment, but Avanesian refused to unlock the apartment-complex gate so they could be rescued. Three bodies were found in the bedroom and four in the bathroom.

Avanesian later told police that he killed his family because he believed his wife and oldest daughter were involved in pornography.

Three months before the fire, he brandished a knife at his 17-year-old daughter, and he slapped and threw a stool at his 8-year-old son. He was told to get counseling at an Armenian charity but never showed up.

The Pasadena Superior Court jury that convicted Avanesian deadlocked on whether to recommend the death penalty, so prosecutors settled on a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials said a full autopsy will be conducted, which is the standard policy for deaths that occur in jails or prisons.

A correctional officer found the inmate hanging from a sheet attached to a ceiling air vent in the prison's infirmary about 11:10 p.m.

Monday, officials said. Prison medical staff and paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him, but could not revive him.

He had been in the prison infirmary for what prison officials characterized only as medical reasons.



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