By Elizabeth Marcellino
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A prosecutor called the killing of four people outside a Northridge boarding home a “perfect storm of violence” fueled by vengeance, drugs and alcohol.
However, the defense attorney for Ka Pasasouk used part of his opening statement to challenge the credibility of a key witness who was too “trashed” to know just what happened and said Pasasouk was too altered by drugs and alcohol to have been capable of first-degree murder.
Pasasouk is facing a possible death sentence for the Dec. 2, 2012, killings of Teofilo Navales, 49, of Castaic; Robert Calabria, 34, of Los Angeles; Amanda Ghossein, 24, of Monterey Park; and Jennifer Kim, 26, of Montebello.
“This case is about a perfect storm of violence and defendant Ka Pasasouk’s cold-blooded execution of four people,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told the seven-man, five-woman jury panel during his opening statement on Monday, Nov. 2.
The killings amounted to “a robbery gone wrong and the victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Akemon said.
The four victims were going to meet a friend who lived at the boarding house and then planned on heading to a casino to gamble, according to the deputy district attorney.
“Death was waiting for them,” Akemon said, telling jurors that the four “stepped into defendant Pasasouk’s trap … (which was) fueled by methamphetamine and alcohol.”
The prosecutor said Pasasouk was enraged by a breakup with his girlfriend. He also wanted revenge on Navales, who had intervened months earlier in a incident of domestic violence against Pasasouk’s girlfriend and beaten Pasasouk with a practice golf club, according to Akemon.
“They had a beef,” the girlfriend could be heard telling investigators on a tape played by the prosecutor.
Pasasouk thought Navales and his friend would be carrying lots of cash on their way to the casino and planned to rob them, according to Akemon.
When the two women showed up unexpectedly, Pasasouk’s plan fell apart. He shot Navales first and then shot each of the other three victims in the back of the head as they tried to run or take cover.
All four were killed instantly,” Akemon told jurors.
About 20 people were living in the boardinghouse or outlying buildings on the property and several were expected to testify as “earwitnesses,” the prosecutor said.
Pasasouk allegedly threatened to kill some of those housemates just minutes, or even seconds, before the deadly shooting, accusing them of hiding his girlfriend in a second-story suite in the house.
Defense attorney James Goldstein told jurors on Monday that some of the witnesses were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The girlfriend, who first ran from Pasasouk but later reconciled and fled with him to Las Vegas, will testify “she was pretty trashed that day,” the defense attorney told jurors.
Even so, he said, he expected many of them to provide one consistent piece of testimony.
“Once Mr. Pasasouk left that (second-story) room … within one minute … voices are heard … and shots are fired (downstairs),” implying that his client may not have been the one carrying the gun.
“Just because it’s his gun, it doesn’t mean he had possession of it at this moment,” Goldstein said.
An alleged accomplice of Pasassouk’s named Howard Alcantara was also carrying a gun, a .38-caliber revolver, according to prosecutors, but Akemon said a firearms expert would testify that all the bullet casings came from a single gun.
Goldstein said he didn’t believe the prosecution could make its case.
“Based on the evidence, I do not believe that the government will be able to prove that this was a robbery-homicide,” Goldstein told jurors.
Goldstein also said it would be hard for prosecutors to argue that Pasasouk “was not severely impaired,” raising doubts about his ability to form the intent necessary for first-degree murder.
Testimony is scheduled to continue tomorrow.
Last year, family members of the victims filed a lawsuit against District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Probation Chief Jerry Powers, alleging that they didn’t do enough to protect the public from Pasasouk once he was released from prison in January 2012.
Following a subsequent arrest for drug possession, Pasasouk was released from custody and put into a drug diversion program, despite a long criminal history, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney.
A judge dismissed the civil rights case in August, ruling that the government officials were immune from liability.