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Police: Man Sets Fire to Apartment, Killing Wife, Six Children

February 7, 1996

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) _ A man who apparently was trying to punish his wife for using drugs and cheating on him set fire to their apartment then fled as she and their six children perished in the flames, police said.

Jorjik ``George″ Avanesian, 40, surrendered at the offices of a Persian-American newspaper 6 1/2 hours after the Tuesday morning blaze.

He was booked for investigation of arson and murder, and was being held without bail. His arraignment was set for Thursday.

The motive involved ``a longstanding domestic dispute between he and his wife,″ said Lt. Ray Edey, adding that Avanesian had admitted ``that he did, in fact, set the fire.″

The blaze killed the six children, ages 4 to 17, and a 37-year-old woman, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. Avanesian’s wife, Turan, was 37 years old, but officials could not confirm the names or identities of the victims early today.

School officials and police tentatively identified the children as Roland, 4; Romic 6; Rodric, 8; Ranika, 10; Rita, 16 and Roobina, 17.

The Armenian family arrived in this large Armenian community from Iran last fall and spoke little English, neighbors and police said.

Homayoun Houshiar Nejad, publisher of the Asre Emrooz Persian Daily News, told the Los Angeles Times he had a tape recorder going as Avanesian confessed to setting the fire as punishment for his wife.

``He told me, `I want to tell you the horror story before I tell the police,‴ Nejad said.

``He said his wife was involved with drugs and had been with another man,″ Nejad said. ``He was very upset.″

Avanesian, an electrical engineer, said he only meant to injure his wife, and did not know the blaze killed his children as well, Nejad said. He was especially upset because his daughters begged him not to set the fire, Nejad said.

``They said, `Daddy no, don’t,‴ Nejad quoted Avanesian as saying.

Evidence of a flammable substance was found in the living room and kitchen of the first-floor, one-bedroom apartment, police said. The bodies of four children were found piled in a bathroom.

Smoke seeped through the 42-unit Harvard Terrace Apartments, which is outfitted with smoke detectors, but flames were confined to the family’s unit.

``You could hear the screams,″ said Carlos Flores, who lived next door and was awakened by the blast from the fire. ``It’s something I’m going to carry all my life.″

Avanesian was arrested for allegedly throwing a chair at his children on Oct. 27, and police warned him he would be charged if it happened again.

On Nov. 4, Avanesian’s teen-age daughter called authorities after Avanesian allegedly threatened her with a knife.

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