April 22, 2017 is likely a day South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller will never forget.
“When I was notified that there was a father who was passed out in Arroyo Seco Park and a young boy was missing, something just didn’t feel right about it,” said Miller, looking back on that April morning when he was called to the scene to help in a major investigation.
Miller was at the park within a hour after hearing about the incident and said that “it was gut-wrenching that no one knew where the boy was and the father wasn’t being cooperative,” reflecting on the case of the disappearance of Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose body was found last month near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County. The boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, has been taken into custody, accused of murdering his son.
On the day the youth went missing, about 120 law enforcement officials scoured Arroyo Seco Park with the aid of police helicopters and canines. “I think that everyone felt the father knew something about it, but he didn’t give anything up,” recalled Miller. “He didn’t give us any information. He was very incooporative.”
The boy’s father told officials someone attacked him and took the 5-year-old. Miller said the father’s story was filled with inconsistencies. Authorities said the inside of the car Andressian Sr. was driving was found saturated with gasoline.
The father was taken into custody but eventually released when police said they had a lack of evidence. However, as the search for the boy continued and clues turned up during the investigation, the suspect was booked at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department with a bail of $10 million dollars. He was flown to Los Angeles after an arraignment hearing and charged with murder.
“I got asked about the case every single day, whether I was on duty or off duty,” said Miller. “Where’s the boy, where’s Aramazd Andressian Jr.? Surprisingly, I got asked by police officers. Everywhere I went, I was asked about it. Of course, I couldn’t give any information, because it was being handled by the Sheriff’s Department.”
Looking back, Miller said he personalized the case as a parent. “It really tore me up. When I got the notification they found the boy, I was home, late at night, and I remember taking the notes and being so sad.” The call came from a high-level chief at the Sheriff’s Department. He credited Sheriff’s officials for keeping him and the South Pasadena Police Department informed of the latest details surrounding the case. While the Sheriff’s Department took over the case, Miller said “they never made us feel like we were insignificant. They just had more resources than we did. Yet, quite frankly, we did a lot of work on the front end that made their job a lot easier.”
During a briefing with Sheriff’s officials on April 22, the day after the boy went missing, Miller said, “They were really impressed with all the work we had already done. Our officers did a really good job.” Taking calls regarding the case at home had an effect on his wife, Linda, Miller said, “It was eating her up. We’d be out for dinner and someone would ask about it. Personally, it was always on my mind – the whole case. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do but to offer support for the mother and family.” While the case was in the hands of the Sheriff’s Department, Miller said it was the efforts of the SPPD that resulted in a second search of Lake Cachuma, which included a team of 260 officials looking for the boy. Three chiefs of police and a commander from the Los Angeles Police Department came in on his day off to support the search.
Personnel from the governor’s office joined the Ventura, Sierra Madre and Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams. Information about the case that day, June 10, was delivered to authorities as they were inside the gymnasium at St. Inez High School.
“Imagine every seat filled at South Pasadena High’s gym bleachers, then people standing on the sides,” said Miller, talking about the amount of people searching for the boy. “What really struck me were all the different uniforms and disciplines that were there.”
A third visit to the area a few weeks later led to the discovery of the boy’s body. The emotions of the case drained many involved in the search who had been there from the start.
“Knowing what the sheriffs were doing, I knew we were doing everything we could to locate him. That was frustrating, because the sheriffs couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t say anything, but I knew things were getting done. I was very pleased with that, with how they systematically went about their investigation, leaving no stone unturned.” Miller would like it known that “homicide investigators are special people,” noting that he’s met many over the years. “They’re methodical, calm, caring and, quite frankly, they have to be the voice of the victim. They’re just professional and compassionate. They had to keep the mom informed, but at the same time part of the information going out was the boy may not be found alive. How do you balance that out?”
Miller reminds himself all the time that police officers are in the people business. “The mother and the boy were not just another statistic,” Miller said. “The boy was a human being and I internalize it by wondering if it was somebody really close to me. How would I feel? I know this case has touched a whole lot of people. I just know it. I just can’t imagine from day one how the mother felt. First of all, she felt like the father was hiding her son. Why wasn’t he giving information? She was angry, but very cooperative. She always called the detectives, giving information and asking, ‘Have you tried this?’ She never gave up. I can’t imagine how horrible she must feel.”
Little has changed since April 22 when Miller took that early morning call. “I think about the boy and his family every single day, every waking moment. It’s sad, it’s tragic and we all wish it never would have happened.”