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Teen Birthday Fight Turns Deadly

July 30, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It was a surprise ``Sweet 16″ party thrown at a million-dollar Encino home, complete with booze and marijuana. More than 100 teen-agers showed up.

There apparently was a shortage of adults present. Still, for most of the night, there wasn’t any trouble in this affluent neighborhood about 12 miles northwest of downtown. Then, about midnight, the screaming started.

Abtin Tangestanifar, 17, a 6-foot-tall basketball player, died after being stabbed 11 times. Six teen-age boys are charged with his murder. This week, two of the defendants, who pleaded innocent Thursday, were ordered to stand trial as adults.

The remaining four, who have not been identified because of their ages, await juvenile preliminary hearings scheduled for Aug. 13.

Michael Aintablian and Sayat Oruncakciel will be tried for first-degree murder. Both turned 18 in Juvenile Hall, where they’ve been held since their arrest for the May 31 killing. Neither has a previous criminal record.

Aintablian is represented by former O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro. Oruncakciel’s lawyer is Death Row Records counsel David Kenner.

Both say their clients were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were not part of any crime. Two witnesses who initially said the boys were part of the disturbance later said they were mistaken, according to Shapiro and Kenner.

Details of the killing are sketchy, because of conflicting witness reports and confidentiality laws governing juvenile proceedings. But in Tuesday’s hearing before Juvenile Court Judge Morton Rochman, and in interviews with defense attorneys, a few details emerged.

The guests were mostly friends of the hostess, who attends a private Armenian high school. Aintablian and Oruncakciel are the children of immigrants who prospered here and are part of the Los Angeles County’s tight-knit Armenian community.

The party was trouble-free until a drunken teen-ager identified as a friend of the victim started kicking over furniture after a soured marijuana deal, Kenner said. One of the unnamed juvenile defendants was standing outside with the teen-age hostess.

The boy threatened to go after the troublemaker. The hostess said ``not in my house,″ according to Kenner. So the boy waited a few minutes.

The party began to break up. People started walking to their cars, Kenner said. Tangestanifar came outside with his inebriated friend. Words were exchanged, yelling started, and then pushing and hitting. In a matter of minutes, Tangestanifar was killed.

No one who has spoken publicly of the incident is sure how it happened.

``I don’t know how the victim ended up dead,″ Kenner said. ``There isn’t any indication that anyone wanted to fight with him.″

Probation officer Judith Bloch wept when she testified Tuesday. ``The circumstances are a violent, unprovoked attack that resulted in the loss of a life,″ she said.

The judge also appeared moved.

``This young man who died presented no physical threat to anyone,″ Rochman said. ``There was no reason for him to be butchered to death in the streets of Encino.″

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