Last week, authorities announced publicly for the first time that a suspect in the 2008 murder of an elderly man in the Melrose District has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in state prison.
The announcement was made on May 9 during a meeting held by the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, which was formed by residents after 70-year-old Katan Khaimov was stabbed to death while out for an evening walk on March 9, 2008. The defendant, Angel Jesus Gonzalez, was convicted last December of voluntary manslaughter. Police did not make a public announcement at the time because the family had requested that the matter be kept confidential, according to LAPD Det. Paul Funicello, one of the lead investigators in the case. Gonzalez reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that stipulated that he would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in lieu of a trial. Funicello said investigators were satisfied with the agreement, because it is believed the suspect and the victim met during a coincidental encounter, and there was no premeditation in the case.
“With the totality of the evidence, it seemed to be appropriate,” Funicello said. “There wasn’t a lot of evidence. There were some questions about whether it was the suspect’s intention to kill the victim, even though he pulled out a knife and stabbed him. It wasn’t a slashing; the suspect stabbed the victim one time. The family was also consulted.”
Funicello said Gonzalez was a transient living in and around Poinsettia Park at the time of the murder. Khaimov was walking in the 6400 block of Romaine Street when he was stabbed. The detective said the suspect and victim had become involved in an argument prior to the stabbing, but would not divulge any details about what prompted the argument. The suspect fled, and remained at large until being arrested in June 2011 in Phoenix, where he was staying with family members. Funicello said tips from the public led police to Gonzalez.
The murder caused major concern in the Melrose District when it occurred in 2008. Residents formed the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, and police increased patrols to bolster public safety. An immigrant from Kazakhstan, Khaimov lived with his family in the neighborhood since 1995. He routinely took evening walks through the community.
Funicello said police initially thought robbery was the motive, but later determined the stabbing likely occurred as a result of the argument. Khaimov is believed to have been stabbed around 9 p.m. Witnesses reported seeing him lying on the ground and moaning, but did not report it to police because they thought he was a transient who was intoxicated or was suffering from mental illness. Police were called around 11 p.m., and Khaimov was transported to the hospital, where he died. Investigators said at the time that the victim’s life may have been saved if he had received medical treatment more quickly.
Peter Nichols, co-founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, said he thought it was important to publicly announce the conviction because the murder caused so much fear and concern among residents.
“It is meaningful to the community. It’s to bring closure to the case,” he said. “We put up flyers. We all worked on this. There were suspicions that this would never be concluded. It paralyzed the community.”
Nichols added that he had been in contact with Khaimov’s family about making the announcement, and they gave their consent. He said since the murder occurred, residents have formed strong relationships with police department officials, particularly Capt. Eric Davis and senior lead officer Art Gallegos, both of the LAPD’s Wilshire Division. The relationships have made the community safer, Nichols said.
“While we still have crime, we have not had any violent felonies as of late,” he said. “Are we better off today than we were five years ago? Without a doubt.”
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