Monday, July 16 , 2018, 9:33 am | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Diane Dimond: With Piqui Andressian Case as Backdrop, a Call to Judges to Better Protect Children

There is way too much killing in America. Murders, accidental shootings, executions, deadly domestic abuse, despondent people who kill themselves, and then there is filicide. That’s when parents kill their own child. We would like to think this sort of heinous crime doesn’t happen, but it happens way too often.

A study published in the Forensic Science International journal combed through more than 30 years of FBI filicide cases and found parent-on-child murder happens in the United States about 500 times each year. More than two-thirds of the victims are age 6 or younger. It might surprise you to learn that mothers kill their children almost as frequently as fathers.

Experts believe that parents kill for one of five reasons: They think the child would be better off dead; psychosis convinces them that, say, their child is possessed by the devil; the child is seen as too much of a burden; death comes accidentally as an offshoot of physical abuse; or the child is killed as revenge against the other parent.

Can you imagine killing a child to get back at the person you once professed to love?

Last spring, Ana Estevez, an elementary school principal in suburban Los Angeles, handed over her 5-year-old son, Aramazd “Piqui” Andressian Jr., to his father just as a judge’s shared-custody order said she must.

Estevez repeatedly had told the judge that her ex-husband was an unemployed gambler and pill popper with a bad temper. Her pleas for sole custody fell on deaf ears. So, on one April day in 2017, the boy and his father went off to spend the day at Disneyland along with Piqui’s paternal grandmother and aunt.

As the father, Aramazd Andressian, drove the child to a court-ordered overnight stay, he must have been thinking through his diabolical plot. Within a matter of hours, the boy had been smothered to death with his own jacket in the back seat of his father’s BMW and buried in a shallow grave near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County.

Andressian later would explain that his plan was to kill the boy and then himself, and make it look as though it was his ex-wife’s work. He had even set the stage by telling people he had become afraid of Estevez following their contentious divorce and worried that she would kill him.

Estevez was frantic when her son was not returned the next day at the appointed time. She called police, and they found Andressian in a public park in South Pasadena, unconscious from taking prescription pills, his car doused in gasoline.

But where was Piqui? The father said he had no idea.

Police immediately suspected foul play and jailed Andressian for child endangerment. But he insisted he didn’t know where his son might be. Massive air and land searches for little Piqui turned up nothing. Andressian was set free for lack of evidence.

For months, Estevez agonized over the fate of her little boy. In the meantime, her ex-husband traveled to Las Vegas to see shows and hire prostitutes, living off the court-ordered child and spousal support payments that Estevez was forced to pay him.

Police trailing Andressian came to believe he was about to flee the country, and they finally arrested him on suspicion of murder in late June. Only then did Andressian ’fess up and lead authorities to a wilderness area in Santa Barbara County where he had dumped Piqui’s body.

I relate this story because too many filicide cases stem from tumultuous divorce cases, and you’d think the warning flags would be evident. But too many family-court judges dismiss protective parents’ complaints about their former spouse’s mental stability as posturing or sour grapes and routinely award joint custody.

According to the Center for Judicial Excellence, since 2008 more than 620 children have been murdered in the United States by a parent going through a contested divorce, separation, child-support case or custody case. More than 30 of those filicides occurred since little Piqui’s death last spring.

House Concurrent Resolution 72 is pending in Congress, which declares that because child safety should be the first priority, “State courts should improve adjudications of custody where family violence is alleged.”

Fairly wishy-washy language if you ask me. And realize that a resolution lacks the force of law. Congress could do better if it were to try, but it doesn’t.

So, we’re back to the judges who hear these cases. Ensuring the safety of children caught in the middle of warring parents is the judge’s responsibility. Yes, our family-court system often is overwhelmed. Judges don’t have the financial resources to check on the parental fitness of every parent with a suspected defect. But judges are awarded the bench for their insight and wisdom, not for their ability to fast-track the daily docket.

This is a call to all people who wear the black robe to take their life-and-death responsibility seriously — every day.

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >