Family members of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy whose remains were found Friday at a lake in Santa Barbara County were in court Monday when the child's father pleaded not guilty to murder.
Bond for Aramazd Andressian Sr. was set at $10 million. He is due back in court Aug. 16.
The 35-year-old man is charged with murder in the death of Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose remains were found Friday near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Family members of Andressian Jr. attended the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes. The boy's uncle, Shaun Estevez, described the case as a nightmare when he arrived at the courthouse Monday morning.
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Speaking to reporters after the hearing, he said his sister is "still trying to soak everything in." Andressian Jr.'s mother also was at the arraignment in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
During the arraignment, Andressian's estranged wife sat stoically in the courtroom. As soon as Andressian was led from the room, she broke into tears, and was consoled by her brother
"No words can explain what it was like," Shaun Estevez said. "We're here for justice and for peace. He was a great little 5-year-old. I can't remember any time that he got in trouble."
Attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez said he met with Andressian Sr. for the first time on Saturday.
"To say it's a difficult time for him is an understatement, attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez said Saturday. "To be in custody, to be accused of something like this, is something that would break anyone.
"There has been a rush to judgment."
Andressian Sr. was handcuffed and wearing a protective vest during the court appearance. His attorney said it was a precaution taken by the sheriff's department to "make sure he isn't a danger to himself."
Homicide detectives returned to the Lake Cachuma area over the weekend in an effort to locate additional evidence after the discovery of the boy's remains. No additional information was released by the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, said an autopsy would be conducted on the remains early next week. Winter also said tests would have to be conducted before his office officially identifies the body, but sheriff's detectives believe it is Andressian Jr.
Andressian Sr. has been charged with murder and arrived Friday in Southern California from Las Vegas, where he was arrested on June 23. He could face up to 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.
The youngster was last seen at 1 a.m. April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father, who was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena the next day and was unable to account for his son's whereabouts.
Sheriff's homicide Lt. Joe Mendoza alleged the killing was "pre- planned" and took place between the time Andressian and his son left Disneyland and when the father was discovered unconscious at the South Pasadena park. Andressian told investigators he arrived at the park with his son and waited for the golf course to open, and admitted ingesting prescription medication that was not prescribed to him, Mendoza said.
Andressian has been uncooperative and had given false information to investigators since he fell under suspicion, Mendoza said.
The father said he did not remember what happened to his child or any details that were useful in locating the boy, according to Mendoza, who said a prescription bottle was found inside Andressian's car, which was doused with gasoline inside and out.
Mendoza alleged that Andressian planned his son's murder to get back at his estranged wife during a "tumultuous" divorce and then tried to commit suicide -- before heading to Las Vegas to prepare to flee the country.
The investigation into the boy's disappearance included several weeks of surveillance, during which the suspect "significantly" changed his appearance, acted in a manner inconsistent with the behavior of a grieving parent and appeared to be planning to flee to a country from which he could not be extradited, Mendoza said.
Andressian Sr. was originally arrested in Los Angeles County shortly after his son went missing, but was later released for lack of evidence.
The search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties, including in the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, where Andressian told authorities he took the boy the day after the Disneyland trip.
Andressian Sr.'s former attorney, Daniel Nardoni, released a statement of condolence to the boy's family Saturday and told City News Service that hewas no longer representing the father as of last Tuesday.
NBC4's Toni Guinyard contributed to this report.