Transient Pleads Guilty, Gets Life For Lily Burk Murder

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A transient has pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and murder of a 17-year-old girl, and has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his crimes.

Charlie Samuel, 50, avoided the death sentence by reaching a plea deal with prosecutors in the murder of Lily Burk, whom he abducted while she was running an errand for her mother. After Burk was unable to withdraw money from an ATM using her credit card, Samuel slashed her throat, bludgeoned her head, and left her body inside her Volvo.

Samuel, who had a long history of criminal activity, including drug-related offenses and minor thefts, was on parole and enrolled in a residential drug treatment center at the time of the murder. He had gotten permission to leave the facility in order to visit the DMV, although that office was actually closed. According to one of his defense attorneys, Samuel had been drinking and using crack cocaine when he approached Burk.

DNA evidence, including a bloodstain on Samuel’s shirt that matched Burk’s blood, and a fingerprint on a soda can left inside the Volvo that was shown to be Samuel’s, helped tie the transient to the crime. Additionally, surveillance video from Southwestern Law School and a downtown Los Angeles ATM showed the pair together.

In 1986, Samuel had been sentenced to six years in prison for the kidnapping and robbery of an elderly man. After two subsequent felony convictions—one in 1997 of second-degree burglary and another in 2006 of petty theft—Samuel was eligible for a life sentence under California’s three-strikes law, but a clerical error prevented prosecutors from realizing that he had three felony convictions.

Samuel’s defense attorney also said that he may have suffered brain damage, in addition to enduring several traumatic events as a child, including watching both his mother and his aunt die. He began using drugs and alcohol early in his life.

At the sentencing hearing, Samuel apologized for killing Burk.

“I’d like to deeply, truly apologize to the family for the grief I’ve caused them for the loss of their child,” he said. “I pray to God that you may forgive me one day.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley then sentenced Samuel to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

Burk’s parents, Greg Burk and Deborah Drooz, issued a statement after the sentencing saying that they were “satisfied that justice has been served.”

 

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