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Abducted Teen Called Parents Twice

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An attacker forces a 17-year-old to call her parents for cash -- but a "secret code" could have saved her life.

Lily Burk

Seventeen-year-old Lily Burk was abducted in downtown Los Angeles this past weekend -- and her attacker forced her to call her parents twice to ask how to withdraw money from an ATM using a credit card. Her parents said she didn't mention she was in trouble -- and two hours later, she was dead.

It's a parent's worst nightmare -- how did they not know Lily was in distress? The answer is heartbreakingly deceiving.

"You have a kid who's calling you, and called twice -- that may have been reassuring," explains former L.A. County Deputy District Attorney and momlogic expert Robin Sax. "She's where she said she was, doing what she said she was doing."

Lily had told her parents she was at an ATM to withdraw money to buy shoes. Instead, she was allegedly at the hands of Charlie Samuel, a 50-year-old transient with a history of violence.

Police say Lily was approached at 3 PM on Friday at her car near Southwestern University School of Law, where she had gone to pick up some exams for her mother, an attorney who worked there.

Between 3:35 PM and 4 PM, Lily placed those two calls. Her parents told her to come home -- but she never did. They filed a missing persons report at 5:25 PM Friday evening; her body was found Saturday morning. Samuel was arrested for her murder on Sunday.

Could Lily have signaled to her parents that she was in trouble? "We don't know if he was dialing the phone, holding the phone, if he had a knife -- we don't know those things," explains Sax. "It's easy for us to judge from the outside."

One lesson to take from this tragedy, says Sax, is the importance of creating a secret language or code between parents and children. "Every family needs to have a code word of 'Call the police; I'm in danger,'" says Sax. "That was the communication opportunity."

In fact, ATM may be the perfect code word. As Sax explained, ATM heists are common, and no one should ever be talking or texting on the phone while using one. Children should make a deal with their parents that they'd never call from an ATM. If they do, it's likely they're in a heist -- and the red flag has been raised.

"This is an opportunity for parents to think about how we conduct ourselves," says Sax. "You've got to be completely aware of your surroundings." That means no cell phones and no texting -- "one of the things perpetrators like is people who are distracted" -- and parents should teach their children even to look confident. "Walk with your shoulders and head up ... if you look confident, they'll move on to the next potential victim." And one can never be too cautious. "We are so programmed to give people the benefit of the doubt ... but we compromise safety for political correctness," explains Sax.

But what can be done once the attacker has the upper hand? Sax says parents should instruct their kids to "scream for help and clock him in the eyeballs with your keys." Take it one step further by learning self-defense -- and at all costs, avoid being alone with an attacker in a car. "Once you're in a vehicle with someone, the control and power dynamic changes," says Sax.

Police say Lily, a student at Oakwood School in North Hollywood with dreams of becoming a writer, was beaten to death inside her car.

"The thing we want people to know about Lily is that she was a beautiful person, and that she was looking forward to her life. She was funny, warm, kind, and empathetic. She was deeply and widely loved," reads a statement from her parents.

Here is a timeline of Lily's murder, from the L.A. Times:

2:30 PM Friday: Burk leaves her home in the Los Feliz area of L.A. to pick up some exams at Southwestern University School of Law, close to downtown. She was collecting the exams for her mother, an entertainment lawyer who also taught at the school.

3 PM: Samuel allegedly approaches Burk at her car, which was parked near the law school. Samuel then allegedly abducts Burk.

3:35 PM:
Samuel attempts to withdraw money from at least one location in downtown Los Angeles with Burk's credit card. But the girl's credit card was not set up to be used at an ATM.

3:35 - 4 PM: Burk calls both her mother and father, asking how to withdraw money using her credit card. She does not say she is in distress.

4:52 PM:
Samuel allegedly exits the driver's side door of Burk's Volvo at 458 S. Alameda St. in downtown Los Angeles.

5:25 PM:
LAPD officers see Samuel in downtown L.A. drinking beer and in possession of a crack pipe. He is arrested. Burk's parents report her missing. A missing persons report is filed and detectives begin searching for her.

6:15 AM
Saturday: Workers find Burk's "lifeless body" inside her car. They call 911 and police arrive.

Sunday morning: Police say they matched fingerprints inside Burk's car to Samuel.

Sunday evening: Samuel is arrested in connection with Burk's slaying.

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68 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous July 28, 2009, 8:26 AM

Very sad…my heart goes out to her family.

new law July 28, 2009, 10:17 AM

The parents should have know something was wrong when the kid called twice.
Parents missed the ball on this one.
Why send the kid alone? I blame the parents and the place that left the killer out. The kid did nothing wrong
and tried calling for help twice!

Anonymous July 28, 2009, 10:56 AM

new law, it is pretty insensitive of you to say “Parents missed the BALL on this one.” Maybe if you re-read the entire article you will have the little details that tell you the parents had no clue something was wrong as the young girl did not have a chance to ask for help. A 17 yr old is perfectly capable of running and errand alone. When tragedies like this happen its always easier as observers to place blame or point fingers but the ONLY person to blame here is the lunatic junkie that beat her to death!!!

new law July 28, 2009, 11:18 AM

Yes. Its the killers fault and he should get the DP! Where was the schools security? Why was he allowed out?

Shannon July 28, 2009, 3:42 PM

Omgg that poor girl and her family! My heart just aches for them. The man responsible should be hung!!!

Lacey July 29, 2009, 1:04 AM

I heart goes out to the family. This is such a sad story. However, I think my red flag would wave when she need to pull money out for shoes, that the credit card could have been used.

Belinda Gomez July 29, 2009, 1:12 AM

She volunteered at a needle exchange center, which is insane for a 16/17 year old girl. If she had a self-defense course and a can of pepper spray, she might be alive.

new law July 29, 2009, 7:26 AM

This kid try to get help twice and
her smart parents did not pick up on it.
Why would she even call if she was just getting papers? I can feel this kid waiting for her parents to show up and rescue her and they let her down! I
agree with Robin and secret code but the
kid tired and the parents failed.
I still hope the killer gets the DP!

Jody Reale July 29, 2009, 10:16 PM

So tragic. It’s proof that the secondary crime scene is the deadliest place there is. Not only should children be taught a secret word, but they should also know that their chances of a fatal attack rise dramatically when they allow the perpetrator to take them somewhere else.

lucid July 29, 2009, 11:21 PM

this worthless piece of filth should never been let out of prison.we don’t need any liberal judges or parole boards in this country for violent scumbags like this creep.

lucid July 29, 2009, 11:28 PM

this is why i have a chl concealed handgun license and carry it 24/7. you just never know what might happen.i wish all non felon Americans would get their chl license today.self defense is a human right.

Anonymous August 3, 2009, 2:37 AM

We wouldn’t need secret codes, self defence courses, lessons on how WE are supposed to act, and almost everything else, if our governments, state and federal, were the way they should be, (and once were) and protected it’s most innocent citizens by actually enforcing laws, giving the DP to ALL, I repeat, ALL murderers…we can’t call this a free country with the outrageous crimes that are taking place in the past 30 years. It’s as simple as that. That young girl should have been able to go ahead and drive to her normal destination without worry…kids should be able to walk to their friends houseswithout being murdered on a daily basis.

eden August 3, 2009, 12:07 PM

1. The world is not a safe place.

2. Children do not come with an instruction manual. Parenting is a free-for-all.

3. Not everyone is intelligent enough to notice what the rest of us all see as obvious — she could have bought the shoes WITH her credit card and had NO NEED to withdraw the money.

4. A 17-year-old is old enough to run an errand.

5. A college security dept & video cams aren’t a sure-fire device to keep all crime at bay.

6. Predators are good at seeking out vulnerable prey. I know that from experience. They read body language innately.

7. Her parents called the police quickly when she did not return home.

Crime is not always going to be prevented. This was a tragedy no matter how you look at it.

Kay August 4, 2009, 11:39 AM

She was probably too kind and too trusting and kept thinking she could find a way out. She probably knew full well that the credit card did not allow for ATM withdrawals and this was the clue, but her poor parents missed it, probably not realizing that she knew. Many factors come into play, like the fact that it was daylight, which probably made her think the perp would not harm her. She may have been too shocked to know how to react, but we do need to teach our kids that if they do find themselves in similar situations to try to run away from the vehicle and run in a zig-zag, in case the perp has a gun and tried to shoot, more chance he will miss. Also, she may have tried opening the car door as he drove and throwing herself from the moving vehicle. Seems he killed her when he got angry that he could not get money to go buy his ‘fix’, she might have tried to trick him into going to her parents home where he could rob them for more money, but as I said, she was probably too scared to think clearly and probably way too trusting to think he could harm her. The article suggests she may have been texting or talking on a cell, giving the perp the opportunity to car-jack her, so we need to tell our kids to lock the car doors immediately upon entering and to be ready to exit with their keys in hand (ready to be used as a weapon, if needed, or to sound the car alarm), and they need to really be aware of their surroundings. There was probably security on the law school campus, but it was just bad timing for when they may have surveyed her or her car. Maybe when her parents said, just come home, if she would have said, ok, I’ll be there in 5 minutes, when they all know it is a 15-20 miniute drive, or, if she said Sure, I’ll leave now and be there in 30 minutes and they know it is only 10 minutes away, this could have been a clue, but she may have feared giving a clue. Also, one of the crime TV channels also showed where when the abductor let the girl call home, she used the first names of her parents, rather than Mom and Dad and this was a tip-off. Being a drug addict and alcoholic does not excuse this criminal’s behavior and he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and his enablers should feel real bad!

Jen August 8, 2009, 1:20 PM

How very sad. Robin, any suggestions on how to do the code word without it being obvious to the attacker? ‘ATM’ is a good one for this situation but if someone is being forced to call for some other reason I would think that randomly saying ‘ATM’ might be a flag to the attacker.

Viagra August 8, 2009, 6:31 PM

gratefulness you for your report and it helped me in preparing my college assignment.

Debt Consolidation Arizona August 10, 2009, 1:38 PM

really? I don’t think so.

Debt Settlement Help August 15, 2009, 1:02 PM

Great headline. If your cookie has a bite-sized action and your reader completes the action, I think two things happen. Their self-confidence goes up (which feels good) and their trust in you increases.

AssofIncony August 18, 2009, 3:41 PM

yeh right.. great post, Thank You

AssofIncony August 22, 2009, 4:50 PM

yeh right.. great post, Thank You

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