Lily Burk Murder

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

The week's subject is the kidnapping and murder of a 17-year-old Los Angeles girl. If you don't feel like going there today, you might want to turn down your radio for four minutes.

Exactly a week ago, during this time slot, Lily Burk was being driven through downtown L.A. in her own car. The lifelong criminal seen on surveillance videos driving the car also was photographed walking her up to ATM's, where Lily tried – unsuccessfully - to take out cash.

Within minutes of last week's segment going off the air, Lily Burk was dead – her throat cut as she sat in the passenger seat. Her face had also been smashed into the car's windshield.

Within a half-hour of being caught on tape leaving her car at 5th and Alameda downtown, the accused killer was in police custody.

Lily's key and cellphone were on him, though it wasn't until the next morning that authorities knew the full meaning of that discovery.

There have been something like 175 homicides in Los Angeles this year, not counting whatever may have happened in Michael Jackson's bedroom.

All of them are tragic. Monumentally sad for those affected, even peripherally. Most go relatively unnoticed in the wider city and in the media.

Lily Burk's demise, though, has elements that have made it resonate in so many ways, and for so many people.

It seems that everyone I know has been in pain this week. I didn't know Lily, but my teenaged daughter also drives alone, often in the areas where Lily had the bad fate to run into the wrong loser.

Lily lived in Los Feliz and had gone to the Southwestern Law School to pick up some papers for her mother, a law professor. It was broad daylight, as the cops say.

A block off busy Wilshire Boulevard.

A relatively safe area – not as rarefied as when the Bullock's Wilshire landmark that Southwestern occupies was the swankiest shopping destination in the city.

The fancy salons and fur shops are long gone from the neighborhood, but it's not a part of Koreatown where a teenager expects to be carjacked.

Lily was with her killer for two hours, the police say. In that time, she called both of her parents to ask about her ATM card, but they didn't hear that she was in any danger.

Knowing how those calls will haunt her parents is one of the horrible elements that people are identifying with.

Lily's parents are a major reason this crime has become such a big deal. Lily's father is a respected music journalist with friends at and around the LA Times who served as family spokesmen.

Lily's mother is a respected libel lawyer whose words in the Times about losing her baby and her best friend shredded hearts. They are well-known and well-liked.

As some crimes do, Lily Burk's murder has spurred talk in the media and on the Web. And inevitably, some backlash and political exploitation.

The Police Protective League used it to make points about parolees and the state budget. Some have complained that the media only care so much because Lily was white and blond, a private school girl. She was to be a senior at Oakwood.

But you don't have to be in the private school culture of Los Angeles, or be part of the media, to be affected when crimes like this occur in your community.

They leave deep and raw scars in the psyche of a city.

This one comes with the crime rate in LA so low that Angelenos have been revising their personal, internal maps to include more “good” areas and fewer “bad” areas.

And now, sadly, that probably changes too.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.