No motive, no clues: $50,000 reward offered to solve Koreatown stabbing murder

Los Angeles Police Department

Samuel Michel, 25, was found stabbed to death in his Koreatown apartment on S. Serrano Street on April 10th, 2012. A $50,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his murderer.

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Samuel Michel, 25, was killed on April 10th in his Koreatown apartment. Detectives have not identified have a suspect or motive as to why someone would want to kill the CalArts graduate.


You could hear Deborah Michel’s faint sniffles get louder as the detective briefed the media on the details of her son, Samuel Michel’s murder:

He met a friend at the “R-Bar” that night. Left around 12:45 a.m. Walked five blocks to his apartment on South Serrano Street. Neighbors reported screams and loud commotion from apartment 505 around 2:30 a.m. LAFD responded to find Michel dead with a knife sticking out of his back.

“I sit and think about it and try to figure out who it could possibly be and nothing makes any sense,” said Deborah Michel. “There’s just no reason to have killed him.”

And that’s why Los Angeles detectives investigating this case have asked the L.A. City Council for a $50,000 reward.

They have no leads and no possible motives.

“Whether it was just a random passing [who] saw him on the street or someone he knew … we have no clues,” said Det. Jim Freund.

Samuel Michel, 25, had moved back to Los Angeles about eight months before his death after initially returning to his home state of New York to spend time with his family and build up his portfolio.

He was a photographer, a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts who eventually decided on becoming a designer and establishing roots in Los Angeles.

“It’s what he wanted,” his mother Deborah Michel said. "He thought this is where artists got started."

She manages to joke about how he loved the taco trucks in his neighborhood and bragged to his family and friends back in New York how everything was better in L.A.

Two poster-size pictures of Sam Michel flanked family of friends at the news conference announcing the $50,000 reward for information about who killed Michel and why.

In one picture, you could see the refection of Michel’s cell phone in his white-framed sunglasses as he stretched his arms out in front to take a silly self-portrait. The other picture, Michel shows off a tie his grandfather gave him.

“He had no enemies,” said Bennet Perez, a friend and former roommate of Michel’s from CalArts. “This was such a shock to everybody.”

“He didn’t do anything dangerous," said his mother, Deborah. "He wasn’t an aggressive person. When people were aggressive he backed away. He was a lover of life. I don’t understand, I don’t understand."

Det. Freund said nothing that they know of was taken from the apartment. They’re still running DNA tests but Freund said their best evidence has come up with little to go on.

There is one person police would like to talk to: neighbors say they saw a Hispanic or white man riding away from the apartment building on a BMX bike.

Below is information on how to reach LAPD if you have information on this case:

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to contact West Bureau Homicide Detective Dave Vinton at (213) 382-9481. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.

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