Relatives and residents were stunned by the arrest and murder charges against the father whose 5-year-old son has been missing since late April, most believing that the boy is still alive.
Aramazd Andressian Sr. was arrested Friday afternoon in Las Vegas on suspicion of Aramazd Andressian Jr.'s murder. He was being held there on $10 million bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff's investigators presented evidence from a search warrant to LA County prosecutors, who deemed it sufficient to arrest Andressian, the statement said. But the department would give no further details on what that evidence was, whether the evidence came from the search at Andressian's or his mother's house, or what Andressian was doing in Nevada.
"I felt very sad," Levon Asatourian, Andressian Sr.'s uncle, told NBC4 Friday night. "I didn't even know he was in Vegas."
Video showed Andressian in handcuffs being taken to jail. His booking photo shows him clean-shaven and his hair dyed a noticeably lighter color.
Investigators have been searching for Aramazd Jr., or "Ara," since his father was found passed out in a park in South Pasadena on April 22. Sheriff's officials say the father took prescription pills and was in a car doused in gasoline.
"He swears to his dad's grave. He says I never would do such things like that to my child. Never," Asatourian said, adding that he's spoken to his nephew numerous times since the boy disappeared.
Searchers have fanned out across several counties to try to find the boy, at least twice narrowing their search around a lake area in Santa Barbara County. Investigators have not recovered a body.
Ana Estevez, Ara's mother, told NBC4 Friday in statement that she's grateful for the support and prayers.
"I will continue to believe my son is alive until (he is) found," she said.
Neighbors in Montebello, where Ara's paternal grandmother lives, maintain the boy is still alive, some speculating that he's out of the country.
"My thought was he was sent to live with relatives in Armenia," Margaret Robles said.
"I feel that he's not here...that he's in another country. I feel that he's not dead," Julie Lazarraga added.
Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department, declined to say what evidence led to Andressian's arrest. A news conference is scheduled for Monday.
The father was initially arrested on suspicion of child endangerment but later released. He once put out a public plea to help find his son. The father's attorney called the disappearance a mystery and has said his client had gaps in his memory.
Rewards totalling $30,000 have been offered for information leading to the boy's safe return.
The Associated Press and NBC4's Lolita Lopez contributed to this report.