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Court hearing set in fatal Beverly Hills stabbing

The Associated Press, Friday, July 23, 2010, 1:53am (PDT)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- A couple charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of a movie producer's son are scheduled to make their first court appearance Friday in Beverly Hills.

Scott Joseph Barker, 23, and Chie Alexandra Coggins Johnson, 20, were charged Thursday with killing Katsutoshi Takazato, whose body was found Tuesday outside his father's home in a normally tranquil and exclusive neighborhood where murders are uncommon.

Takazato's father, Fuminori Hayashida, produced several movies in the 1990s, including "Lured Innocence" starring Dennis Hopper. Hayashida lives in Japan.

Takazato had until recently dated Coggins Johnson, who then started dating Barker. She told her new boyfriend that Takazato had physically abused her, prompting Barker to become enraged and stab Takazato, prosecutors said.

Barker's attorney, Brad Brunon, declined to comment about the relationship between the victim and both suspects. The facts about the case were not yet clear, he said.

An after-hours phone message left with Coggins Johnson's attorney, Bruce Ellman, was not immediately returned.

It was not immediately clear how Coggins Johnson might have been involved and police would not release details.

The couple faces life in prison if convicted. They remained jailed on $3 million bail each, and are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Police searched the area for hours after the killing but failed to find an attacker. Detectives worked through the night, scouring Takazato's Facebook profile and those of his friends to find a possible motive.

Police announced the next day that three people had been arrested. One man was released after investigators determined he had nothing to do with the killing, prosecutors said.

Coggins Johnson was a former rhythmic gymnast, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Junior Olympics, said Tanya Berenson, general manager at the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics.

Berenson recalled Coggins Johnson as competitive, driven and outgoing, and that she left the sport after competing for five or six years.

"It had to do with the teenage years," Berenson said. "Boys and school became the priority."

Takazato's slaying was the third in Beverly Hills in as many years, and neighbors were shocked by what had happened.

"It is scary," said Tanya Moftakhar, who grew up on the street and could not recall any other killings. "I would describe it as a very tranquil and secluded area."

Outside the home where Takazato's body was found, friends created a makeshift shrine. Flowers, memorial candles and handwritten tributes were placed on a retaining wall, along with photos of Takazato and an origami bird.

A white sheet was hung over the nearby fence with "Rest in Peace Katsutoshi 'Tony' Takazato" written in black marker, surrounded by more than 20 tribute notes from friends. Several smaller candles had been arranged to spell "Tony."

No one answered an intercom at the gate outside the sprawling, white brick home. Neighbors said a party was being held the night of the stabbing.

Said Hakim, who lives across the street, said Takazato was friendly, and often smiled and greeted his neighbors.

"He was no annoyance to the neighbors, and he had a lot of friends," Hakim said. "He was a nice guy."

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Associated Press Writer Greg Risling contributed to this report

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