The Coast News Group
Kellon Razdan, 21, testified in his murder trial at the Vista Courthouse on Tuesday. He is charged with the first-degree murder of Aris Keshishian in 2021. Photo by Laura Place
Kellon Razdan, 21, testified in his murder trial on Tuesday at the Vista courthouse on Tuesday. He is charged with the first-degree murder of Aris Keshishian in 2021. Photo by Laura Place
CitiesCrimeCrimeCrimeNewsSan MarcosSan Marcos FeaturedVista

San Marcos murder suspect takes stand, claims self defense

VISTA — The 21-year-old suspect charged with stabbing a former San Marcos classmate to death nearly 18 months ago took the stand in his murder trial this week, claiming he acted in self-defense after being targeted on social media by the victim.

Kellon Razdan, charged with the first-degree murder of 20-year-old Aris Keshishian, began testifying Tuesday morning after the prosecution rested its case following three days of testimony.

Keshishian was stabbed 44 times in the abdomen, chest and back near his home in the Stone Canyon gated residential community on Via Vera Cruz in San Marcos while taking his dog for an evening walk on Aug. 15, 2021.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office alleges Razdan planned the attack and specifically targeted Keshishian, his former elementary school classmate. A neighbor who witnessed the attack in progress said Razdan was on top of Keshishian, who was not moving and appeared to be hitting him repeatedly.

Razdan’s defense attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt, argued in opening statements on Monday afternoon that his client was being targeted with frightening content on Snapchat by someone he believed to be Keshishian and that he had gone to Keshishian’s neighborhood to confront him on the day of the attack.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a murder case. This is a case where Kellon had every right to self-defense,” Steigerwalt told the jury. “This case is about cyberbullying.”

Razdan, dressed in a button-up shirt and glasses in court, testified that in the spring of 2021, he began seeing disturbing content on his Snapchat discovery page, where users can find suggested content channels based on their interests.

Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim awaits the next witness in the murder trial of Kellon Razdan on Monday at the Vista Courthouse. Photo by Laura Place
Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim awaits the next witness in the murder trial of Kellon Razdan on Monday at the Vista Courthouse. Photo by Laura Place

The defendant said the content started as images of war, torture and beheadings and then progressed to content about police brutality toward minorities. According to Razdan, this content did not align with his interests in sports, music and sneakers, and he could not stop it from showing up, despite reporting it to Snapchat and attempting to block or unsubscribe from channels.

“I’m kind of, in a way, being forced to indulge or take note of topics I’m not interested in, and they incite negative emotions, negative feelings,” Razdan said. “It was meant to fearmonger. After a while, I would say the goal had been reached. I was fearful, paranoid, anxious, on edge, uneasy.”

As spring turned to summer, Razdan said he grew increasingly afraid for his safety and paranoid that someone was out to get him. Razdan claimed he opened Snapchat one day, and the content had “changed from English to some Middle Eastern language.” Razdan said he began thinking Keshishian, who is Armenian, may be responsible.

The two young men attended elementary, middle and high school together and were in the same grade, but according to Keshishian’s family, they were not friends past elementary school. Razdan claimed that he believed Keshishian to still be his friend through high school, despite speaking infrequently or beyond their graduation from San Marcos High School in 2019.

Kellon Razdan testified that he had "blacked out" during a fight with Aris Keshishian. Photo by Laura Place
Kellon Razdan testified that he had “blacked out” during a fight with Aris Keshishian. Photo by Laura Place

In describing the day of the attack, Razdan said he showed up at Keshishian’s gated community in hopes of confronting him about the activity on his phone. Razdan said he intended to go to the Keshishian’s home but saw Keshishian walking his dog upon arriving in the neighborhood and stopped the car.

According to Razdan, Keshishian exhibited a “hostile energy” from the moment he arrived in the area. Razdan also claimed that Keshishian specifically picked the shirt he was wearing — a gray t-shirt that read ‘I don’t give a rat’s ass’ — to provoke him.

Razdan said he put a Toldadi folding knife, which he would later use to stab Keshishian, into his pocket out of fear for his safety. Then, after making small talk, he mentioned what was happening with his phone and said Keshishian started getting aggressive and “lunging” toward him.

Razdan said the two then started pushing each other. When he showed Keshishian his still-closed knife as a warning, Razdan claimed a struggle ensued to gain control of the knife. At some point, Razdan said the knife blade opened and his hand was cut, and he realized he was “fighting for his life” and began to hit Keshishian repeatedly.

A photo of defendant Kellon Razdan's severed pinky finger left at the scene where 20-year-old Aris Keshishian was fatally stabbed in August 2021 near his San Marcos home. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
A photo of defendant Kellon Razdan’s severed pinky finger left at the scene where 20-year-old Aris Keshishian was fatally stabbed in August 2021 near his San Marcos home. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

Razdan said he could not remember how Keshishian’s shorts, shirt, shoes and hat wound up in the road, or how they wound up in the driveway, or when he began stabbing him.

“I had blacked out during the fight,” Razdan said.

When a neighbor came on the scene and told them to stop, Razdan said it brought him back to reality, and he left. Razdan added that he was worried he would bleed out and die from the cuts he sustained on his hand.

During cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim questioned Razdan about several parts of his testimony that appeared to conflict with his statements to law enforcement shortly after the attack.

Specifically, Kim noted during his interview with detectives the morning after the attack, Razdan never mentioned the frightening content on Snapchat or how Keshishian had supposedly started a fight with him.

Razdan claimed that he misunderstood some of the detectives’ questions and was on pain medication after being in the hospital to treat his hands, which involved stitches and amputating part of his right pinky. Razdan also left the tip of his left pinky at the scene.

Defense Attorney Kerry Steigerwalt, far left, pictured in Superior Court on the first day of testimony on Wednesday with co-counsel Jay Monico and Kellon Razdan, who is on trial for the 2021 murder of Aris Keshishian. Photo by Laura Place
Defense Attorney Kerry Steigerwalt, far left, pictured in Superior Court on the first day of testimony on Wednesday with co-counsel Jay Monico and Kellon Razdan, who is on trial for the 2021 murder of Aris Keshishian. Photo by Laura Place

When Kim asked him to confirm that he had left Keshishian bloody and dying on the ground, Razdan said, “I was bloody and dying as well.”

Razdan also denied that he stabbed Keshishian when he was running away, despite stab wounds and drag marks on Keshishian’s back. San Diego County Medical Examiner Greg Pizarro testified that some of Keshishian’s injuries, including one on his back, were over 7 inches deep, while the blade was just over 3 inches.

“This was also one of the few autopsies with [over] 40 sharp force injuries,” Pizarro said.

The defense did not produce proof of Keshishian contacting Razdan over Snapchat or any other messaging platform, aside from a screenshot of a text conversation in a group chat between Keshishian and other friends.

In the screenshot depicting someone receiving texts from a non-saved number matching Razdan’s phone number, Razdan sends “wya” (an acronym for “where you at?”), and the recipient says, “who is this lol.” Razdan then tells the recipient to come to his home, seeming to indicate that Razdan wanted to fight, and the recipient says, “I’m outside,” although no one showed up.

Razdan testified that the conversation was between himself and Keshishan in May of 2021 and that he felt he was being taunted when Keshishian appeared not to have his number saved and pretended to be outside his house.

Aside from Razdan, the only other witness called by the defense was Keshishian’s father, Henrik. Steigerwalt asked him whether Keshishian had mentioned wanting to hang out with Razdan before the attack. Henrik said he mentioned Razdan once while considering who to hang out with during COVID.

Closing arguments and jury deliberations were scheduled to begin Wednesday.

For the latest crime reports in Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar, please visit The Coast News’ Weekly Crime Reports. For up-to-the-minute arrest reports in North County, check out Daily Arrest Logs. Read more local crime news here.