LOS ANGELES — Family and friends of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl mourned their loss Thursday, as news of his death reached the San Fernando Valley, where Pearl grew up and his parents still live.
The State Department confirmed Thursday that Pearl, 38, was killed by the Pakistani kidnappers who abducted him Jan. 23.
“Danny’s senseless murder is beyond our comprehension. Danny was a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father to a child who will never know him,” Pearl’s parents and two sisters said in a statement issued from their home in the Encino area of Los Angeles.
Pearl grew up in the San Fernando Valley in northwest Los Angeles, graduating with honors in 1981 from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
Caprice Young, president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, called the death of her former Birmingham classmate “terrible news.”
“He was a really great guy, really smart,” said Young, 36. “I like to think Americans are safe when they go abroad. Obviously, he was not. It’s terrible news.”
At the suburban high school, faculty, staff and students observed a moment of silence after they were told of Pearl’s death. The school also has established a memorial scholarship fund in his name that will go to a journalism student.
“We as a faculty and students are really very saddened by this,” Principal Doris Lasiter said. “We’ve been watching these events on a regular basis.”
Yearbook pictures of Pearl show a high achiever who was a national merit finalist and a participant in the school’s Knowledge Bowl academic competition.
The front page of the student newspaper, The Stars & Stripes, carries photos of Pearl and the headline: “BHS Alumnus Defying Death.”
Michael Saunders, 38, a classmate of Pearl’s from elementary school through high school, said many of Pearl’s peers looked up to him.
“I just remember he was very much a leader and very sharp, but no one ever said anything bad about him,” said Saunders, who lives in Westlake Village and is a vice president of investments for UBS PaineWebber. “He was a popular, nice guy, but a little on the reserved side... He was brilliant as far as scholastics go.”
Classmate Diane Hirshberg said Pearl was intellectually “a level beyond” other students throughout elementary and high school.
“But he was definitely more of a well-rounded person, not someone you saw as being completely isolated and bookish,” said Hirshberg, now an education policy analyst who lives in Berkeley. “He was always extremely smart, very funny, and one of the nicest people we were growing up with.”
Pearl graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a degree in communications. He later worked in western Massachusetts before joining the Wall Street Journal in Atlanta in 1990.
He later reported from Washington, London and Paris — where he wrote about the Middle East — before moving to Asia as the newspaper’s South Asia bureau chief.
Pearl’s wife, Mariane, is seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child.