MICHELE "MISSY" YVETTE AVILA - MURDERED BY "FRIENDS" KAREN SEVERSON & LAURA DOYLE
Michele (Missy) Avila (Ah-bee-la) has three brothers, Ernie, Chris and Mark.
The family is Hispanic - American and their home, where they live with their
parents, is in a quiet neighborhood of Arleta. (20 miles N. of Los Angeles)
When Missy is 8, a new girl moves into a house around the corner.
She's shy and but Missy approaches Karen Severson as a friend.
Soon they are "playing Barbies," and sharing secrets as best friends do.
Laura Doyle lives around the block close by, and all three girls are close friends.
Anonymous "Missy wasn't the sweet innocent angel she was portrayed to be,
which she definitely WAS NOT. I grew up with Missy and I knew
Karen in school as well. I never met Laura, but the few times I
saw her with Missy and Karen, she gave me the creeps. As for
Missy, she was one of the meanest people I ever knew. She
was the worst bully I ever encountered as a child and I never saw
any other side to her. She was just as awful as the friends that
killed her. There were a lot of people that couldn't stand her."
The three are enrolled in Junior High and their interests have moved far beyond
little dolls. They dress like their peers (and each other), create the same 80's
hairstyles, rock and headbang to the Scorpions and Motley Crue.... and
discover boys. But they also discover drugs. Soon all three girls are emersed
in a tough, drinking and drug-using crowd.
Missy, Karen and Laura attend San Fernando High School and Missy
is increasingly becoming popular among some of their peers.
All three have family issues and pressures in their lives.
Missy's parents are going through a divorce.
Laura (some say) is being abused at home.
Karen is spoiled and allowed too much freedom for a teen,
even being left alone while her parents go away on trips.
Karen's parents give her anything she wants, even a motorcycle.
Because of "behavior problems" in school, Missy and Laura are transferred to
San Fernando Mission (a continuation school).
Irene Avila "She (Missy) made great lasagna, and dreamed of becoming a physical
therapist. And she was fiercely loyal to her childhood friends."
Karen Severson hasn't blossomed, she's ballooned. She is 5'2" and
weighs 200 pounds and desperately wants boys to like her.
Laura Doyle is thin, has red hair (crooked teeth) and has a liking
for drugs and boys. Friends say she's actually pretty cute when
she has makeup on.
Michele "Missy" Avila is thin, petite and pretty, green-eyed and with a
liking for boys... and they like her.
Michele "Missy" Avila
Michele begins spending much less of her time with Karen, who becomes
jealous of her friend's popularity... and of the attention boys give her.
A SET UP
Missy Avila is accosted by a group of girls who accuse her of "sleeping
with their boyfriends." They administer a beating to Missy.
Later Missy is approached by a girl who tells her "Karen's the one spreading
the rumor about you."
Irene Avila (Michele's mother) "Missy was so mad at the girl for telling her it was
Karen's fault. Missy "knew" Karen would never do a
thing like that."
Colby Canyon, a teen party campground 45 minutes from Arleta is
known as Wicky Up. That's where local teens go to party and like
many of their peers, the three girls are quite familiar with the place.
Michele Avila and a boy named Randi Fernandez are dating,
but Randi likes to party too much for Missy's liking. She
breaks up with him after a month.
Randi and Karen begin dating and move into an apartment together.
Karen becomes pregnant, but has an abortion.
Karen will later give birth to another child, Stephanie, (who is now an adult)
Irene Avila "One afternoon, Missy told me that Randi pulled her (Missy)
onto his lap just as Karen walked into the room. Missy told
Randi she wasn't interested.
Later she suggested that Karen dump Randi. Karen was
really upset because the guy she wanted, didn't want her."
C Good "I went to school with Missy, Karen and Laura. Missy was an
incredibly sweet girl and it was very noticeable, even in jr. high,
that Karen was insanely jealous of Missy. It was a mystery to
everyone why Missy was friends with Karen.
I have personally dealt with the hateful & revengeful personality
of Karen Severson. Karen WAS manipulative, mean, nasty,
vindictive, Karen beat me up outside the school one day
because I was talking to her boyfriend!
Laura was a follower and Karen's puppet.
Losing Missy was a great loss for everyone who ever came in
contact with her. She was one of those people that everyone
loved. A great asset to this world and a tremendous loss.
She was a sweet, good natured, well liked, beautiful girl."
Anonymous "I lived in California when this happened,and my sister
was a friend of her's from home room class and it was
very devastating for all in the school because she was
a kind, sweet, popular girl."
LOVE TRIANGLES & QUARRELS
Victor Amaya (Hispanic-American) attends Catholic school and sports
a tattoo of a leaf with the inscription "stoner" across it, dates Missy briefly.
They have a sexual relationship. Her friend Laura is aware of this.
Amaya later becomes Laura Doyle's boyfriend but he dumps her.
1985 - July - August - Amaya breaks up with Laura Doyle (20).
Victor Amaya "I broke off the relationship because she (Laura) was
jealous of me talking to other girls, including Missy.
Laura refused to accept the breakup and became bitter."
6 Weeks before the murder -
Victor Amaya "We (he and Missy) argued with Laura at my house in Arleta.
Me, my brother Noah and Missy had been standing in front
of the house when Laura drove up. Laura wanted to know
"Why is Missy here?" and I ordered Laura to leave. Before
she drove away she said "I'm going to kill that bitch!"
I didn't take the threat seriously and I never reported it
3 Weeks before the murder -
Outside Victor Amaya's home, Victor, Missy and Karen are hanging out.
Laura Doyle passes by the home and becomes angry because Victor
and Missy begin to kiss and hug.
1985 - September 21 - Karen attacks Michele with a beer bottle at a local park.
She pushes and slaps Missy before friends separate them.
Irene Avila "They'd quarreled often during their friendship."
"I'd heard about this, but didn't connect it to Missy's murder."
Laura Doyle is working in a supermarket bakery.
Eva Chirumbolo is living with Karen Severson.
1985 - October 1 - Afteroon - Missy tells her mother "I'm going out with Laura."
"We're going to Stonehurst Park. I promise to be home by
8:00." Before she goes out of the house she turns to her
mother "I love you!" Then she hurries to the car.
Michele "Missy" Avila (17)
Irene Avila "When Laura got to the house, the girls were laughing and talking about
boys. As they drove off, they seemed very carefree. I remember how
especially pretty Missy looked that day. She was all excited to go.
She even turned to me and said "I love you" which is something she
did not ordinarily do. That scene haunts me even today."
ACCUSATIONS, TERROR & MURDER
That afternoon Eva Chirumbolo accompanies Karen Severson on a ride
to Stonehurst Park in Sun Valley. They meet up with Laura Doyle and
Missy Avila who are already there in Laura's car.
The girls decide they're going to the National Forest. Laura (18) and
Missy (17) begin driving to the forest, with Karen (17) and Eva (17)
Eva Chirumbolo "Karen said that she and Laura "planned to scare Avila."
"I didn't know what they had planned. I didn't know how far
this was going to go."
In the National Forest they park in a dirt lot located near the creek
in Colby Canyon.
Laura and Karen get out of their cars and begin yelling at Missy (still
sitting in the car) about all the boys "she'd been to bed with" and
accusing her of having sex with "their boyfriends."
Missy, upset, is crying. Laura Doyle grabs her by the wrist, and pulling
her from the car says "Let's go for a walk." She continues to pull Missy
along with her.
Eva Chirumbolo "All four of us walked down an embankment to the creek.
creek, Laura and Karen continued screaming at Missy."
Laura Doyle grabs Michele Avila by her hair and pulling it, accuses her
of having slept with her boyfriend, Victor Amaya. Laura steps into the
creek and Karen pushes Missy towards Laura.
Laura Doyle is shouting "You're going to pay for what you've done!
You're going to pay for sleeping with our
Eva Chirumbolo "I was scared so I ran back to where the cars were parked."
Missy's denim purse has fallen to the ground.
ASSAULT - BATTERY - MURDER
Karen and Laura beat and batter Michele Avila's face.
The beating is so severe, one of her earrings ends up
pulled out of her ear and is entangled into her hair.
Michele cries and screams. She pleads for them
One of them has something...perhaps a knife, a rock,
and hacks at Michele's long waist length brown hair.
Clumps of her beautiful brown hair fall to the ground.
Karen and Laura carry a very terrified Michele,
who weighs only 98 pounds. One carries her feet,
the other Missy's arms bent behind her back, and
bent at the elbows.
Michele Avila is carried to shallow water by her
"friends" and her head is held down into the water
until she drowns.
Michele "Missy" Yvette Avila (17) is dead.
Not satisfied just to murder, they decide to hold
her down in the water. They find a log 4 feet in
length, 100 pounds in weight. They place it onto
the back of her neck.
The two murderers Karen Severson and Laura Doyle calmly walk
back to their cars.
Missy Avila's body lies flat and still in the ankle deep
water, face down. One foot lies placed over the other
and her gold anklet reflects the afternoon sunlight.
One arm is bent back behind her, bent at the elbow.
Eva Chirumbolo "A few minutes later, Karen and Laura joined me.
KarenSeverson jumped into her car and drove away.
When I got into the car with Laura, she said "We
"I asked Laura "are you sure she's dead?"
Laura said "she is." Then she said "
Missy deserved to die because she slept
with Victor (Amaya)."
Laura drives them back to town from the remote park area.
A MOTHER'S FEARS
3 Hours after the murder -
Irene Avila receives a phone call from Laura Doyle.
"Is Missy home yet?" "Could I speak with Missy?"
Irene Avila "I was puzzled. I told her I thought Missy was with her."
"Laura told me that she had dropped Missy off to talk
with three boys in a blue Camaro while she drove off
to get gas. When she returned, Missy, the boys and
the car were gone."
8:00 P.M. October 1 - Missy hasn't shown up as she'd promised.
2:00 A.M. October 2 - Missy isn't home and her mother is waiting up.
Irene Avila "I waited up all night for her to come home.
At 2 o'clock in the morning, I thought, 'Boy,
are you going to get it.' But I was so scared,
though.I knew something had happened to her.
I knew it."
MISSING PERSONS REPORT
When Missy doesn't show by morning, Irene notifies police
and files a missing persons report.
For two days Missy's body lies in the water. Rigor mortis has set in.
Bruises on her face and arms have appeared. As her body begins to
decompose, flies begin to swarm. Small minnows swim across and
begin to feed.
HIKERS DISCOVER A BODY
1985 - October 4 - Two hikers in the Angeles National Forest walk by the
creek near Colby Canyon Road. When they get to an
area of the creek, they see something in the water.
At first, they think it might be a small animal. But as
they get closer, they can tell it's the body of a young
woman, with a heavy log on top of her in about 8 inches
of shallow water. Flies are swarming and minnows are
feeding on the body.
Hikers "Her eyes were partially opened. She had a fearful frozen look
of horror on her face."
There are strands of hair nearby and a denim purse.
The hikers notifiy authorities.
Police find the young woman's body as the hikers have found it.
From the position of her body, with the arm bent and the one foot
on top of the other, investigators believe it indicates two people
carried her to her watery grave.
Inside the denim purse, among the red lip balm, purple compact,
perfume, comb is an orange wallet. Inside is a school identification
card in the name of Michele Avila. The Missing Persons is
cancelled and a Homicide Investigation begins.
The coroner conductsthe autopsy and finds no drugs or alcohol
in Avila's body. It's determined that the girl was on her monthly
cycle from a tampon found inserted. The time of death is
determined by the remains of the breakfast she had eaten the
morning she died.
Sheriff's Deputies drive up to the Avila's house.
Irene Avila "I knew the news would be bad. I'd feared the worst."
Before the Sheriff's Deputies could finish informing Irene Avila they'd
found Missy, Irene faints onto the living room floor.
POLICE SPEAK TO CLOSE FRIENDS
Both Karen Severson and Laura Doyle cooperate with investigators.
Laura Doyle tells detectives "I dropped Michele off at Branford Park
in Arleta before going to get gas. She was talking with two young men.
When I returned, Michelle, the car and the two young men were gone."
October 7 - Irene Avila faints during the funeral service. She's rushed to the
emergency room while the family sees Missy's rose covered
casket lowered into the gravesite.
Laura Doyle sends Irene Avila a card with a $20 dollar bill with the message
``I'm sorry she's gone, but she's not really gone. She's right here with all
of us. Irene, you were Missy's mom and you were mine."
After the funeral Victor Amayo stays at the Avila house for a night
or two to help comfort Irene and Missy's brothers, and then leaves.
Karen asks Irene if she and her 2 year old daughter Stephanie could
move in with Irene (who is living with 2 of her3 sons), Irene welcomes
her because she finds comfort in having Missy's friends around. She
is with the family through Thanksgiving.
Irene Avila has need to talk about Missy and Karen encourages her.
Irene Avila "Karen was my daughter's best friend, and like a second
daughter to me."
In their grief, Irene and her sons don't see that Karen is morbidlly
obsessed with Missy.
Karen Severson "I'm going to find the animal who killed Missy."
Many nights Irene and Karen sit up speaking of Missy and memories
Irene Avila "I might not have survived Missy's death if not for Karen.
She became like a daughter to me."
"It was like a bad dream, and I kept hoping I would
wake up. It is still difficult to accept that Missy is
gone. "It was really rough at Christmas because
I'd go to the mall, and I'd see the back of a girl
that looked like her . . . and I'd think, 'Oh, my God,' "
Karen and Stephanie live with the Avila's for 3 months. Karen
"helps" Irene try to find clues to who murdered Missy.
Karen is feeding Irene's anguish. Stoking it.
Irene Avila lashes out at anyone she thinks might have killed Missy.
She stops cars in the street and once shoves a biker through a
storefront window. She even attacks a roomful of cocaine dealers
looking for a suspect. Irene drives the streets frequently, looking
for blue Camaro cars that fit the description Laura Doyle has given
her and police.
From the book "Missy's Murder by Karen Kingsley -
"For two years, Karen (like Iago) determines events and drives
Missy's mother and brothers to pursue people Karen feels are
in involved in the crime. One friend, Karen's former boyfriend,
Randi Fernandez, is severely beaten by Missy's friends, and,
later on, nearly shot to death, after Karen "determines" that
he is guilty of the crime."
Karen sits in Missy's chair. She wears some Missy's clothing.
She dresses up her two-year-old Stephanie to look like Missy.
Several times a week, Karen visits Missy's grave two or three
times a week and talks to her headstone. She leaves flowers
and balloons as a tribute to her friend.
Karen comes to believe that Missy is haunting her.
She claims to have seen Missy's ghost and to have
felt a weird presence she insists is Michele.
AN UNNATURAL OBSESSION
Karen moves out of the Avila's and enrolls in beauty school.
There she makes a friend through classes. But she scares
the friend, who becomes more frighted and "scared to death
She observes Karen's obsession with Missy. The last straw
is when she finds out Karen has been calling her house and
saying "I know you killed Missy."
The walls of Karen's bedroom are covered with photos of
Michele and newspaper articles about the murder.
Karen begins to revisit the crime scene at Colby Ranch creek
where she sits and drinks beer at the spot where they
MORE MIND GAMES
Karen tells Irene Avila "Laura" wants to tell the truth."
Laura tells Irene Avila "I lied. There had been no blue Camaro,
the truth was that I had dropped Missy off near a Los Angeles
church to deliver $500.00 to a drug dealer."
RAMPING UP THE DRAMA
Karen tells Irene "I've been having visions of Missy, and
that sometimes her ghost floats over my bed at night."
Karen ramps up the drama. She's visiting Irene one day
and gasps and cries out "Missy's sitting on the sofa!"
After a visit to Missy's grave, Karen's van won't start.
Karen screams "Missy, let me go!"
Since Michele "Missy" Avila's death, police have tracked and checked
leads on owners of Blue Camaro vehicles.
For three years police investigators search for leads and speak with
Karen Severson and Laura Doyle. Over time they both give conflicting
Investigators "We suspected the girls knew something they were not
telling, though we didn't suspect they were the actual
Bill Patterson (Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff) "We talked to Karen
several times during the investigation and not once,
I mean never did we suspect she was in on the murder."
NEW LEADS - A WITNESS COMES FORWARD
1988 - For nearly 3 years Eva Chirumbolo has lived with the knowledge
that two of her friends killed another friend.
Eva Chirumbolo "I was in fear for my life."
Eva's brother (18) commits suicide. She claims her and
her family's grief makes her realize the grief the Avila
family has been experiencing over Michele's death.
Others claim it was rumors about her involvement
that made her turn the other two in lest she be
Either way, Eva Chirumbolo tells investigators what happened
the day Michelle "Missy" Avila was murdered.
Tamia L. Hope (Deputy District Attorney) "I think she's telling the truth.
There wasn't a case until Eva came forward."
1988 June 27 - Karen Severson (20) and Laura Doyle (21) are arrested.
After Laura Doyle's arrest, Doyle told investigators she participated in
Ellery S. Sorkin (Laura Doyle's attorney) "My client was not capable
of killing someone whom she had been "good friends
with since elementary school. My client has never
caused trouble before this particular incident. I believe
the facts will show my client did not commit murder in
the first degree."
Deputy Eric Smith "Karen Severson, 20, and Laura Doyle, 21, were arrested
on suspicion of killing Michele Avila. The two suspects
and Avila were acquaintances."
"Severson and Doyle, are being held without bail at the
Sybil Brand Institute for Women in East Los Angeles."
Attorney Harold Vites (Karen Severson's attorney) "There are going to be
things that come out that didn't come out before. The
prosecution has taken the view that Eva has had
nothing to do with any of this. If Karen and Laura had
this big elaborate plan to kill Missy, why would they
take Eva along if she was not part of the plan? That
doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
August 18, 1988 - Prosecutors file additional charges in Pasadena
Karen Severson, now 20, was a minor of 17 when Michele
Avila, also 17 at the time, was found murdered.
Stephen Mazur (Deputy District Attorney) "In addition to one count of Murder,
Severson is charged with one count Kidnapping, False
Imprisonment and Aiding in the Commission of a Felony
after the fact."
"A hearing to determine whether Severson will stand trial as
an adult or a juvenile is scheduled for Aug. 29."
Attorney Harold Vites "Karen Severson denies all the charges."
Laura Doyle, will be tried as an adult on one count of Murder.
Karen Severson pleads Not Guilty. Laura Doyle pleads Not Guilty
Severson also pleads Not Guilty to kidnapping, false imprisonment
and aiding in the commission of a felony after the fact.
PRELIMINARY HEARING - DOYLE
1988 - November - Glendale Municipal Court.
Victor Amaya testifies "Laura Doyle threatened to kill Michele
Avila 6 weeks before Missy's body was found."
Irene Avila testifies "Karen Severson moved in with me 2 weeks
after my daughter's death to console me. During the
6 weeks she stayed at the house, she aided me
with my own investigation of Michele's death.
Karen suggested names of individuals who might
have been involved in the killing. Karen tried to
two other boys."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept. Investigators "Neither of the teen-age boys
mentioned were implicated in the slaying.
"Laura Doyle drove Michele Avila to the forest and was followed in another car by
Severson and Eva Chirumbolo (who has not been charged).The four walked to the
creek, an argument ensued between Doyle and Avila, and Avila wound up drowned."
Eva Chirumbolo (20) testifies "Laura Doyle admitted that she and Karen
Severson, killed Michele "Missy" Avila. I she accompanied
Laura Doyle, Karen Severson and Missy Avila to the forest
on Oct. 1, 1985, but was not present at the creek near Colby
Canyon Road when the killing occurred."
She further testies to events that occurred by the creek and in the car afterwards.
Ellery S. Sorkin (Doyle's attorney) "Why did you wait nearly three years to
tell authorities about the crime?"
Eva Chirumbolo "I was afraid for myself, that my life would be in danger."
Ellery S. Sorkin "Why did you not try to break up the argument among the girls?
Eva Chirumbolo "I don't know why I didn't. I wish I had."
Eva Chirumbolo "Laura admitted that she and Karen had killed Missy.
"Laura's boyfriend had recently left her."
Irene Avila "I think that, once again, Karen had planted the idea that Missy
was to blame."
While incarcerated, Karen Severson puts on more weight.
Karen Severson "I know the details of what happened to Missy.
But I'm not going to say."
"A lot of people were upset that Missy had
horned in on their boyfriends. Missy wasn't
as innocent as everyone thinks. When she
moved in on my territory (Randi Fernandez)
I just couldn't take it anymore. But no matter
what, I couldn't kill her."
Irene Avila (48) "My grief is compounded by the shock of having intimately
shared it with a girl implicated in my daughter's death.
She was Missy's best friend, but she was jealous of Missy's
family, Missy's looks, Missy's popularity and even Missy's
relationship with me."
Mark Avila (24) "Karen wanted to be Missy."
Irene Avila "Who knows, maybe Missy was haunting Karen to make her pay
for what she did. If it's possible, then I hope to God she's haunting
her each night in prison."
1988 - November 22- Pasadena Superior Court - Judge Rose Horn rules
Karen Severson will stand trial as an adult.
Stephen H. Mazur "Karen Severson will be held for trial in Superior Court in the
drowning of Michele (Missy) Avila. No arraignment has been
set for Severson."
1988 - November 23 - Karen Severson pleads Not Guilty to one count of Murder.
1988 December 2 - Judge Joseph F. De Vanon orderes Laura Doyle to appear
for arraignment in Pasadena Superior Court on Dec. 2.
1989 - January 24 - Karen Severson is scheduled to appear for a preliminary
hearing in the Pasadena Superior Court.
1990 - January 8 - Trial begins.
Deputy District Attorney Tamia Hope "Both Karen Severson and Laura Doyle
should be convicted of First Degree Murder as charged,
because evidence showed that they had planned to kill
Michele Avila when they drove her to the forest.
Eva Chirumbolo testifies to the drive to the Forest, the shouting and screaming
Laura Doyle and Karen Severson did at Michele Avila; to Karen
They were going to "scare" Michele Avila; The accusations of
Doyle and Severson against Avila that she'd had sex with their
boyfriends; Laura Doyle pulling Michele into the creek and
Karen Severson pushing her; Laura's shouts of "You're going
to pay for what you've done. You're going to pay for sleeping
with our boyfriends"; her own scared flight away from the fight
to the cars; Severson's words "We killed Missy." "She
deserved to die because she had sex with my boyfriend."
Eva Chirumbolo testifes"I didn't report the crime sooner because "I feared for
my life." "I changed her mind after the 1988 suicide of my 18-
year-old brother made merealize the grief the Avila family was
Victor Amaya testifies regarding his relationship with Laura Doyle, and the one
he shared with Michele Avila; the threats Laura made towards
Ellery S. Sorkin (Doyle's attorney) "Were you aware that Michele Avila and
Doyle had been friends since childhood?"
Victor Amaya "As far as I knew, they didn't really get along,"
Other witnesses testify "Laura Doyle and Karen Severson had
quarreled with Avila and angrily accused
her of having sex with their boyfriends.
Both Laura Doyle and Karen Severson
were jealous of Avila because of her looks
looks and popularity with boys."
Kymi Reel (another friend of the girls) testifies "Eva lied on the witness stand."
Eva Chirumbolo and Michele Avila had been in a fight weeks before
over Michele Avila's popularity with Chirumbolo's boyfriend, John Avril."
Charles Lloyd (Laura Doyle's attorney) "The testimony of Eva Chirumbolo,
the key prosecution witness in the case against Karen Severson
and Laura Doyle, was designed to divert attention from her own
involvement in the death.
Chirumbolo came forward with her story after hearing rumors tying
her to Avila's death. Kymi Keel, a mutual friend of the women, testified
that Chirumbolo and Avila had been in a fight weeks before. The fight,
centered on Avila's popularity with Chirumbolo's boyfriend, John Avril.
It is obscene that Eva Chirumbolo is not charged with this killing."
Harold Vites (Karen Severson's attorney) "Because Chirumbolo had not
witnessed the killing, it was impossible for the jury to find the
defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Tamia Hope "Chirumbolo had no reason to lie. She was not
an accomplice to this crime. If she was really
involved, why didn't she just keep quiet? Eva
Chirumbolo was touched and traumatized by
the death of her brother and finally decided to
come forward and tell what she knew."
January 30 - Deliberations begin.
Irene Avila "For the past four years I've kept her alive, and now I really have
to let her go." I hope that the trial will at last bring an end to my
family's suffering. I'm going to feel good that finally my family
can get on with their lives. We won't have this hanging over us,
we won't have to go to court anymore. I won't have to see my
sons and my daughter-in-laws suffer anymore."
Barbara Doyle (Laura's mother) "My family has also suffered and wants to
get the trial over with. It's been a hardship on all of us. But
you have to feel what other people are going through. I just
wish they understood too. I believe my daughter is innocent."
"I wouldn't be a mother if I didn't. Like the Avilas -- they love
their daughter, I love my daughter too. But no matter if she's
found innocent or guilty, there has been a lot lost already."
Harold S. Vites (Karen Severson's attorney) "My client's family is "very
supportive of her. Obviously, they are right behind her 1,000%."
1990 - January 31 - The jury finds Karen Severson and Laura Doyle,
GUILTY of Second Degree Murder in the drowning
death of Michele "Missy" Avila.
Karen Severson dabs tears from her eyes with tissues as the verdict is read.
Laura Doyle, seated next to her, shows no emotion
Judge Jack B. Tso orders Severson and Doyle to return for sentencing March 9.
Both Severson and Doyle are shackled and handcuffed and taken back to jail.
Deputy Dist. Attorney Hope "The usual sentence for a second-degree murder
conviction is 15 years to life in state prison.
Both attorneys are considering appeals.
The Avila family hug each other and cried.
Shaking and with tears, Irene Avila speaks to the press:
Irene Avila "I am disappointed with the jury's verdict but relieved that the trial
has ended. "But it's never going to be over because I don't have
my daughter. When they killed her, they killed a part of me.
If it wasn't for my family, I would not have survived this."
"I never suspected Laura Doyle or Karen Severson until after their
arrest. Both had attended Michele's funeral, and Karen Severson
even moved in with us for a short time afterward."
"She was close to me, like another daughter. Karen was my
daughter's best friend. They grew up together."
Mark Avila "The jury's verdict was unfair. Second-degree murder just doesn't
make us feel any better. They deserved a first-degree murder
conviction, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life
1990 - March 9 - VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
Irene Avila "I urge you to give my daughter Michele's killers the maximum penalty.
My life has been shattered forever because of this cold-blooded and
senseless act. They left my daughter to die in the woods like an animal."
Mark Avila "Karen Severson and Laura Doyle not only killed my sister but "a part of
all our lives as well."
Charles Lloyd, and Harold S. Vites
Both attorneys "asked the judge for leniency becauseof the women's age
and because they said their childhoods had been troubled.
Harold Vites "Karen Severson "at some point" wants to rebuild her life.
"For the rest of her days, she will live with the memory of
Deputy Dist. Atty. Tamia Hope "People "are still waiting for Laura Doyle
and Karen Severson to show some remorse.
When are they going to face the seriousness of this crime?"
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Jack B. Tso sentences both Karen Severson
and Laura Doyle to the maximum penalty for second degree murder, a minimum
of 15 years in state prison. With credit for the time they have already served in
Los Angeles County Jail, they will be eligible for parole in about seven years.
Judge Tso "The maximum sentence is warranted because of the violent nature
of the crime."
Karen Severson and Laura Doyle stared straight ahead, showing no emotion.
Does anyone know if those two animals have been released??? I sure hope not. I have seen the movie & read the book, and my heart hurt so bad for Missy & her family. I have never, ever forgotten her. I think about her from time to time, and wonder why people had to be so cruel. The lives of Missy's family have been forever changed. RIP Missy
No, neither has been released and their paroles denied.
Several on the jury stated that they were not convinced the murder had been planned.
Some said stated there was insufficient evidence to justify a First degree murder
Juror "There was no disagreement that they had participated in the murder. However,
there just wasn't any proof to show that it was premeditated. We thought
they just got carried away and didn't know when to stop..
Several other jurors didn't find Eva Chirumbolo's testimony entirely credible.
I didn't find her believable. I felt she knew more, and was probably holding
something back to protect herself."
Irene Avila (holding photo of Michele) "Thank God, justice has been served."
Jury Foreman Bruce Campbell (present in the courtroom for sentencing)
"I just had to see this through. I now think justice has been served."
Irene Avila "I now wish I had never known who the killers were.
They made fools out of all of us."
I plan to move. There are too many memories here. Karen
Severson's parents still live on the same street and Laura
Doyle's parents live just a few blocks away.
It's been so long (Michele's death). I keep thiking finally, finally,
she'll be able to rest. Finally, something will be resolved. But
for me, it will never be over. You can't get over losing a child.
That just doesn't happen."
1990 - May - Irene Avila starts a Victims group. The Avila's moved away from Arleta.
Irene moved around a lot since the trial.
Irene Avila "I've had a hard time settling down."
1991 - December - Karen Kingsbury (who covered the trial) releases her
book "Missy's Murder."
Later on, a made for tv movie based on Michele "Missy" Avila's murder,
and the book "Missy's Murder" is made. "A Killer Among Friends"
starring Tiffani-Amber Theissen and renowned actress Patty Duke.
Victor Amaya - lives in Arleta-Pacoima area of California.
He quit drugs and hanging with a rough crowd.
Amaya has worked as a dispatcher for the same
company for over 10 years. He has 2 children and
a 2 year old granddaughter. He is divorced, but has
Victor Amaya "Irene and her sons have had some severe emotional
and behavioral problems since Missy's death."
Karen Severson's parents still live in the same home inArleta, California
(near the Avila's old home).
ROBERT BLAKE CIVIL COURT TRIAL
Paula Severson was a juror on the jury in Robert Blake's civil court trial - the jury
that found him liable in his wife's death.
Paula Severson failed to disclose the fact that she had been in a high profile
murder case, or that her daughter was convicted of murder.
A postman who also sat on the jury recognized address, and told Paula that she
remembered that the murderer of Missy Avila lived there. She said that Paula
Severson turned stone faced. The postman reported the incident.
2006 - Robert Blake motioned for a new trial based on Paula Severson's failure to
report her involvement in the Avila case, or the fact that her daughter was
convicted of the murder.
Karen Severson's sister lives and works in her own business in California.
APPEALS - PAROLE
January 1994 - Laura Doyle and Karen Severson submit motions asking the
courts to reverse their convictions.
1997 - June - Karen Severson's first attempt at parole.
Karen Severson (29) has served 12 years of her 15 years to life sentence.
Parole-review process - 3 member commission examines Karen Severson's
conduct in prison.
Shavaun Sullivan-Avila (Michele Avila's sister in law)
"We want to keep her in prison and have her continue to serve the
time because we are no way done suffering. My gut feeling gut feeling
intuition, visceral sensation is that (Severson) will stay in jail, that she
won't be released. If not, the family would freak.''
Lt. Robert Sebald (Assistant Warden, Frontera) "Severson's release is a long
shot. I just talked to people next door - the Board of Prison Terms - and this is
just a review coming up. There's a very, very small chance, if any, of her being
Deputy District Attorney Tamia Hope "I plan to argue against Severson's release
`based on the seriousness of the crime and her unwillingness to accept the full
Severson's family are present in "full support."
KAREN SEVERSON STATEMENT TO PAROLE BOARD
Karen Severson ``My participation was horrific. I was an insane, rebellious,
mean- spirited teenager and put myself in a position to be
a big shot and a show- off. ``In my sick, twisted mind,
belittling Missy Avila was a show of power - and ended in
I did arrange for the walk in the woods with Missy, but I
had planned only to torment her. ``I wanted to see Missy
go through these things. I wanted her to suffer. I wanted
to see her ridiculed. But I never intended to kill her - never."
I was not present during Missy's murder. I never laid a
hand on my friend.
``I have hurt the Avila family, have betrayed them and caused
them great grief. I have caused my family great grief. The only
thing I can do is change the person I am today.''
Severson did not admit to tying Missy's hands, shearing off her hair,
beating her, shoving her face into a shallow creek or dragging a
100-pound log onto Michele Avila's neck.
AVILA FAMILY STATEMENTS TO PAROLE BOARD
Avila family members spoke against the release
Irene Avila (68) addresses Karen Severson and the Parole Board.
She stares directly at Karen Severson while she speaks.
Irene Avila "The callous nature of the. person I see sitting in front of me now
had the audacity to move in with me after she took my daughter's
life, promising me we would find who did this,''
As he spoke, Ernie Avila heaved with grief and tears.
Ernie Avila (42) " It's been 18 years and 22 days since my sister Missy was
murdered. They killed her, and one of them is here today.
Karen must never be allowed to hurt another family."
Chris Avila (30) is also present. He also is in tears.
PAROLE BOARD DECISION
Severson's denials have a great bearing on the commissioners decision.
Al Angle (Commissioner from Sun Valley - parole board panel member)
`The facts of this case indicate that the inmate was directly involved in the killing,
The inmate has not come to proper terms with the crime.''
"Karen Severson is still a danger to society."
Lt. Robert Sebald (Assistant Warden, California Institution for Women
at Frontera) "The decision was based on the seriousness of her crime.
The board's concern was that the crime was calculated."
PAROLE DENIED - Parole Eligibility - 4 years.
APPEALS - PAROLE
1998 - October - Laura Doyle's first parole hearing.
Parole Eligibility - 4 years.
2002 - April - Laura Doyle admits to "coaxing" Michele Avila into the
water and killing her.
Laura Doyle accuses Karen Severson of being the
"ringleader" and of participating in the murder.
2003 - October 1 - Parole Hearing scheduled for October 1- the 12th anniversary
of Michele Avila's murder.
Postponed until the 24th.
2003 - October 24 - Laura Doyle (34) is incarcerated at the California
Institution for Women (CIW)
Joseph Farman (Appellate Attorney)
"The jury should have been given the option of finding my client guilty
of involuntary manslaughter. The absence of the lement of intent
is the key distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary
manslaughter. Laura Doyle and Karen Severson may have intended
to hurt or scare MIssy, but "it got out of hand and she died as a result."
Joseph Farman declined to comment to media before or after the
A 3 member commission from the State Board of Prison Terms will consider
Laura Doyle's conduct in prison, her efforts at Rehabilitation and her future
plans before rendering a decision.
The Avila famly, Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) and the District
Attorney's office (a Deputy Attorney is present), are opposed to Doyle's release.
David Dahle (Acting Head of the Lifer Hearings Division for the County
District Attorney's Office)
``I believe we are opposed to her release. In the vast majority of our cases, we
find that the inmates still pose an unreasonable risk to society."
Pat Callahan (Valley State Prison Spokesman) ``It's not likely she'll get paroled.
It'll likely be after 2005, the full 15 years.''
Laura Doyle is allowed to address the panel.
Irene Avila addresses the parole board.
Irene Avila "She was a good girl, my only daughter. She was everything
to me. They didn't just take away my daughter, they took
away my heart.' For years, I was unable to go to the mall,
lest seeing mothers and daughters remind me of my loss.
For the past six years, I've moved from place to place, unable
to settle down. If I hear the phone ring, sometimes I still think
it may be my daughter. (Irene's voice breaks)
I don't want anybody to forget my daughter; I don't want anyone
to forget the hate I feel for Laura. My daughter, she never got to
graduate, go to the prom, get married, have children, smile and
The parole board finds Laura Doyle is not suitable for parole.
After the hearing:
Irene Avila "I will do everything in my power to prevent Doyle's release.
She's sentenced me to a life of hell, and she's only behind
bars now. If she gets out, I'll come apart. What right does
she have for freedom? She's nothing but a monster, a
demon - she's inhuman.''
APPEALS - PAROLE
2003 - October - Karen Severson faces the parole board.
Karen Severson has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Rich Pfeiffer (Karen Severson's Attorney) "This lady is incredible.
She got off to a bad start in life, as many people do, and going to
prison has been a very positive thing for her.''
Prison Psychologists and co-workers "laud"
Karen Severson as a "model inmate."
Severson is noted as being active in:
Numerous self-help groups
Multiple Bible courses
Tutors other inmates
Her paintings being hung in the prison visiting room.
Karen Severson, now a heavysetwoman addresses the parole board.
Her statement is a reiteration that she is remorseful, did not commit
Irene Avila addresses Karen Severson and the parole board.
Parole Commissioners again deny Karen Severson parole.
After the parole hearing:
Al Angle tells the Avila family "She's coldblooded. We watched her.
She sniffled twice, but we didn't see
a single tear when you were talking."
FROM PEN PAL SITES
Karen Severson # W-35829
CIW Miller A 11 Low
16756 Chino Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880-9508 USA
Sex - Female
DOB - 10/17/67
Seeking - Men
Race - Caucasian
Religion - Christian
Convicted Of - 2nd Degree Murder
Release Date - Uncertain (Lifer with Possibility)
Laura Doyle #W35830
PO Box 92
Chowchilla, CA. 93610-0092
My name is Laura, a 42 year old rare redheaded beauty in search of a loyal,
honest friend that I can feel comfortable in opening up to, and express who
I truly am without the fear of being judged. I enjoy the outdoors, staying active,
and helping others. I mentor the young girls here and help them find the positive
ways. I am open minded with a kind heart and would love to hear from you.
Date of Birth: 5-1-67
Release Date: Life
Do you smoke? No
Would you like letters from both sexes? Yes
Education: 12th grade
Occupation before prison: Von's clerk
Activities in prison: Vocational janitorial, vice char of NA/AA,
and mentoring other inmates (12 steps)
They make me sick! I hope they rot in jail for the rest of their miserable lives.
As long as they keep blaming the other and minimizing their roles in Missy's murder,
they'll stay in prison.
I hope they stay there forever! Keep denying Karen & Laura. We know what you did and as long as you both stay in prison, thats good for the rest of the public.
Missy will always be remembered as the beautiful, popular young lady. Karen & Laura will be remembered as the jealous, murderous B&%^#@s that they are!
I hope Irene and her family have found some peace in their lives. I can't imagine the pain they suffer! My heart goes out to them and I wish peace & love.
Thank you for sharing you/your husband's insight as to Missy, Laura and Karen.
In high school, I recall being attacked by a group of girls who had also pretended to be my 'friends' prior to the incident...they were, however, cowards and backed down when they saw that I was defending myself.
All through high school these girls tormented me, and once a boy told me one of those girls told him they did it because I was 'too pretty'.
While I am thankful that my situation never escalated to such a terrible point, my heart goes out to poor Michele and her family. What type of world do we live in if people decide that you have no right to live because you're prettier and more popular than they are? I hope Laura and Karen die in prison and rot in hell.
I'm glad your situation didn't escalate into something more violent such as what
happened to Missy and to others. It's a sad state of affairs with our world when
people think with their jealousy instead of what purports to be their brain.
This is really a sad case of pure evilness. I watched the movie about this and had to look it up. It was incredibly horrid what these girls did to Missy. No one should have to die because of the way they look or how popular they are. Any person who can do something like this to someone is the pure DEVIL and deserves to rot in prison. I hope they're never released.
In a perfect world, people like Karen & laura would just die. I often wonder why good people die...especially little children. It makes no sense. maybe its true, God only takes the best!
I know one day I will meet all of my friends & family in Heaven. Karen & Laura on the other hand will spend eternity in HELL.
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