A mother of 3 kids, Irene Avila, had 2 boys and her only daughter, Missy. Irene treasured the precious relationship w/ her daughter. Missy's friendship w/ her mother encountered jealousy among her female friends. Irene was also a mother to more than just her kids; she was like "a town mom" to Missy's friends as well. Irene's house was the place kids ran to!
It was October 1, 1985 when the boys, Mark & Chris, came in late. When Irene woke up hrs. later in a panic at 3:00A, sleep wasn't happening and she just stared at an oil painting of her children. Worried and wondered where Missy was. Irene explained that Missy went to the park the previous day w/ Laura Doyle and would be home by six. Stress plagued of where Missy was? Irene headed to Christy Crawford's, an old classmate of Missy's, to see if she knew where Missy was? Irene explained of where/what the whereabouts last and Christy didn't like the sound in her story. Irene told Christy how Laura (Doyle) had dropped Missy off to talk to 3 guys in a blue camero. After coming up empty on info and a search, the police station had Irene fill out "deeply" informed questions.
|Melissa "Missy" Avila|
She was only 4 months older than Missy, but she seemed years wiser. While Missy was learning to read/write, Karen was learning the way to lie and get her way at any costs. In Karen's opinion, Missy was the kind of girl gullible enough to believe Karen's manipulation and side w/ her.
Two experienced hikers were down at a waterbed. They noticed something different right away. They log they were used to seeing was gone. Keeping his eye on the log he did grab, one guy, Rutledge, noticed a dead body lay under the log. Sanders noticed long hair floating in the water nearby. As they drew closer, the girl was face down in the stream, her arm stiff and bent behind her back. The log lay across her back/neck, forcing her face down in the riverbed. They ran for help. When help did arrive at the scene, they seen that this girl wasn't killed by one person, they had to have assistance w/ the log while the other held her down.
Before the girls met each other, both Karen & Missy longed for a sister. Six years later, in 1981, Karen & Missy began Junior High. Every fertile opportunity that Missy excelled, Karen was bitter and crazy with jealousy. After school one day, Karen approached a group of girls who sometimes hung around Missy. Karen began to start stuff about rumors saying she heard it all from Missy. The next day, Missy found a nasty note in her locker. After that, those group girls never talked to Missy. Of course, that pleased Karen.
Karen & Missy began hanging out more. A boy began taking notice in Karen. Overnight her life evolved around him. Missy worried about Karen's relationship w/ this boy, Michael, and was afraid it would result in pregnancy - which it did. The girls told their parents. Missy began to feel bad when talking w/ her mom about this, due to her knowing how this will affect Karen's life.
In the time that followed, Missy was sensitive to Karen's situation and in her fifth month, Karen dropped out of school. Missy hurt for Karen. Even though Missy remained true to Karen, she began hanging out w/ classmate Laura Doyle. On January 31ST, Karen gave birth to a daughter, Andrea. The infant seemed more fussy than normal babies and irritated Karen to where she would throw Andrea at her mother and run to Missy's. She was upset that the baby irritated her and that her boyfriend, Michael, Andrea's father, deserted her. One day when Missy was hanging out w/ a friend, Karen came over and hung out a bit. Then Karen went off an Missy for never helping her w/ Andrea. "Why don't you not get rid of him, come over and help me w/ Andrea?" Missy was taken aback by this. Karen then went off saying - "Forget it. You have everything. You're too perfect" and that she hated Missy and stormed out leaving Missy in tears. Irene seen all of this and felt bad for her daughter being put in that position.
Detectives found a denim purse. Catherine found the contents and ran a check-through and I.D. After seeing her age, she couldn't help but think of Missy's mother, Irene. Because of Karen's absence at school, Missy floundered in school. When Karen did announce plans to return to school, Missy was thrilled. But it was a different school than she thought. Karen secretly wanted to switch due to her after-look of 50lbs. after pregnancy. During this period, Missy's household began to fall apart. Her parents were separating and her older brother, Ernie Jr. was married w/ a life of his own. It was Missy who took it the hardest.
When changes came after Missy went w/ Karen to the continuation classes, the changes came overnight. Missy did a complete 180 degrees, listening to different music and changing her attire to fit in. She spent more/more time with Karen rather than study. Later in the semester, Missy left her notebook on the kitchen table after school. The writing on the cover revealed: 'Friends Til The End'. Whenever Missy was confronted by her mother, she was honest/truthful to her mother. They would GENUINELY have a discussion.
Missy had just turned sixteen. Karen began having trouble at Mission High. Her grades plummeted and spent most of her time drinking and getting high. She even partied w/ Andrea right there in the room. Karen was no longer satisfied into tricking others into leaving Missy alone, she wanted her friendship all to herself. By 1984, Karen's jealously grew more-and-more dangerously into hate and not a soul knew.
During Missy's junior year that semester, Irene noticed that Missy & Karen's friendship had cooled. Missy shrugged it off as though they're both busy. Missy went out of her way to make Karen feel less threatened by her presence, which did nothing to lessen Karen's envy. The two began to spend less-and-less tome together. Then . at-this-point, Karen began to lose control of her jealousy.
With Karen getting some of her own attention by dating someone, Missy and Laura Doyle had begun to hang out more. Laura began dating Victor "Vic" Amaya. Vic just seen Laura as someone to date, but he really loved Missy. Had Missy known, Laura hated her for being the center of Victor's attention. When Missy went to visit Karen, Missy and Karen's boyfriend, Jimmy, all spent time together at Karen's place. They all 3 sat around in Karen's living room and watched Andrea play with her toys. Then an hour later, Karen went to answer her phone so she left the room. Missy stood up to stretch and bent over to play w/ Andrea. Suddenly Jimmy began to grab Missy from behind. Before she could catch her balance, Missy TRULY did fall backward into Jimmy. Before she could get up, Jimmy began to run his fingers on her. Missy's first reaction was to stop him. But then Karen came into the room, frozen w/ her eyes on Missy & Jimmy. Karen then went off on Missy, as though Missy had planned all of this w/ Karen out of the room. She then called Missy a "slut" and then proceeded to throw he out. Karen wasn't finished yet. She felt that Missy ruined that relationship too! As Karen stormed out in anger at Missy & Jimmy out of the parking lot, the wheels in her mind began turning until she finally seen the answer to her problem. It was obvious that she seen Missy's interference and began to stop it once-and-for-all. She couldn't wait to put her plan into motion. Although Jimmy felt free when he left, he felt sorry for the ramifications Missy would suffer because of him.
One week later, Karen called Missy w/ an apology. Missy could see that Karen seen the wrong in what happened and that Karen kicked Jimmy out. Later that day, Karen came to the house to pick Missy up and go to Stonehurst Park to meet friends. When Missy came home and alerted her mom, she was headed for bed. If Missy was a little too lively for it being so late, this ordeal like many other warning signs went unnoticed. Missy went w/ a group near the big walnut tree where a carving w/ the words Karen & Missy, friends forever was etched. Karen and Missy grew more distant in the final weeks in September, after Karen announced that she was pregnant again by Jimmy. No one would have thought that Laura Doyle was angry at Missy.
When Catherine Scott did her detective duties, she also had the responsibility of doing the worst thing any woman/mother would have to do: tell the mother of a child that her child was no longer coming home. As she struggled to prepare for Missy's funeral, there was someone else in the Avila household. An evil person that no one could see. But there she was, the only person there that knew exactly what happened to Missy on that fateful day. It wasn't just knowing what happened, they wanted to be part of the aftermath, thriving on seeing everyone else suffer. It was Karen Severson. As Karen began to see Irene cry for her daughter, Karen vowed to find Missy's killer. Karen looked up at Missy's picture and stated to Irene, "Now that Missy is gone, I will be your daughter. You will always have me, Irene. I may not be Missy, but I will never, ever leave. I mean it." Irene finished getting ready for the funeral and quickly grabbed the tape that Missy had requested to play at her funeral prior to her death. Christy and Laura Doyle, as well as Karen, were in attendance at Missy's funeral. Irene could barely make it through. She fainted at the service and had to be transported to the hospital and didn't wake up until after 5:00p.
Driving back in different cars after the murder, one passenger wanted to go back and get Missy - that she wasn't dead. One passenger wondered if the incident could be forgotten. One just laughed it off, that she's dead and that they did it! Why did Missy go w/ these girls? She could have stayed home. She could have saved Missy. They laughed off that they killed her.
After working tirelessly on this case, Det. Scott received a call from Irene saying that Andrea had a dream the previous night about the murder and that Christy Crawford was responsible. Later that day, Karen went to the police station, where detectives were conducting interviews on Missy's murder. By now, an investigation into Missy's case had begun by Missy's friends/family. By placing herself in the center of the Avila's investigation, Karen was completely in control. Knowing what TRULY happened, Karen could steer the family into any direction but the one that happened. She rewrote the entire story. Unsure of what to do, Karen would step in and make decisions for the Avila family. She became the leader and directed the family on a mystical chase.
Since the murder, Karen & Andrea spent most of their time w/ the Avila's. One day Karen asked Irene if she could spend the night. Well, one night turned into the next until Karen and Andrea became part of the family. A family driven to find Missy's killers. Some remember after Karen moved in that she went to eat Missy's food, wear her clothes, sit in Missy's favorite chair, sleep in her bed. Without the family noticing, it was as if she was taking Missy's place.
During the next few weeks, the family would gather in the living room and Karen would force them to think of leads to solve this murder. The blue camero. Angry boys who Missy turned down. Ever since Karen began staying w/ the Avila's, Irene felt a comfort in her presence. It was like having a part of Missy back. Irene spent many days in her room trying to sleep, wanting for the pain to go away. But Missy's brothers & friends helped - especially Karen Severson. Karen was in control, and the others were nodding in agreement. Karen convinced everyone to hike up the mountain road to the spot where Missy was killed to search for clues to solve the case. "The cops already did, but they might have missed something" At this time when everyone was to go, it was perfect because no one else will be there. The group agreed and went. Karen began to tell everyone to stop at the EXACT spot where Missy's body had been found. Certainly no one else knew where exactly and the specific details were kept from the press. How exactly did she know? The next day, the group went back in search of clues. Andrea was even more certain that Missy was in the water. How would she know that? Unless Karen talked specifics of the case w/ her own daughter. It was weird, spooky how this child seemed to know exactly where Missy had been killed. As she looked out from the middle of the stream, Karen kept saying "It's Missy. I know it! I feel her here. She's trying to communicate w/ me." The others watched her, feeling the situation was becoming too strange. As everyone kept looking, it took Mark less than a minute to spot the tree. The tree had a dozen names carved in it. Mark could see the woulds from several feet, "Jimmy & Karen 1985" then above that "Karen & Missy Friends Forever" Everyone seen it! Everyone was all confused. Karen kept proclaiming she had never been up their before! Karen looked at the carvings and her face filled w/ anger. Karen blamed the new markings on Jimmy, like he was the one who killed Missy. Karen was excited now. After Karen stated that Jimmy was a possibility, everyone gathered closer. They wanted to believe her.Karen was in a rage-filled trance.On this ride home, after Karen convinced everyone else of being a suspect, Karen sang along w/ Missy's favorite song.
Karen Severson tried to blame Jimmy Mitchell of Missy's murder. Karen lewered Jimmy to a party w/ an apology about blaming him for Missy. But it was a trick for Jimmy to be violently jumped w/ Karen being the ringleader to everyone else at Christy Crawford's party. Revenge for Missy was to almost kill Jimmy. He couldn't believe Karen had set him up.
These kids' socioeconomic status being significantly lower than that of teens in other parts of the Valley - and gang mentality being a way of life - revenge killing was commonplace. Karen was becoming energetically excited at the thought of killing Jimmy. She was telling the group what to do and how to dispose of him. Pouring acid on his body so no one will recognize him. Then to cut off his finger and bring it back to her - proof that he's dead. She seen it as payback for Missy's death. At the time, people could see the hatred in Karen, for "someone" killing her best friend. It would be awhile before they seen the REAL reason. They decided to back out at the VERY LAST minute after realizing that Jimmy TRULY DID NOT kill Missy. Vic & Brian's minds were both clouded by revenge.
Two days later, on Thanksgiving Day, everyone EXCEPT Karen was frustrated about the investigation. During Thanksgiving, Karen made an announcement.The Avila family had no idea still that Karen knew exactly what happened to Missy. It was the worst Thanksgiving for Karen. She kept letting her mind drift away back to that stream, back to Missy's last words. She began to not feel well. It got worse. She couldn't eat, sleep, go outside, take a shower. She was scared to death. She was "afraid" something would happen to her because she was there and didn't stop what happened to Missy.
By Mid-June, every clue that Det. Scott & Dan Jenkins had run across in the investigation had dried up. They believed that Missy was killed by someone who knew her. That summer, the Avila's noticed Karen becoming more than ever pre-occupied w/ finding Missy's killers. One guy that wanted to go and date Missy back in school, knew of Missy's demise but not anything concerning the facts. Karen berated him and tried to coerce a confession - to appoint blame. She said she was doing all of this for Irene. One week later, Karen began accusing Christy Crawford. Christy hadn't been around much since Missy's death. Karen planted the idea in Irene's mind later that summer. Irene angrily refused to believe that one of Missy's closest friends would do this.
More than a year passed since Michelle was murdered and no hot leads lead to it no longer being a priority case. Any hunches to a suspect came from Karen. She was always at the Avila house whenever detectives stopped by w/ information. She seemed abnormally obsessed w/ this case. Lynne Robbins, who was one of Karen's classmates in beauty school, the two of them were becoming very close. The week before Christmas, Karen showed Lynne her room, which had clippings, pictures, etc. plastered on the walls concerning Missy's murder. Sort of as a shrine to her best friend . . . or as a sick sign of what she did. This made Lynne very uneasy, which made Karen enraged. After she calmed down and they were leaving, it left Lynne w/ a shiver through their body.
Karen had been at Laura Doyle's house when they called Irene to say that Karen got Laura to confess. They both came right over to Irene's. It was 10:00p and both detectives Catherine & Dan went to the station. By this time, to forget the murder, Laura was fully addicted to drugs and almost a skeletal frame. It turned out - no such luck. Karen looked at Irene's reaction. On the way to the station w/ Irene, Karen & Laura stopped for chips and drinks and continued laughing as though just a normal car ride.
During an interrogation at the police station a few days later, Laura wasn't giving up anything. It was becoming frustrating. Twenty minutes later and no info, Karen volunteered to go and talk to Laura to get "something" out of her. "Get her to talk". It was nearly 11:00A and Karen came out, after talking about whatever in a room, that she "got the rest" of the details. In doing that, Irene was more grateful to Karen for doing this. Karen later on began to say that she was having dreams of Missy holding a knife. So much so to alert Irene about these visions.
Cindy Silverio had gone to school w/ Missy. She began to tell her brother, Jack, that she knew about the murder. She went up to the site with the people who killed Missy, then she got scared and went back to the car. After finding out what happened and that they killed Missy, she never said anything due to being afraid they would kill her too. Due to the death of her brother, Allen, Cindy understood what Missy's family went through, how they must've suffered. She couldn't contain what she knew any longer. The very next day, she arranged for Catherine Scott to come to her apartment to find the missing details for this case - which she knew. Cindy was nervous and tried not to come overanxious. Cindy had her brother there during this time. She was PETRIFIED!
After she began: Cindy had gone to a park w/ Karen to meet Laura & Missy. Karen and Laura began yelling at each other, pretending to fight, and before long Laura and Missy took off driving towards the mountains. After driving for 45 minutes, they ended up at Wicky-Up. When they got to the mountains, Karen & Laura told Missy they were only pretending to be mad at each other. They were really angry at Missy. That's when the four girls walked up to a wooden area near a stream. When they got there, Karen & Laura forced Missy toward a rock on the shore. They called her names, ridiculed her, until Missy began crying. Then Laura grabbed Missy's arm and Karen pushed her into the water. She then revealed in the humiliation of cutting Missy's hair. There it was, the ENTIRE truth. All the holes filled and all the clues/mystery solved.
The next day, Det. Scott and Dan Jenkins went about action to arrest both Karen & Laura. They went about a way to trap the girls. Karen came in first for what was to be a routine questioning. She came in w/ a 5 yr-old Andrea. This was all according to plan. Karen & Laura needed to see each other for this to happen. There was no denying the hatred in her eyes as she looked back at Laura. Seeing Laura there at the station was not part of Karen's plan. They had led the girls into separate rooms. They would put one against the other. It wouldn't matter since the truth came from Cindy Silverio.
After they began talking in separate rooms, Det. Scott began to tell what they knew. Karen's face went white and she began to cry. All along Karen thought she was too smart to be caught and avoid prosecution. Det. Scott waited for a reaction. Slowly, from the killer(s) themselves, they got confessions of what happened. As Karen was going to get up and leave after admitting to everything, as soon as she got out on the street, when she thought she was to get away, Det. Scott grabbed Karen's wrists and slapped handcuffs on them. Next, they were ready for Laura. After getting the same truth, Laura was booked and sent to a maximum security facility for women. Saying good-bye to her daughter and everyone, Karen sounded as though her attitude wasn't as if she was going to prison, but to serve her country. Both were being charged w/ first-degree murder in the death of Missy Avila.
Now they only had to tell all of this to Irene. After Det. Scott got to Irene's, she sat her down, told her the news of her daughter's killers. At first, Irene didn't want to believe her - that she was mistaken. After showing her the proof, Irene fainted. While Mark, Irene's son, called the paramedics, Catherine Scott was there at her side. It was hitting Irene w/ the truth.
Nearly three years later, Karen blamed everyone but herself and now she was in jail. It was mid-August 1988, Karen would be charged as an adult despite her age. Jealousy was determined the official motive for the murder. The judge sat Karen's bond at $1 Million, while Laura didn't get one. They were sent to Sybil Brand Institute. It had taken Cindy Silverio six months to come forward.
One key witness the prosecution needed to find was Jimmy Mitchell. He was crucial to the case because without him, there was no motive for Karen to kill Missy. Jimmy had left Arletta, CA and started a new life in Seattle, WA. While he was reading a recent issue of a magazine, he seen the story of Missy's trial, how Karen truly was the one who did it. He was thinking of how Karen tried to blame him and he called Irene right then. After hearing from her and seeing that it wasn't too late, he headed back to Arletta to be a key witness to testify against Karen as witnessing the hatred/motive for the murder.
The day had finally come. Missy's best friends would be tried for first-degree murder in her death. Karen didn't appear worried about the outcome of these proceedings. She smiled coyly at the jurors. She looked excited to see the media. The whole thing made Irene sick. As far as Laura was concerned, this was all Karen's fault. The jury seen just what the prosecution did - cold and unremorseful. After the prosecution finished, the defense team for both girls waived that option.
After Mark Avila answered questions on the stand from prosecution, the defense tried to damage what truth he just told. But Mark caught on to what was going on and directed answers straight at Karen & Laura. When he finished, Irene was called to the stand. She had appeared shaky and distraught after a sleepless night. After Irene's questioning and an excruciating 4-day holiday break, a forest ranger testified about finding Missy's body, it's position, the stream, some girls bragging about their friends murder. Then he pointed out one of these girls was Karen Severson. After that, Karen didn't look like the pretty/innocent girl she appeared. She looked like an ersatz woman. The next person to take the stand was one who would tell the whole truth about happened that day. It was Cindy Silverio.
The next witness was very critical. Cindy's testimony rested on this entire case. The courtroom buzzed w/ anticipation. For the most part, prosecutors would let Cindy do all the talking. She was telling the truth of what she knew and more of the truth that others didn't know. The entire time that Cindy was telling what happened that day, tears were streaming down her face. Everyone in this courtroom was hearing this story and mentally envisioning what had happened to Missy and what she LITERALLY went through. When it came to the point of what Karen had personally done when she got back from this murder, the defense tried to object as some kind of break in the testimony, but the judge wasn't buying it and Overruled! After finding out what happened, every question after was interrupted by the defense w/ objections. They were either overruled or sustained! Laura even wanted to go back and get Missy (like maybe she wasn't dead). When crime scene photos were shown to Cindy, she screamed and couldn't take it. A moment of truth. Karen & Laura showed no reaction or remorse. Cindy's reaction said it all.
Cindy's cross-examination took place on January 22ND. Defense tried to shatter any memory that Cindy remembered from that day. At this point in the testimony, Cindy was no longer fighting the questions, but answering them as they came. The cross-examination continued throughout the day. They wanted the jury to think that Cindy came forward to protect herself. The day was ending and it was vital to come to a point. After a few more questions, it was over.After the tough testimony heard from Cindy, the judge declared a break to take all that in. Next the jury heard from Jimmy Mitchell and he testified to Karen's ordering him to stay away from Missy. After Jimmy, they heard from the coroner that exhumed Missy's body and the damage done from the murder. His testimony was GREAT for the prosecution. The next few witnesses worked GREATLY at diminishing Laura & Karen. Prosecutors couldn't wait.
Jessica Randolf had been a close friend of Cindy's. She had testified that she seen Cindy confront Missy to stay away from her boyfriend. Her testimony actually conflicted w/ star witness for the prosecution, Mark Avila. When Jessica testified, she seemed to not remember where any of the anger towards Missy came from. The next morning, the prosecution's case finished, after a tape of the crime scene was shown. After the tape, there was silence in the courtroom. After that, the prosecution rested their case. At this point, after trying to dismiss this case for lack of evidence from the defense, the judge dismissed that claim. Both attorneys for the defense, on behalf of their clients, rested their case. The jurors were surprised. It was like the defense didn't put up much of a fight. After the defense tried to relay what they said "happened", the judge recessed the case until the following Monday.
The defense had nowhere to go in closing arguments except to discredit everyone that testified. But closing arguments tended that this case rested solely on Cindy Silverio and everyone knew it. Taking into account her testimony would be the final piece resulting on what note this case ended on.
At 10:30A, January 30TH, and the verdict would come in. The Avila's and Tamia would be in knots. At 10:41A, the defense came in to the room to their tables. Irene was a nervous wreck. At 10:50, the TV cameras were allowed in. Karen's mother, Paula, was in shock that her daughter wouldn't have done this. The verdict came in: Laura was guilty of second-degree murder. Karen's verdict was the same. Irene thought this nightmare was never going to end. Karen turned toward her mother and Irene seen that she was crying. Probably for her own plight. Not for Missy.
After the trial/verdict, Irene spent more time w/ the parents of murdered children support group. The gang violence & atmosphere in the areas that 30 years ago was the ideal place to raise kids, but was now riddled w/ gang violence and more/more parents were adding their kids to the list of murdered children. Irene wanted to help and began a chapter in her area. Outside of her family, this support group was a way to let out sorrow and anger. When the judge denied the defendants request for a mistrial based on a lack of evidence, the courtroom erupted into applause as a sign of approval. When it came time for the victim's family to speak, Irene stood first and took the witness stand to tell the girls on trial how she felt. Laura Doyle's attorney was doing as he was paid and told the Avila's, especially Irene, that "Laura does apologize from the bottom of her heart" while Laura's facial expression showed ABSOLUTELY NO REMORSE. The judge sentenced Laura to 15-yrs to life for murder in the 2ND degree. The court sentenced Karen to 15-yrs to life. The Avila's had won. Karen & Laura were going to prison.
When Irene left the courtroom, before she did anything else, she spoke quietly to Missy. Quietly so no one could hear her, she said good-bye to her only daughter. From that day on, even though they will forever miss Missy, at least they could feel at peace.
Michelle "Missy" Avila