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NOTORIOUS KILLER LOSES PAROLE BID SEVERSON MINIMIZES ROLE IN TEEN SLAYING.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

CORONA, Calif. - A San Fernando Valley woman convicted in a famous teen murder case of brutally killing her best friend out of jealousy was denied parole Thursday after bitter and tearful pleas from her victim's family.

Karen Severson, now 36, showed no emotion as a two-member state parole board denied her third bid for parole during a hearing at the California Institution for Women. She won't be eligible for another hearing for two years.

Severson was convicted in 1990 of second-degree murder in the drowning death of Michelle ``Missy'' Avila in Big Tujunga Canyon in 1985 - a crime that took authorities years to solve.

For the first time since she was imprisoned 13 years ago, Severson expressed sorrow for goading another girl into harming Missy. But she did not admit to tying Missy's hands, shearing her waist-length hair, beating her and then shoving her face into a shallow creek before dragging a 100-pound log onto her neck - despite evidence presented during her murder trial.

``My participation was horrific,'' said Severson, her voice faltering as she spoke to parole commissioners. ``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 death,'' she said. ``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.''

But Severson maintained that she was never present during Missy's murder and never laid a hand on her friend - a claim that may have led the commissioners to deny her request for parole.

``The facts of this case indicate that the inmate was directly involved in the killing,'' said Al Angele, a commissioner from Sun Valley. ``The inmate has not come to proper terms with the crime.''

Distraught Avila family members joined a Los Angeles County prosecutor in battling Severson's request for parole.

``The callous person I see sitting in front of me now had the audacity to move in with me for three years after she took my daughter's life, promising me we would find who did this,'' said Irene Avila, 68, of Panorama City, staring at her daughter's childhood friend.

Ernie Avila, 42, of North Hollywood attended the hearing with his brother, Chris, 30, of Agoura Hills. Neither could stem his tears.

``It's been 18 years and 22 days since my sister Missy was murdered,'' said Ernie Avila, heaving from grief. ``They killed her, and one of them is here today.

``Karen must never be allowed to hurt another family.''

Prosecutors said Severson, then 17, and Laura Doyle, then 18, shoved their sobbing friend into an 8-inch-deep creek in the forest and killed her because they thought she'd had sex with their boyfriends.

The girls' involvement came to light three years later when a teen witness came forward and said she'd seen Severson and Doyle lead Missy into the woods and return without their friend.

The story became grist for national TV talk shows, a made-for-TV movie and a book.

Severson admitted she'd arranged for the walk in the woods with Missy, but said she planned only to torment her.

``I wanted to see Missy go through these things,'' Severson said during the hearing. ``I wanted her to suffer. I wanted to see her ridiculed. But I never intended to kill her - never.''

During Doyle's previous parole hearing - in April 2002 - she admitted to coaxing Avila into the water and killing her. She also accused Severson of being the ringleader and participating in the murder.

Severson, a heavyset woman in a peach-color blouse and tortoise-shell hair clip, was lauded in statements from co-workers and prison psychologists as a model inmate.

Despite the onset of multiple sclerosis, she has been active in numerous self-help groups, subscribes to multiple Bible courses, tutors other inmates and has had her paintings hung in the prison visiting room.

``This lady is incredible,'' Rich Pfeiffer, Severson's attorney, said before the hearing. ``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.''

But parole commissioners said they didn't buy Severson's statement.

``She's coldblooded,'' Angele said to the Avila family after the hearing. ``We watched her. She sniffled twice, but we didn't see a single tear when you were talking.''

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Karen Severson, now 36, dabs an eye during her parole hearing Thursday.

(2) Slain Michelle ``Missy'' Avila's brother Ernie and mother Irene oppose parole for the killer.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.
missyj8374
RuthAnn Dorothy Judge (Member): RuthAnn Judge 6/9/2009 4:29 AM
Thank God that Karen Severson was not paroled! She wanted a compassionate discharge because of her illness?! She deserves the same amount of compassion,and less,that she showed to her "so-called" best friend! May that woman rot in prison for what she did!
donjuan
don juan (Member): Keep her in Jail! 7/11/2009 3:54 PM
I was a about 10 years old when I saw the movie made about Missy's life. I remember seeing a Tv show later and seeing the real Missy. I was touched by her story and angered at the actions these monsters did to her! Then to have the nerve to move in with the family and try to befriend Missy's mother at a horrible time. Severson is a MONSTER inside and out! Leave that pig to rot in jail! She should be lucky she's ALIVE and breathing our good air! If this happened in Texas Severson would have been eligible for the DEATH PENALTY!

Que en paz descanse Michelle Avila.....
robbiesyohn
Robbie Yohn (Member): Do not release this woman! 3/8/2010 10:41 PM
First of all I want to say I am so sorry for the loss of your Daughter, Mrs.Avila wherever you may be. I hope she is in a better place. My thoughts and prayers do go out for you. I do hope you do find peace and that this horrible woman who took your daughter's life, never sees a day of freedom. She is lying her way to get released. I do hope things go well for you and the best goes out to you. I don't know what it is like to lose someone the way you did, but I do know that it hopefully changed the way your feelings did about allowing someone like that horrible woman staying in your own home! I would have went ballistic at the prospects of some horrible person staying in my home and pretending to be nice and all that.
Again, please take care and hope that one day that horrible person will reckon with her maker.


Zborn
Zborn (Member): Student at Byrd 8/9/2010 6:01 PM
I remember talking with Missy as a student at Byrd Jr. High. She was pretty and had a soft hart. I especially remember her eyes and long hair. She feathered it back like Farrah Fawcett and had a clip with feathers that she wore like the girls did back then. She was very charismatic, glowing in fact. I also remember Laura Doyel. I recall her less than lady like activities in the back of the handball courts with a boy. Then at the high school prom, before she was a suspect for murder, my date and I gave her and her date a ride from the hotel. She was fine with what she did. She was having fun. Her attitude was different on that day from other times I had encountered her. I distinctly remember thinking as we rode in the limo through Los Angeles that night, that she had changed, we had become adults. I know now it was a ruse. Only because she was caught do we know of her evil today. She was/is a thug aiding Karen, a nothing of a human being who dares to ask for understanding. How crazy is it Karen would say, " I never laid a hand on her"? They went into the canon to "humiliate" her, but found the only way they could do that was to kill what they do not understand. Here tears where not enough, so they brutally took her life, and extinguished Missy's glow, out of envy and self loathing.

Mrs. Avila walked the school at JHF Poly High, with Karen, looking for her missing daughter. Mrs. Avila stood, blocking my car, she looked inside and then at me. "Do you know Missy Avila?" Karen was at her side, her face was angry and accusing. Karen knew Missy was already dead by her hand. I did here that they were looking for a blue Chevy Camero. I explained to Mrs Avila I knew of two in the neighborhood. Karen red-faced said, "Are they friends of yours?" What length does a person have to take in their mind to do that? Whatever powers Karen has to convince others and herself, she will use to get out of prison.

It might be easy for others to read of the death, a life cut short by evil. However, if it is "maybe" some comfort to Mrs Avila, I have never forgotten your daughter, Missy.
I am 43 years old.
Frenchi 13
Cheryl Whitcomb (Member): Cheryl 4/10/2011 12:19 PM
What a sad story. I hope the Avilla family has some peace knowing she is still behind bars.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 24, 2003
Words:796
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