NOTORIOUS KILLER LOSES PAROLE BID SEVERSON MINIMIZES ROLE IN TEEN SLAYING.
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
(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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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 24, 2003|
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