Michele “Missy” Avila, then 17, was born in Southern California on February 8, 1968 and attended San Fernando Highschool. She lived with her mother Irene Avila, who was divorced, and three brothers, Ernie, Chris and Mark. They lived in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Arleta, California. Not too far from Los Angeles.
When Missy was eight a new girl moved into a house around the corner. Karen Severson, also eight. Karen was described as an overweight, shy child. Soon the two girls are best friends who would hang out together daily, riding bikes, sharing secrets, having sleepovers and going to each others birthday parties. Karen was a regular at the Avila home and was very comfortable around Irene, who considered Karen ‘family’.
Laura Doyle was also born and raised in the same neighborhood. She was also good friends with both girls.
Family photo of Missy along with her three brothers
The early 80′s came along and the three girls moved out of middle school and entered High School. Their interests have moved far beyond little dolls. They dress like their peers, rock and headband to the Scorpions and Motley Crue and had a deep interest in boys, looks and acceptance.
17-year-old Missy blossomed into a social butterfly and was considered pretty among her peers. She was stylish outgoing and had a great personality. Your typical teenager who enjoyed going out on the weekends or having friends over her place to swim in her pool or just hangout. Irene Avila was laid back and accepted all of Missy’s friends as her own and company enjoyed being there so it wasn’t unusual to see up to a dozen peers all hanging out at the Avila residence.
Karen was what you would call the complete opposite. Instead of blossoming she blew up. She was obese, insecure and very little confidence. She craved the attention that Missy received. Boys would flirt with Missy but pick on Karen. It grew on her already weak self-esteem. Almost every female has experienced jealousy of some sort but for Karen this went beyond the typical green monster. – She came from a family who didn’t set rules or boundaries. She never had a curfew, never got grounded, never had any of those dreaded but much-needed teenage lectures. She had a baby very young which most likely was the result of her careless upbringing. Many believe that, along with her self-image and need for attention and acceptance, molded her into what she eventually became. A killer.
Photo of Karen (far left) and Laura (right) taken after Missy’s murder in court
Laura Doyle, then 18, was described as tall, lanky, and promiscuous. Many say she looked decent when she applied makeup but she seldom did and was somewhat of a ‘Tomboy’. She was also a drug user who regularly skipped school and hung out with the wrong crowd, which wasn’t surprising to those who knew her. Many could tell at a young age that Laura would grow up to be a bad influence. Everytime Missy would hang out with Laura she would find herself surrounded by the drug using crowd. You know, the ones who failed school or dropped out, that crowd.
Laura and Karen had many things in common including their lack of loyalty towards Missy. They would call her names behind her back such as ‘slut’ due to her harmlessly flirting with male peers. They would start rumors about her in an attempt to make her look bad. When the two came together their feelings for Missy became noticeably toxic. However, when Missy came around they would hide it.
Some people wondered why Missy even hung out with them.
“Missy made great lasagna, dreamed of becoming a physical therapist, and was fiercely loyal to her childhood friends” says Irene as she reminisces about her daughter.
An anonymous online user who also attended San Fernando High School and knew Karen and Missy, had shared her own opinion;
“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 who couldn’t stand her.”
One time Missy and Karen were window shopping at the local mall when Karen suddenly snuck lingerie into Missy purse. They were both caught and detained by security guards the moment they walked out of the store and when Irene picked up Missy she was upset and grounded her. She also started double-thinking Missy’s relationship with Karen but knowing teenagers make mistakes, and knowing the two girls have been apart of each others life since young children, she dropped the issue. Meanwhile Karen’s parents failed to care so unlike Missy, Karen didn’t learn any lessons aside from being extra sneaky next time.
Photo of Irene Avila years after Missy’s death
Life went on and so did the friendships between the three girls but the jealousy Karen felt for Missy was turning to bitter resentment as she continued to get ignored and pick on by boys. Somehow she rationalized it in her mind that Missy was purposely stealing all the attention.
Missy briefly dates Victor Amaya, a teen who attended a local Catholic School and sported a tattoo of a leaf with the inscription “stoner” across it. Their relationship was sexual and Laura is aware of this. After the break up Victor starts a relationship with Laura. Missy isn’t too upset or at least she appears to be ok with it.
Summer of 1985 Several weeks before the murder — Laura’s insecurity and jealousy rubs Victor the wrong way. She appears to clingy and he breaks up with her. Laura is left devastated and believes another girl must be the reason why he choose to break it off. She’s not over him and continues to attempt a reconcile to no avail. She periodically calls him or drives by his house, not yet ready to give up and move on.
“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.” Victor would later say.
Laura’s hatred for Missy sparked when she drives by Victor’s house one day and spots him and Missy together holding hands and kissing at the end of his driveway. She is enraged and speeds up to them and pulls down her window to let them know that they were caught and how much of a “slut” she (Missy) was. At this point she most likely assumes that Victor still cares for her and will apologize and deny his feelings for Missy. Instead, Victor tells her to “go away” and continues to hold onto Missy.
Victor would later say that when Laura went to leave she muttered “I’m going to kill that bitch”. The threat was not taken seriously at the time.
“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 to police.”
Missy, now fighting with Laura, also drifts away from Karen. Meanwhile, Karen and Laura start hanging out together much more and why wouldn’t they? They had many things in common including a hatred for Missy and were able to release their frustrations to one another.
In an attempt to make Missy look bad Karen starts spreading lies around school and telling a group of girls that Missy had slept with their boyfriends. The angry girls stalk out Missy and confront her, screaming at her and then jumping her.
After the incident an unknown student approaches Missy and tells her “Karen’s the one spreading the rumor about you.”
“Missy was so mad at the girl for telling her it was Karen’s fault. Missy “knew” Karen would never do anything like that.” Irene Avila would later say.
But while Missy was ignoring the warning signs, Karen was doing everything in her power to make Missy look bad in the eyes of others, mainly boys. Everytime a boy flirted with Missy, while sarcastically teasing or ignoring Karen, she would resent and despise her even more. Somehow everything was Missy fault.
Colby Canyon, a campground 45 minutes from Arleta is known as Wicky Up. Local teens regularly go there to hang out and party and the three girls are quite familiar with the place.
In Junior year, Missy and a boy named Randi Fernandez are dating but Randi likes to party too much for Missy’s liking so she breaks it off one month into the relationship. Shortly after Randi and Karen begin a relationship and move into an apartment together. Karen becomes pregnant and has an abortion. Karen will later give birth to another child which she names Stephanie, the same name of her sister.
Karen doesn’t trust Randi around Missy and according to Irene, Missy once told her of an afternoon while she was over Karen’s apartment. She and Missy were in her room when Karen asked her to grab her baby’s bottle in the kitchen. When Missy walked by Randy he pulled her onto his lap, without warning, and when she attempted to get up Karen walked in and became enraged at her and told her to leave. Missy tried giving an explanation but Karen wouldn’t hear it.
September 1985 — Eva Chirumbolo, 17, moves in with Karen. Laura is employed at a bakery shop.
September 21, 1985 – 12 days prior the murder — Karen spots Missy at a local park in Arleta and attacks her with a beer bottle, slaps and pushes her before friends break up the fight. During this time Karen and Laura, fed up, get together and formulated a plot to get ‘rid’ of Missy once and for all. They wanted her gone for good.
Several days before the murder – Karen and Laura pretend to forgive Missy. She is excited that her two best friends are back in her life and her excitement is easily noticeable by Irene.
Karen has a phony talk with her and tells her of issues between Randi and herself. Missy suggests she break up with Randi, that he was a player and she would be better off without him. Karen was really upset because the guy she wanted didn’t want her.
By this time, her jealousy and resentment for Missy is at an all time high. She has already planned Missy’s fate unbeknownst to her, but puts on a phony smile and pretends everything is okay.
The afternoon of October 1, 1985 — Laura and Karen put their plan into action.
Laura calls Missy and asks if she wants to hang out and go to Stonehurst Park and talk. Missy excitedly agrees and tells her mom of her plans, saying; “I’m going out with Laura, we’re going to Stonehurst Park. Promise to be home by 8PM” – As she’s leaving she turns to her mother and says “I love you”, which put a smile on Irene’s face.
”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.”
Eva Chirumbolo accompanies Karen Severson on the ride to Stonehurst Park in Sun Valley and is completely unaware of what is about to transpire.
“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.” Eva would later say at Laura and Karen’s trail.
They meet up with Laura and Missy, and they followed each other in separate vehicles up to Stonehurst Park.
On the way up to the Park, Missy is chatting with Laura, completely unaware of what her two best friends had in store for her. Laura is eerily calm and portrays no sign that would signal a red flag.
The girls decide they’re going to the National Forest. It’s unknown if this was part of the plan or if Karen and Laura figured at that point that the National Forest would be more isolating.
Karen and Eva followed Laura’s car to the isolated forest.
When they reach the Forest they park in a dirt lot near a wooded area which is located near the creek in Colby Canyon. Laura and Karen get out of their vehicles and begin to yell at each, as per their plan.
Missy gets out of car in an attempt to break up the fight and that’s when they turned on her. They started to scream and shove her, calling her names and accusing her of sleeping with their (ex) boyfriends. Missy immediately starts crying and denying ever sleeping with either one of them.
Eva, who has been sitting in the car watching from a short distance, decides to get out of the vehicle. By this point the confrontation is getting increasingly intense. Missy, who just moments ago was laughing and listening to music with who she thought were her best friends, is now fearful of them. She has no one to help, nowhere to run and is quickly realizing the dire situation she has naively gotten herself into.
Laura grabs her by the wrist and pulls her, coldly telling her “let’s go for a walk”. Missy who is still crying, hesitates before Karen comes up and pushes her towards the wooded area.
“All four of us walked down an embankment to the creek. Laura and Karen continued screaming at Missy.” says Eva.
Laura yanks Missy by her hair and once again she accuses her of sleeping with Victor. Laura steps beside the creek and pushes Missy towards Karen who in return shoves her to the ground, making her lose control of her purse which has fallen into the muddy, wet area.
By this point Missy is fearful for her life. Most likely she thought that up until they dragged her to the creek, that they were just going to beat her up and leave her there. Now she is certain that they have other intentions and plead frantically to them. All pleas and cries fall on deaf ears and Eva, terrified starts walking back to the car. Midway she hears Missy scream for her to help but she was helpless and feared for her own life. She and Missy were both petite unlike Karen who was obese and intimidating, and Laura who was tall and aggressive. She was in a panic and feared that any attempts to stop the raged pair would backfire on her.
”I was scared so I ran back to where the cars were parked.” says Eva.
Karen and Laura continued to beat and batter Missy mainly focusing on her face. The beating is so severe that one of her earrings ends up pulled out of her ear and is entangled into her long brown hair.
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. Psychological experts say this is an attempt to dehumanize a victim. Something that is done is many cases. It could also be an attempt to make a pretty Missy look different, perhaps not attractive.
Laura Doyle is shouting “You’re going to pay for what you’ve done! You’re going to pay for sleeping with our boyfriends!”
Karen and Laura carry a Michele who weighs a mere 98 pounds. Laura carries her feet while Karen carries her by the arms, which are bent at the elbow and behind her back.
Michele Avila is struggling and trying with all her might to get away. Most can say that by this point she knew her fate.
The two carried her to shallow water and forcefully hold her head under water. She struggles for several minutes then stops. They continue to hold her head under water for several more minutes and then they spotted a 4-foot, 100 pound log and carried it over and placed it on her head/neck area.
Michele Yvette Avila is dead.
Childhood photo of Missy
Karen Severson and Laura Doyle calmly walked back to their cars and speed off. Missy’s body lies flat and still in the ankle-deep water, face down. The same position she was held down in. 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 is freaking out during the car ride back to Arleta, asking Laura “what happened, where’s Missy?” — She is told that she was drowned and although both Laura and Karen appeared speedy and jittery after the murder, they showed zero remorse for their actions.
“A few minutes later, Karen and Laura joined me. Karen Severson jumped into her car and drove away. When I got into the car with Laura, she said “We killed Missy.” ”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).” Eva would later say at the trails.
Missy fails to return home by 8PM and her mother calls Karen who has a supposed alibi. The police are called the next morning. Three days later hikers made the grisly discovery after stopping by the creek. At first they discovered a piece of clothing which turned out to be Missy’s sock which came off during the struggle. They looked up and from a distance notice her decomposing body and ran off to alert police.
Irene Avila is devastated of her daughter’s death and spends many months looking for her killer. Karen played the grieving friend and even moved in the Avila home. The two would stalk out possible ‘suspects’. Karen became strangely obsessed with taken over Missy’s life and even used her make up and clothes. Irene kept Missy’s room untouched and fell into a deep depression. It would take six months before justice was sought and Irene Avila fainted when she realized the her daughters killer was none other than her two best friends. The same friend who moved in after her death. She was sick and sought a therapist after the ordeal.
Photo of Irene Avila holding up a photo of Missy – This photo was taken years after her death
Missy’s murder remained unsolved for six months until one day Eva Chirumbolo’s brother commits suicide and she falls into depression and realized what Irene Avila went threw when she lost a loved one.
Laura and Karen were arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment where they remain today.
Photo of Karen Severson during her trail (I believe this was a later trail, possibly a parole hearing and not the trail that convicted her.)
Laura Doyle prison photo which was posted on a prison pen-pal websites. It appears that these girls are STILL seeking out boys and attention years on as they sit in prison. Creeps!
Irene Avila had a really bad feeling just before her teenage daughter Missy was found battered and drowned in a Big Tujunga Canyon stream. And the Lake Balboa mother felt pangs of dread before learning Karen Severson — her daughter’s killer and childhood friend — was released on parole in the Summer of 2011. Her dread deepened in December 2012 when her slained daughters second killer, Laura Doyle, was released as well. Both woman now grown adult are walking among us, free to do as they please.