EXCLUSIVE: Killer will not profit from selling story of 17-year-old girl's murder

ByElex Michaelson and Lisa Bartley KABC logo
Friday, November 14, 2014
Exclusive: Killer will not profit from selling story of 17-year-old girl's murder
A convicted killer who hoped to profit from her new memoir in which she describes brutally killing her friend will not be cashing in. The distributor says the book will be free.

The story of a family distraught over a convicted murderer, released from prison and trying to profit from the death of their loved one drew outrage from hundreds of Eyewitness News viewers.

Irene Avila and her family want to thank viewers for responding so strongly to the story of her daughter Missy.

"I never in my wildest imagination thought we had so many people out there that cared about us so much," she said.

Twenty-nine years ago, Missy Avila, 17, was murdered by her friends Laura Doyle and Karen Severson. Her body was found face down in a creek, pinned beneath a heavy log, deep inside the Angeles National Forest.

It took police nearly three years to crack the case, but Severson and Doyle were arrested and convicted in 1990 of second-degree murder.

Karen Severson and Laura Doyle

Both are now out of prison, and last week Eyewitness News interviewed Severson about her new memoir in which she describes the brutal crime.

"I will tell you about my life," Severson said. "I'm the only one that could tell you. I lived it."

Severson says jealousy and fights over boyfriends led to Missy Avila's murder.

"I pushed her," Severson explains. "I was tired. I was frustrated. All this stuff, everything we were accusing her of, she knew she did it, but not one time did she say she's sorry!"

Karen Severson
Karen Severson's book cover

Severson, who now works as a telemarketer, said she was donating a portion of her salary, book sales and possible proceeds from an upcoming documentary to an anti-bullying campaign in Missy Avila's name.

When asked if she would donate everything, Severson said, "I didn't say everything, I have to live and it's hard to get a job out there."

At the time, Irene Avila was outraged Severson could possibly profit from the murder of her daughter.

"It's not fair. She's getting away with it all over again," she said.

Hundreds and hundreds of Eyewitness News viewers agreed, flooding Facebook with comments saying Severson shouldn't make a dime.

The book's distributor then changed the book's price to zero, ensuring Severson would not profit from it.

On Facebook, the distributor wrote: "This book is being offered free of charge. This was not meant to be a money-maker for Karen's personal use, it would have been used to fight against bullying."

"I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support for our family. It has touched our heart," said Shavaun Avila, Missy's sister-in-law.

Shavaun Avila says she's now looking for a California politician to champion "Missy's Law", which would make it illegal for convicted criminals to profit from telling their stories in California.

"The fact that it's being offered for free is a big victory for our family, but it's just the beginning of a long road ahead to change the law," she said.

Nina Salarno Ashford from Crime Victims United is now working with the Avila family to push the legislation.

"I admire the family to be willing to do this because their pain being set aside to move this forward is going to make a difference to so many other victims in California," Ashford said.