Two women sentenced to prison in jealousy drowning

PASADENA, Calif. -- Two women were each sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison for drowning a teenage friend in a remote mountain stream after angrily accusing her of sleeping with their boyfriends.

Laura Doyle and Karen Severson, both 22, of Arleta, were convicted Jan. 31 of second-degree murder by a Superior Court jury that rejected the prosecution's call for a first-degree murder conviction.


Several jurors said afterwards they had not been convinced the slaying had been planned.

Under the sentence imposed Friday by Superior Court Judge Jack Tso, Doyle and Severson will be eligible for parole in about seven years.

Prosecutors said Doyle and Severson, who were teenagers at the time of the killing, lured Michele 'Missy' Avila, 17, to an isolated canyon in the Angeles National Forest on Oct. 1, 1985 and drowned her in a shallow creek.

Authorities said Doyle and Severson killed Avila after angrily accusing her of sleeping with their boyfriends.

Deputy District Attorney Tamia Hope said Avila was an outgoing, pretty Arleta girl who was popular with her high school classmates.

'(Her) only problem, at least on that fateful day, was that she was very popular with the boys and this drove Laura Doyle and Karen Severson crazy,' Hope said at the trial.


'They started yelling at her, telling her how mad they were at her, and how she slept with entirely too many boys and messed up entirely too many relationships,' the prosecutor said.

Hope said the women killed Avila by holding her head in about six inches of water. Then they put a 4-foot-long log on her body to keep her head underwater, she said.

Hikers found the body three days later.

The victim's mother, Irene Avila, said she never suspected Doyle or Severson until after their arrest nearly three years after her daughter's death when a witness to the slaying finally came foward.

Doyle and Severson had attended Michele's funeral and Severson even moved in with the Avila family for a short time afterward to console them.

'She was close to me, like another daughter,' Avila said of Severson. 'Karen was my daughter's best friend. They grew up together.'

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