‘I murdered my best friend – then went to her funeral so police wouldn’t suspect me’


A woman who served 21 years in prison after murdering her best friend has revealed how she went to her funeral so she would not be suspected.

Karen Severson murdered her childhood best friend Michelle ‘Missy’ Avila with accomplice Laura Doyle, slashed her hair off and hid her body in a forest river.

Now 47 the killer, who was 22 at the time, has spoken frankly about the savage attack and revealed how she turned from, protector to persecutor.

She said she did not intend to kill Missy, who she had known since she was seven, and used to stick up for her until they drifted apart.

She said she was only planning to bully her when things got out of hand.

She said: “I only meant to torment Missy.

“Looking back, I was jealous of Missy.”

Karen and Missy, Aged 13
Friends: Karen Severson with childhood best friend Michelle ‘Missy’ Avila.

Describing the first time she met her victim when they were aged seven, she said: “Missy was out in the street looking for her lost cat.

“She was a sweet-looking girl with long auburn hair and green eyes.

“I helped her look for it.

“She had just moved into the street and she was my new neighbour.”

She went on: “We were very similar at that age.

“We loved dressing up out Barbies and playing in the sunshine.”

But she said things were not always easy for Miss Avila.

“Missy would get picked on a lot at school,” she said. “I don’t know why, maybe people were jealous of her pretty looks.

“But I stood up for her.

“She called me her bodyguard after that.”

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She said as the girls got older they grew apart and aged 14, Severson fell pregnant.

She said she thinks this led to her and her former friend drifting apart, especially when she dropped out of school to look after her baby.

She said: “Once I would have defended her.

“But now I joined in the cruelty.”

Doyle claimed she saw Missy kissing her boyfriend and the pair confronted her.

On October Doyle arranged to meet Missy at Colby Canyon in Angeles National Park.

Severson said Doyle picked her victim up in her car and drove to the woods.

At Colby Canyon, they headed through the forest to the stream.

Severson said: “Missy probably thought it would be like old times.

“But Laura went mad, screaming at her.”

She said Missy died.

“Missy’s grandma told me her body had been found,” she continued. “Hikers had come across the body in the stream.

“She told me she was face down with a 100lb log on top of her.

“I felt sick.”

Severson said she tried to numb the pain with alcohol.

Karen Severson: Now 47, was 22 when she was convicted of the murder of her childhood best friend 17-year-old Michelle ‘Missy’ Avila.

The victim’s body was found in Angeles National Park in California, USA, by hikers in October 1985, three days after she was reported missing.

Her hair had been slashed off. She was facedown in a stream and a 100lb log prevented her from moving.

After Missy’s body was found the pair consoled her family, even attending her funeral. But a tip off from a friend they had confided in saw them being jailed.

“I felt like I had an obligation to Missy’s family after what I did.

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“As Missy’s mother grieved, I consoled her. I felt like I had an obligation to Missy’s family after what I did.

“I wanted to look after them.”

But she admitted she also had ulterior motives for ‘helping’.

She said: “I also wanted to know how the police investigation was going.

“I wanted to know who the suspects were and what evidence they’d found.”

Severson and her co-defendant who was also 22, were convicted of second-degree murder at Pasadena Superior Court in March 1990.

In 1990 both Severson and Doyle, of Arleta, Los Angeles, were convicted of second-degree murder.

They were both sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison and were released in 2011

Severson, who is not being paid for speaking out, said after more than two years in California Institution for Women in Corona, she was ashamed of her actions.

She now tours schools and encourages young people not to act like she did.

She said: “I don’t want bullies to do what I did.

“I want them to stop before that happens.”

Severson, who now works in telesales and has released an e-book memoir It’s My Life I Lived It about the murder, said: “I want to save other people from being bullied and doing the bullying, like I was.”

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