Hearing Delayed : D.A. Reports Confession in ’85 Drowning

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge postponed a hearing Wednesday for a woman accused of participating in the 1985 slaying of an Arleta teen-ager to allow defense attorneys time to review an alleged confession she made to two fellow prisoners.

Attorneys for Karen Severson, 21, said they received a written report about their client’s alleged confession from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office just before the hearing in Pasadena Juvenile Court to determine if she should stand trial as an adult. Severson was 17 when Michele Avila, 17, was killed.

The report alleges that Severson told two male inmates about her involvement in the drowning of Avila in a creek in the Angeles National Forest on Oct. 2, 1985, the attorneys said.

Neither the defense attorneys nor the district attorney’s office would reveal the names of the informants.


Jacob Adajian, one of three attorneys for Severson, told Judge Rose Hom that he needed more time to investigate the allegations.

“There is a complete confession in there,” Adajian said. “We don’t know anything about it. At the same time, we haven’t had a chance to discuss it with our client.”

Nov. 14 Hearing

Hom agreed to Adajian’s request and rescheduled the fitness hearing for Nov. 14.


Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Mazur, who opposed the rescheduling, said Severson’s attorneys were told about the alleged confession in a written report made available to them several weeks ago. He said the only new information given to them Wednesday was where the alleged conversation took place.

Severson purportedly discussed her role in Avila’s killing with the inmates in the jail facility at the Pasadena Superior Court Building in early August. But Adajian said that a conversation could not have taken place there because male and female inmates are kept on different floors.

Authorities, however, said that all prisoners are kept on the same floor.

Mazur said the inmates’ statements support the charge that Severson cooperated with Laura Doyle in the drowning of Avila. The motive, authorities said, was jealousy over a boyfriend.

Both Severson and Doyle were arrested June 27, 1988, after sheriff’s deputies received information from a witness they would not identify.

Doyle, 21, of Arleta is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on Nov. 17 in Glendale Municipal Court.

Doyle and Severson are being held at Sybil Brand Institute for Women. Doyle is in jail in lieu of $1 million bail while Severson is being held without bail.