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Lumberyard Manager to Be Tried in Slaying : Avalon Woman’s Death Said to Be the First Murder in 40 Years on Catalina

Times Staff Writer

The manager of an Avalon lumberyard has been ordered to stand trial in the murder of his former girlfriend, the first murder on Santa Catalina Island in more than 40 years.

Bruce Edward Kingman, 41, will be arraigned July 14 in Long Beach Superior Court in the beating death of Gail Lynn Pissula, 34, on April 20.

Catalina Justice Court Judge Peter Mirich ordered the trial Friday after hearing testimony from three sheriff’s investigators and from a friend of the dead woman.

The investigators told Mirich that Kingman gave them varying accounts of his alleged conflict with Pissula, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Glenn Sommers.

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Kingman allegedly admitted that he had argued with Pissula on the night she died. But after first telling investigators that on the night she was killed he did not let Pissula into the trailer where the couple lived, he later said that he let her in and only pushed her, Sommers said.

Paramedics called to the trailer at about 4 a.m. said they found the woman’s body on the ground outside.

Detectives said they found blood inside the trailer. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office later ruled that Pissula was killed by a blow to the back of the head.

At Friday’s preliminary hearing, a friend testified that she had previously seen Pissula with bumps and bruises after Pissula had been with Kingman, according to Sommers.

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The woman’s death shocked the close-knit town of Avalon.

Officials at Catalina Justice Court and the Avalon sheriff’s station said they can’t remember the last murder on the island. John Windle, who served for 22 years as the island’s constable, said there has not been a murder on Catalina for at least 40 years.

In the early 1960s, a local woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after shooting an intruder in her home, said Fern Whelan, clerk of the court.

Kingman and Pissula had known each other since 1986, when both worked in Two Harbors near the west end of the island, friends said.

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Kingman later took a job as manager of Pebbly Beach Building Supply Co., a lumberyard just outside the center of Avalon, said Jack Fennie Jr., the owner of the business.

Kingman helped reorganize the lumber business and made it more profitable, while living alternately in a trailer behind the lumberyard and aboard a sailboat anchored just offshore, Fennie said.

Kingman and Pissula had lived together until they broke up a year ago and she moved to the mainland, acquaintances said. They said that she returned this spring to live with Kingman and to look for a job in Avalon.


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