Woman, 20, Gets Life in Prison in Mother’s Killing
Amber Bray, a former Burbank high school honor student and cheerleader, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole Tuesday for what the judge called the “vicious crime of . . . butchering her mother.”
Bray, 20, was convicted in February of killing her mother, Dixie Lee Hollier, 42, a Warner Bros. record executive, in January 1996 at Hollier’s Burbank residence. Jeffrey Ayers, 23, Bray’s high school boyfriend, was also convicted in February in the slaying. He already has begun serving a sentence of life without parole.
Bray, who attended Burroughs High School in Burbank and Monterey Continuation School in Los Angeles, and Ayers were both convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder for shooting, stabbing and beating Hollier to death.
The couple planned the slaying over several weeks in love letters in which they decided how to spend Hollier’s $310,000 life insurance proceeds, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Al McKenzie, who prosecuted both Ayers and Bray.
Both planned to buy a home in Riverside County, a car and furniture, McKenzie said.
Bray’s attorney, Joy Willenski, who was not available for comment after the sentencing, filed a motion to appeal Bray’s conviction before sentence was passed by Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz.
Offered the chance to address the court, a handful of Bray’s relatives choked back tears as they spoke, while Bray lay down her head and sobbed quietly at the defense table.
“I love my daughter very much,” said Tom Bray, Amber’s father, who divorced Hollier a few years prior to the slaying. “I don’t believe she’s guilty.”
Amber’s sister, Amy Bray, 17, who the prosecution contended the couple had also planned to kill, told the court after sentencing that she had problems with her sister, but believed her to be innocent despite the evidence presented at trial.
Introduced into evidence was a list of prospective guests that Bray and Ayers had planned to invite to their wedding. Neither Amy Bray nor Hollier were on it.
“I don’t think she did this,” Amy Bray said. “And after all this, I don’t think I have the same respect for the judicial system that I had.”
Betty Miles, Hollier’s mother, who did not attend the sentencing, said she was torn by the crime and the verdict, according to court records. She said she still “loves Amber, in spite of everything.”
One of Bray’s aunts who attended the sentencing, Shirley Terrell, told the judge she was dying of cancer and requested “a little hug before Amber is sent away.”
Schwartz allowed Terrell to hug Bray, but not before expressing her views of the case.
“I do not believe this was a miscarriage of justice,” Schwartz said.
“It’s a tragic case, but the evidence is clear. Amber Bray and Jeffrey Ayers killed her for the insurance money. Ms. Bray was the moving force behind this crime,” the judge said. “She has been convicted of a vicious crime of killing her mother, butchering her mother.”
According to the probation report, prepared prior to sentencing, Bray had no criminal record but was still termed a “very callous individual” who “is a serious threat to the community.”
In addition to her life sentence, Bray was ordered to pay a total of $10,000 in fines and restitution.