cover image Missy's Murder

Missy's Murder

Karen Kingsbury. Dell Publishing Company, $5.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-440-20771-9

The bare facts surrounding the 1985 murder of 17-year-old Michele (Missy) Yvette Avila and the bizarre behavior of Karen Severson (one of her two killers) are chilling. Karen and Laura Doyle led Missy, their best friend, to a remote hiking area, cut off chunks of her hair, struck her and drowned her in a stream. But the only analysis offered by Kingsbury, who covered the story for the L.A. Daily News , is that beautiful, vivacious Missy was ``the envy of nearly everyone,'' including the unattractive Laura and Karen. Indeed, the two were especially jealous of her popularity with their own boyfriends. After the murder Karen moved in with Missy's mother, held conversations with the dead girl and for three years helped keep the murder investigation alive by openly accusing Missy's other friends. Unfortunately, Kingsbury offers a poor example of true-crime writing. Based on official reports and personal recollections, this superficial account makes such a bald attempt to idealize the Avila family, even when this is clearly at odds with the facts, that the result is unreliable as well as sensationalistic. (Dec.)