Woman gets 50 years in murder
Lisa Avilla took part in her boyfriend's killing of an elderly man
WAILUKU » A Valley Isle woman who served as an accomplice in a botched burglary that led to a murder was sentenced yesterday to 50 years in prison.
Judge Joseph Cardoza imposed the term on 35-year-old Lisa Avilla, who cried as she pleaded for leniency.
"I know I made a lot of mistakes in my life," Avilla said. "I'm sorry. ... I don't want to spend the rest of my life in jail."
But Cardoza said Avilla had several opportunities to stop a series of escalating events leading to the murder of invalid Dr. Edward Bird.
"You played a crucial role in causing these events to start," he said.
Cardoza told Avilla that she still had her life and the opportunity to change her life.
"That's a good deal more than what Dr. Bird has been afforded," he said.
Bird, 82, a retired Navy physician who relied on a motorized wheelchair to get to nearby stores, was strangled in his Pacific Shores unit in Kihei in December 2000.
A friend described him as a kind and generous man who donated money to the Philippines to build a basketball gym, 10 houses and a scholarship fund for 20 students.
Children frequently visited his home, including Avilla's son, who once lived at Pacific Shores.
In exchange for the prosecution reducing a charge of murder to manslaughter, Avilla testified at a trial against her former boyfriend Michael A. Pavich, who was convicted Oct. 14 of second-degree murder.
Avilla said she struck Bird on the head with a blender container but that she did it because Pavich had ordered her to hit Bird so she would be a part of the crime. She also said she was afraid of her boyfriend.
Defense attorney Keith Tanaka said the state obtained a conviction against Pavich because of Avilla's testimony.
Tanaka said Avilla testified knowing she might face consecutive sentences, but she also had a verbal understanding that if she testified, "something better would happen."
"There were representations that things would be a little better if she cooperated," he told the court.
Tanaka said imposing a long sentence would make the agreement between the prosecution and his client "meaningless."
Tanaka said when Avilla led Pavich to Bird's home, she did not know her boyfriend was going to commit murder.
He said all of her previous felonies had been for property and theft-related crimes, and none for acts of violence.
Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said Avilla might have helped the prosecution, but her role was equally important in Bird's death.
Rivera said Avilla was on probation at the time of the killing and was living in a home selling crystal methamphetamine.
Avilla effectively received consecutive terms of 10 years for burglary, 20 years for kidnapping and robbery, and 20 years for manslaughter.
"The community deserves protection from you," Cardoza said. "This is clearly something that's out of scale."