Friday, January 12, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 12, 2001

Mother charged in death of elder who befriended her four children

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — Edward "Doc" Bird, 82, welcomed the neighborhood kids into his Kihei home as if they were his own, providing cookies, sodas and a place to hang out and watch TV.

Lisa H. Avilla is being held in lieu of $100,000.
Lisa H. Avilla's four children were among those who used to visit Doc, and now she is charged with second-degree murder for his death during a botched burglary last month.

Avilla, 30, made her initial appearance in Wailuku District Court yesterday and is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Avilla's 30-year-old boyfriend also is a suspect in Bird’s slaying. He is being held at MCCC in lieu of $15,000 bail in an unrelated case with eerie similarities.

He is charged with theft and fraudulent use of a credit card and bank card stolen in a Nov. 18 break-in at a Wailea condominium. The victim was a 75-year-old retired doctor who lives alone.

Bird, a retired Navy captain and physician, also lived alone. In both cases, bank records, credit cards and other financial documents were taken.

A 10-year-old boy discovered Bird's body Dec. 3 on the floor in the bedroom of his ground-floor unit at the Pacific Shores on South Kihei Road. Bird, who was last seen the evening before, had head injuries, and court records indicate he was strangled.

Police filed an affidavit of probable cause in Wailuku District Court which says that during a Dec. 16 interrogation, Avilla told detectives her boyfriend told her he accidentally choked Bird to death. She denied any involvement.

A friend of Avilla's told police she was reading a news account of Bird's death, with Avilla in the room, when Avilla burst into tears and said she and her boyfriend committed the crime.

District Judge Rhonda Lai Loo scheduled a preliminary hearing on Tuesday for Avilla.

Avilla’s criminal record includes a 1999 conviction on six counts of forgery and two of theft. She was sentenced to probation, community service, a suspended jail term and ordered to pay $4,242 restitution.

Residents of the Pacific Shores condominium wererelieved to hear that police had collared two suspects in Bird's death.

"I can hardly wait to tell my neighbors. There's almost going to be a party atmosphere here tonight because they finally caught somebody," said Ken Knapp. He said Bird was his "very best friend" and that the entire community was distraught over his death.

"Nobody can believe he is actually gone," Knapp said. "I'm so relieved. Every day, people come to me and ask, Have you heard anything?’ "

Bird's death shattered the sense of security once felt by Knapp and other residents of the condo complex. Now, they their doors and vehicles all the time, something they hadn't usually worried about before. The holidays were dismal, he said, since residents always get together for potlucks and other festivities. "Doc was just a big part of the holidays here. He was so open and outgoing and giving.

"If they had asked for anything, he would have given it," Knapp said, referring to whoever killed Bird.

Bird had been on Maui 10 or 11 years and was a familiar sight cruising along South Kihei Road in his motorized three-wheeler. Before he lost his mobility, he would take neighborhood kids fishing and taught some of them how to type, Knapp said.

"He was a very giving person. He gave of himself every day."

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