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Amber Merrie BRAY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: For inheritance
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 16, 1996
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1977
Victim profile: Dixie Lee Hollier, 42 (her mother)
Method of murder: By repeatedly shooting, beating and stabbing
Location: Burbank, Loa Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on June 30, 1998
 
 
 
 
 
 

Woman, 20, Gets Life in Prison in Mother's Killing

Courts: The former Burbank high school cheerleader receives sentence that rules out parole. Her boyfriend, also convicted of murder in the slaying of the record executive, is already serving a life term.

By Jon Steinman - Los Angeles Times

July 01, 1998

PASADENA 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.

 
 

Man Gets Life in Slaying of Warners Executive

Courts: Jeffrey Glenn Ayers in receiving the maximum sentence for the 1996 murder of his girlfriend's mother, will not be eligible for parole.

By Jon Steinman - Los Angeles Times

May 07, 1998

PASADENA A Burbank man whose love letters foretold the gruesome killing of his girlfriend's mother was sentenced in Superior Court on Wednesday to the maximum term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jeffrey Glenn Ayers, 23, was found guilty of first-degree murder in February along with his girlfriend, Amber Merrie Bray, 20, in the slaying of Bray's mother, Dixie Lee Hollier, 42, a Warner Bros. record executive.

According to love letters the couple exchanged in the months before Hollier's murder, they planned to use Bray's inheritance to start a life together in Riverside.

"He will be in prison the rest of his life," said Al MacKenzie, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted both Ayers and Bray. "I think it's a just result for the case. I'm very gratified."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Bray on May 15 in the same Pasadena courtroom, where she faces the same sentence as her boyfriend, MacKenzie said. Both were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Patricia Mulligan, Ayers' defense attorney, could not be reached for comment.

The murder of Hollier occurred on an early January morning in 1996 when, after months of planning, Ayers entered Hollier's Burbank home with a gun he had purchased the evening before. With the help of Bray, Ayers woke Hollier and then shot her twice in the head and once in the arm, pistol whipped her and stabbed her two dozen times.

The slaying began in an upstairs bedroom and ended in the foyer.

When police arrived, summoned by a neighbor who reported hearing gunfire, they found Ayers straddling Hollier's body, a knife in his hand. Ayers confessed.

Mulligan argued during the trial that Ayers was worried his girlfriend might kill herself to escape abuse by her mother. Jurors rejected that argument and found that the couple had murdered for financial gain.

"There was a reasonable expectation that he would benefit financially," the jury foreman said after the trial. "It wasn't hard to make the decision."

In addition to the confession, MacKenzie introduced the couple's chilling love letters as evidence they plotted the murders of Hollier and Bray's sister Amy.

"What do you think of this?" began one of Bray's missives to Ayers. "Someone breaks into the house and kills Amy and mom.

"I come home to discover them, call police (neighbors hear nothing) and it goes on record as an unsolved homicide," Bray wrote.

"I like it."

Amy Bray was not injured. She was most likely saved by her mother's fight to stay alive, delaying the plan, according to Burbank police.

"We didn't get there soon enough to save Ms. Hollier, but we did get there in time to save Amy," said Det. Matthew Miranda of the Burbank Police Department.

The letter, one of a handful used by the prosecution, was written two months before Hollier's murder. Later in the neatly scripted letter, written by the former cheerleader and honor student, Bray notes that the couple could use her $310,000 inheritance to buy a Riverside County house, a sports car and furniture when they started their new lives together.

 
 

Ayers Guilty of Murdering Girlfriend's Mother

By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times

February 06, 1998

The day after his girlfriend was convicted of murder for the plot to kill her mother, a jury on Thursday found Jeffrey Glen Ayers guilty of "readily" carrying out the slaying.

Ayers, 23, of Burbank, showed no reaction after the jury found he entered Dixie Lee Hollier's home in January 1996 and then shot, pistol whipped and repeatedly stabbed the 43-year-old Warner Bros. record executive.

"It had been planned since November," said the jury foreman, who asked not to be identified, of the murder plot hatched with the help of Ayers' girlfriend, Amber Merrie Bray, 20. "He readily went along with it."

Along with murder and conspiracy convictions, the eight-man, four-woman jury found that Ayers planned to ambush and kill Hollier and Bray's younger sister so that Bray would collect a $310,000 inheritance. Ayers faces life in state prison without parole and will be sentenced March 30 by Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Al McKenzie declined to comment until after sentencing. Ayers' lawyer, Patricia Mulligan, was not available.

Mulligan argued during the trial that her client was a young man who believed his girlfriend would kill herself.

"He never intended to kill anyone," Mulligan said, exhorting jurors to find the slaying to be manslaughter, a "crime of passion."

But jurors rejected that reasoning and said there was ample evidence that pointed to a deliberate, well-thought-out plan to murder.

"There was a reasonable expectation that he would benefit financially" the jury foreman said. "It wasn't hard to make the decision."

Juror John Roy agreed. "We just listened to the information and followed the law."

In addition to Ayers' videotaped confession, prosecutors presented documents that pointed to a planned killing. One was a letter written to Ayers from Amber Bray two months before the killing.

In the note, titled "Someday in November," she told Ayers the couple could use money from an unsolved murder of her mother to purchase a Riverside County home, a sports car, furniture and appliances. Weeks later, Ayers wrote Bray that he could study psychology while she modeled.

But the two would never get their wish because of what prosecutors called "a bumbling murder."

On Jan. 16, 1996, at 5 a.m. Burbank police were called to Hollier's home. When they arrived, they saw a man straddling a body and thrusting his hands downward.

When officers entered through the unlocked front door, Ayers put his hands in the air and asked to surrender, telling police: "I'm responsible for what happened," according to testimony. "I'm fully aware of what I've done."

In addition to a revolver that Ayers purchased from a friend the night before the killing, police recovered several kitchen knives, two of them damaged from the impact of the blows to the victim.

Prosecutors said Ayers slaughtered Hollier, that he awakened her, shot her twice in the head and arm, beat her with his handgun and finally stabbed her two dozen times.

Police said that by fighting for her life, Hollier probably saved her younger daughter, Amy.

"We didn't get there soon enough to save Ms. Hollier but we did get there in time to save Amy," said Burbank Police Det. Matthew Miranda.

Miranda called Ayers a "very nice guy" with no previous contacts with the law. Miranda said Ayers was love-struck.

"This was the first attractive young lady who paid attention to him in a romantic way," the detective said.

"He fell head over heels. It was very obvious he was looking forward to benefiting from financial gain as result of the murder."

 
 

Woman, 20, Found Guilty of Mom's Murder

By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times

Thursday, February 5, 1998

PASADENA--A former high school honors student and cheerleader, accused of plotting with her boyfriend to kill her mother for a $310,000 inheritance, was found guilty Wednesday of conspiracy and first-degree murder.

Amber Merrie Bray, 20, could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a ten-man, two-woman jury convicted her on the felony counts and two special circumstances allegations--lying in wait and murder for financial gain.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 23 by Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz.

A second jury continued to weigh the case against Bray's boyfriend and alleged accomplice, Jeffrey Glenn Ayers, 23. He was also charged with killing Warner Bros. record executive Dixie Lee Hollier, 43, who was shot, beaten and stabbed two dozen times in her home.

Bray, who wore a flowered, pale blue skirt and white sweater, burst into tears when the verdicts were read.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Al MacKenzie, who did not seek the death penalty against Bray or Ayers, also was silent. Bray defense counsel Joy Walenski said she would not talk at all, saying she distrusts reporters.

A juror, who would not give his name, told reporters: "I've been a juror on several murder trials, and its never easy . . . it's very emotional." He called the case "rough, very rough."

During the case, MacKenzie argued that the couple intended to kill Hollier and Amber Bray's younger sister, Amy, introducing several letters between Amber and Ayres.

MacKenzie read one note to the jury entitled "Someday in November," that Bray wrote to Ayers.

"What do you think of this? . . . someone breaks into the house and kills Amy and mom," Bray wrote to Ayres two months before the slaying. She said the money Hollier would leave behind would pay for a Riverside County house, sports car and furniture.

"Have I snapped? Plotting murder and stuff . . . After years of abuse I've had it,"

During the trial Bray's lawyer called those words "foolish and silly," reflecting "plans for the future," not a "plan to commit murder."

However, authorities told a different story.

About 5 a.m. on Jan. 16, 1996, several Burbank police officers testified, they went to Hollier's home after neighbors heard gunshots. Through a window, they saw a man straddling a body and thrusting his hands downward, they said.

When they entered, Ayers put his hands in the air and asked to surrender, according to police testimony. "I'm responsible for what happened," they quoted him as saying. "I'm fully aware of what I've done."

Hollier's body lay sprawled in the front hallway, with two gunshot wounds to the head and pierced by more than two dozen stab wounds.

As police pieced the case together they discovered Ayers purchased a five-shot revolver from a friend the night before the killing, prosecutors said. It was the same gun used to shoot Hollier, police testified.

The morning of the killing, Amy Bray testified, she was awakened by two loud bangs. After rushing to help her mother, Ayers yelled "she has to be stopped," according to Amy's testimony.

Prosecutors contend Amy tried to call 911 but was thwarted by Amber, who pulled the telephone cord out of the wall.

 
 

Lawyers Give Closing Arguments in Slaying

Courts: Separate juries will decide fates of Amber Bray and Jeffrey Ayers in her mother's death.

By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times

February 04, 1998

PASADENA Like many young couples, Amber Merrie Bray and Jeffrey Glen Ayers dreamed of a comfortable suburban existence that included a well-furnished Riverside County home, a flashy sports car and money in the bank.

He would study psychology while she modeled, according to one of the couple's letters.

Yet, as the two plotted their future, they were also mapping out a sinister path to get there, Deputy Dist. Atty. Al MacKenzie told a jury in closing arguments of the couple's murder trial this week. Achieving that plan meant killing Bray's mother, Warner Bros. record executive Dixie Lee Hollier, he said.

Two juries now will decide the fates of the 20-year-old former honors student and Ayers, 23, who had a penchant for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

Each has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and murder in the 1996 slaying. They face a maximum of life in prison without parole if a jury finds them guilty of murder with special circumstances, including lying in wait and killing for financial gain.

Prosecutors contend Bray and Ayers planned to kill Hollier and Bray's younger sister, Amy, to collect a $310,000 inheritance, a fact they contend is documented in several letters and a diagram of Hollier's home that MacKenzie called a "blueprint for murder."

"What do you think of this? . . . someone breaks into the house and kills Amy and mom," read a note that Bray allegedly wrote to Ayers two months before the killing. "Have I snapped? Plotting murder and stuff. . . . After years of abuse, I've had it."

In another note, Ayers outlined several plans for murder, according to MacKenzie.

"I meant what I said on the phone," he allegedly wrote to Bray. "Your mother and your sister will trouble you no more."

In her summation Tuesday, Bray's lawyer, Joy Wilensky, had a different take on the correspondence while acknowledging that Bray complained about her mother. She called Bray's letter "foolish and silly," with words that reflected "plans for the future . . . not a plan to commit murder."

To a second jury, Ayers' defense lawyer Patricia Mulligan argued that the evidence and testimony did not support a first-degree murder conviction, calling her client's actions "passion rather than judgment." Mulligan urged the jury to consider testimony by friends that Ayers believed Bray would kill herself. "He was a young man in love," said Mulligan, "torn apart by his emotions."

But MacKenzie, as he had throughout the trial, hammered away with the conspiracy angle.

He said Ayers bought a five-shot, steel-blue revolver the night before the slaying Jan. 16, 1996.

MacKenzie said that Ayers entered the house through an unlocked door, took Hollier's automated teller card and $18 to make it look like a burglary, and then shot Hollier as she slept.

Hollier was shot twice, but she struggled. Ayers then beat her with his gun and stabbed her 24 times, MacKenzie said.

When 15-year-old Amy Bray tried to come to her mother's aid by calling police, her older sister disconnected the phone cord, and when Amy tried to put it back in, Ayers ripped it out of the wall, prosecutors said.

Police arrived to find Ayers with Hollier's blood dripping from his hands, said the prosecution.

"He would get the beautiful woman, the house, the car and the money," MacKenzie said. "You just had to murder and slaughter an unsuspecting lady who was trying to raise three kids."

 
 

Couple Go to Court in Burbank Slaying

Justice: Amber Bray and boyfriend Jeffrey Ayers are accused of murder and conspiracy in the death of Bray's mother.

By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times

January 12, 1998

PASADENA Months before her mother was found shot and stabbed in her Burbank home, 20-year-old Amber Merrie Bray penned an eerie note to her boyfriend, Jeffrey Glenn Ayers.

In looping handwriting better suited to a teenager's love letter than to a death warrant, the one-time high school cheerleader and honors student allegedly laid out the crime that would claim the life of Warner Bros. record executive Dixie Lee Hollier, 42.

"What do you think of this? . . . someone breaks into the house and kills . . . mom," the note reads.

"I come home to discover them, call police (neighbors hear nothing) and it goes on record as an unsolved homicide. I like it."

Later this week, two juries will sit in the same Pasadena courtroom and separately decide the guilt or innocence of Bray and Ayers, weighing the state's claim that the note and other evidence proves the allegations of murder and conspiracy. The trial, before Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz, is expected to last five weeks.

Bray and Ayers also have been charged with two special circumstances in the killing, including lying in wait and murder for financial gain, a $310,000 inheritance. If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Bray and Ayers have pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy. Their lawyers declined to comment on the facts of the case or their trial strategy.

Prosecutors also declined to comment. At a hearing last year, Deputy Dist. Atty. Al MacKenzie summed up the case this way:

"I think the bottom line is that this defendant is a very smart, shrewd young woman, who got her boyfriend to kill her mother as part of a conspiracy to collect the benefits of her mother's estate."

Bray's lawyer, Joy Wilensky, could choose from a number of options to raise doubts about her client's guilt, such as attacking Bray's interrogation and arrest by police, expanding on statements by Bray about alleged abuse suffered at the hands of her mother or shifting blame to Ayers by citing statements in which he told police he wanted to take full responsibility for the killing.

That admission and other potentially incriminating statements, including one in which Ayers allegedly asked a friend to help kill Hollier, could make the case considerably tougher for Ayers' lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Patricia Mulligan.

But the biggest defense headaches are likely to be the eyewitnesses to the crime, particularly Amber Bray's younger sister, Amy. She was 15 at the time her mother was slain.

Amy Bray told authorities that her sister and mother fought, at times coming to blows, according to court documents.

On Jan. 16, 1996, the morning of the killing, Amy Bray said she was awakened by two loud bangs. After rushing to the kitchen, she said she saw Ayers hitting her mother in the head with a gun, according to court documents.

While Hollier shouted "Help!" Ayers yelled, "She has to be stopped," according to court documents. When Amy tried to call 911, she was thwarted by sister Amber, then by Ayers, who both pulled the phone cord out the wall, court documents show.

Jurors will also hear from police officers who arrived at Hollier's home in the 2300 block of North Oaks Street at 5 a.m. Several officers have said they heard moaning before spotting a man straddling a body and thrusting his hands downward. Upon their entering, Ayers stood with his hands in the air and said he was surrendering, according to police.

"I'm responsible for what happened," Ayers allegedly said. "I'm fully aware of what I've done."

Inside the residence, Hollier, bloodied from severe wounds to her head, neck, chest and torso, lay sprawled in the front hallway while her three children--Amy, Amber and their 5-year-old brother--were found hiding in a back bedroom, police said.

Investigators later recovered two butcher knives and a blue steel revolver, the same gun one of Ayers' friends told police she sold to him for $100 the night before the killing.

Ayers told police that the killing had nothing to do with money but was about his fear that Amber would kill herself, according to court documents. Ayers' friend Christopher Martin told investigators he heard Amber Bray tell Ayers she would kill herself.

"You need to do something about my mother or I'm going to kill myself," Bray reportedly said, adding that she was being abused by her mother.

Prosecutors are counting on the powerful evidence of Bray's own words.

"Have I snapped? Plotting murder and stuff," she asked in her letter to Ayers, later seized by police. "After years of abuse I've had it."

 
 

Daughter tells of mother's slaying: 16-year-old testifies her sister stopped her from calling 911.

By Lee Condon - Daily News

August 9, 1996

As her big sister's boyfriend pistol-whipped their mother, 16-year-old Amy Bray tried to dial 911 for help, but the sister cut off the call by yanking the phone line out of the wall, the girl testified Thursday.

Amy Bray acknowledged that her sister, Amber Bray, and her mother fought frequently, sometimes physically. She said her sister would ''whine'' to boyfriend Jeff Ayers about problems with her mother.

''She used to complain that she had a really bad life and that my mom made her do everything,'' she testified Thursday at a preliminary hearing in Burbank Municipal Court.

Amber Bray, 18, and Ayers, 21, each have been charged with one count of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of 42-year-old Dixie Hollier, Bray's mother.

Hollier, a Warner Bros. Records  employee, was shot, pistol-whipped and stabbed in the early hours of Jan. 16 in the family's Oak Street home in Burbank that she shared with Amber, Amy and her 6-year-old son, Benjamin Hollier.

Testimony is expected to continue today as Judge Alan Kalkin decides whether Ayers and Amber Bray will face trial in Superior Court.

Ayers was arrested after police reportedly found him in the process of stabbing Hollier with an 8-inch kitchen knife. Before the stabbing started, police said Hollier had been shot and pistol-whipped. Amber Bray was initially just brought in for questioning, but she was placed under arrest a few hours after the slaying when police discovered evidence linking her with plans to kill her mother.

Although Hollier lived a modest lifestyle, police said Bray and Ayers plotted her death, believing they could benefit financially through inheritance and insurance settlements.

Amy Bray testified she was awakened at about 5 a.m. by ''two bangs.'' Amber Bray was already up and told Amy not to leave their bedroom because ''there's a man out there.'' Amy ignored Amber and ran into the kitchen.

''I saw Jeff Ayers hitting my mother in the head with a gun,'' Amy Bray said.

The scene was so unbelievable, Amy testified, that she at first thought Ayers and her mom were just fooling around.

''I thought they were playing a joke on me,'' she said.

Amy Bray, dressed in a T-shirt, gave vague answers to most of the questions posed by both prosecutors and defense lawyers. ''I don't think so'' and ''I don't remember'' were her responses to most of the questions.

It took several tries for lawyers to elicit specific responses to their questions. Judge Alan Kalkin at one point admonished the teen-ager to answer the questions posed to her as completely as possible.

However, lawyers got Amy Bray to admit that Amber tried to stop her from calling 911. Amy Bray testified she tried to call, but her sister yanked out the phone cord.

The 16-year-old created a stir during the hearing when she mentioned that she recorded her recollections of the murder in a diary. Once she was off the stand, police insisted that the girl immediately retrieve her diary from home and bring it to court.

Police described a harrowing murder scene at the family's humble two-bedroom apartment.

Officer Niles Sherman, who was the first to arrive, said he spied Ayers plunging a knife into Hollier through a window near the back of the apartment. When Sherman and two other officers entered the house through the front door, Ayers ''surrendered,'' Sherman said.

Ayers put his hands over his head and then confessed his crime to Sherman, the officer said. Ayers told him he was ''fully responsible'' for the killing, Sherman said.

''For someone who was confessing to me that he had just murdered someone, he was very calm, cool and collected, and he talked to me like I was his best friend,'' Sherman said.

Officer Melinda Wolfe said Hollier was dead by the time police arrived.

 
 

Teen, Boyfriend Plead Not Guilty in Mother's Slaying

Court: Defendants' supporters pack courtroom. Pair are accused in death of a Warner Bros. Records manager in her home.

By Lisa Leff - Los Angeles Times

February 02, 1996

BURBANK High school senior Amber Merrie Bray and her boyfriend, Jeffrey Glenn Ayers, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that they killed Bray's mother as part of a plot to secure a $300,000 life insurance policy.

Appearing for their arraignments in Burbank Municipal Court, Bray, 18, and Ayers, 21, never looked at each other as they sat three seats apart in a jury box during the proceedings. Their public defenders entered the pleas.

Friends and relatives of the two defendants packed the courtroom to catch a brief glimpse of the pair, who have been held since Bray's mother, Dixie Lee Hollier, 42, was shot, stabbed and beaten to death early on Jan. 16.

Among the more than 20 who came in support of Bray were her father, maternal grandmother and 15-year-old sister, who was at home with Bray and their 5-year-old brother when the slaying occurred. A family friend, Mary Byers, passed out photocopied signs bearing red hearts and the words, "Amber Merrie Brey [sic] is innocent," as television cameras rolled.

"All of us support Amber," said Betty Miles, mother of the slaying victim and Bray's grandmother.

Based on documents seized from Ayers' apartment, Burbank police say Bray and Ayers spent more than two months planning to kill Hollier so they could split Bray's inheritance. Hollier, a single mother who worked as a Warner Bros. Records manager, was not wealthy but had taken out a life insurance policy valued at about $300,000, sources said.

Police said Bray purposely left the door to the family's West Oak Street duplex unlocked to let her armed boyfriend inside the morning Hollier was killed. Officers--summoned by neighbors and an emergency call from the home--allegedly found Ayers crouched over Hollier's battered and slashed body. Police said his arms were raised in mid-strike and cash and an ATM card from Hollier's purse were found in his pocket.

At the court hearing, both suspects appeared relaxed in T-shirts and Windbreakers, but they kept their eyes trained directly in front of them, never even glancing at relatives in the audience.

Their only words came when Judge Alan S. Kalkin asked if they agreed to waive their rights to the speedy preliminary hearings at which prosecutors would attempt to prove there is enough evidence to keep them in custody. Their attorneys requested a delay in the hearings so they would have more time to review the police evidence, said Bray's attorney, Joy Wilensky.

Her eyes masked by dark glasses throughout the hearing, Ayers' mother, with whom he lived, left the courthouse without making a statement. But about a dozen of Ayers' friends expressed anger at what they perceive to be efforts by Bray's family to make him single-handedly shoulder the blame for Hollier's death.

"There is no way he did this on his own," said John Dekle, 20.

 
 

Baffling Turn for Young Couple

Crime: Man and woman charged with the murder of her mother in Burbank seem to be unlikely candidates for violence, friends say. But police say the evidence is clear.

By Lisa Leff - Los Angeles Times

January 28, 1996

She was a onetime honors student and high school cheerleader who attended church youth group meetings and berated friends who smoked cigarettes. He was an amiable high school dropout who drifted from job to job and outlined money-making schemes on a computer. She worried about her weight. He called himself G.O.D., a nickname from the Dungeons & Dragons-type fantasy games he often played.

To those who knew them, such outward appearances made Amber Merrie Bray and Jeffrey Glenn Ayers an unlikely couple. Many doubted that the relationship, which blossomed among the cliques and coffee shops of downtown Burbank last fall, would last. Yet none imagined that it would take such a tragic turn, with the young lovers charged in the slaying of Bray's mother.

As the two await arraignment nearly two weeks after the killing, friends of the couple are scouring their past encounters and conversations with the pair, searching for clues or a foreshadowing event, anything that could illuminate what remains for them a baffling slaying.

The facts, as laid out by police, are straightforward enough.

The mother, Warner Bros. Records manager Dixie Lee Hollier, 42, was shot, stabbed and beaten to death on Jan. 16. She was attacked before dawn in her bedroom and attempted to flee down a hallway after the first bullet was fired. Police say they found Ayers, 21, straddling her body, arms raised in mid-strike. Nearby lay the kitchen knife that had been used to cut Hollier's throat and sever her windpipe.

Later, police would allege that before attacking Hollier, Ayers had paused to riffle her purse, taking cash and an ATM card.

Initially, Bray, 18, the eldest of Hollier's three children, was questioned as a witness along with her siblings, ages 15 and 5. All were in the family's West Oak Street duplex during the minutes-long assault, and at least one of them called 911 for help, police said.

Within hours, however, Bray was placed under arrest for complicity in her mother's death. Prosecutors allege that as part of their plan, she purposely left the front door unlocked that morning so Ayers could enter.

He allegedly was armed with a gun he bought the day before at a location authorities refused to disclose. A search of Ayers' apartment turned up documents showing that he and Bray spent two months plotting to kill Hollier so Bray could collect her inheritance, which consisted largely of a $300,000 life insurance policy, authorities said.

But the police account does not satisfy the abundance of questions being raised by friends and family of the accused.

Was financial gain truly the motivation? If Bray was really so unhappy at home with her mother, why didn't she move out? And if the pair truly had a plan, then why did it go awry?

"Based on how G.O.D. played games, it would seem a little sloppy," said Richard Stiles, 26, a friend who knew Ayers from science fiction and historical role-playing games. "I think he did it for her, whether it was love or not."

The last time Stiles saw Jeffrey Ayers was Jan. 6, 10 days before Hollier's death. Ayers had come over to Stiles' apartment to watch "Tank Girl" and "Judge Dredd" on video. But he declined to stay for a role-playing session based on the "Star Wars" movies. It was Bray's 18th birthday and Ayers had promised to take her out to dinner, according to Stiles.

His regular "gaming" buddies had been seeing less of Ayers--who called himself G.O.D., short for Games of Deception--since he started seriously dating Bray in late September or early October. The pretty, blond high school senior, whom he met in downtown Burbank through mutual friends, was his first real girlfriend and by most accounts, Ayers had fallen hard for her.

"Until she came into his life, he always said being with a girlfriend was stupid, a waste of your time," said Dennis Morin, 23.

Until then, Ayers had plenty of time to hang out at the Media City Center video arcade, drink coffee at Norm's and Taco Bell, or direct long games of Shadow Run at The Last Grenadier, a Burbank shop that sells role-playing supplies. After a shoulder injury kept him from pursuing a dream to join the National Guard or Marines, he worked at a McDonald's for a few months, then tried telemarketing, according to friends.

But he lived rent-free with his mother and had not seemed much interested in working since his grandmother died last year and left him a small inheritance, friends said. He talked about making money through various business ventures. His latest scheme was to invest in a series of 900-number telephone lines, said Ken Nolls, 20.

At the same time, friends describe Ayers as uncommonly generous. When they were low on money, he bought meals and groceries.

Most observers say Ayers and Bray seemed playful and happy together. Yet one friend, Pam Minnick, 20, said she was surprised when, after the pair had been dating only a few months, Bray told her that she and Ayers were already talking about getting married.

She had a list of everyone who would be at the wedding and her bridesmaids. We were laughing about it because she had 100 people to invite and Jeff only had a few," she said. "They talked about getting jobs, getting an apartment together, and as soon as she turned 18, getting married."

Bray's attorney, Joy Wilensky, has instructed Bray's relatives--who initially denied that she was romantically involved with Ayers--to stop talking publicly about the case. Immediately after the killing, Bray's father and aunt defended her, saying that any disagreements with her mother were typical teenage complaints. They were at a loss to explain her linkage to the crime.

Wilensky maintains that accounts of the killing are replete with "half-truths" and that there could be more than one explanation for the police-collected evidence.

Teenagers who knew Bray from school say they never heard her complain much about anything. Like any adolescent, she bristled at the curfew her mother imposed, fought with her younger sister and got irritated when she had to baby-sit her little brother.

The most striking thing about her was how reserved she was, classmates and teachers said. During her freshman year at John Burroughs Senior High, she was picked for the cheerleading team. Somewhat overweight at the time, she didn't fit in with the other girls on the squad, said Jennifer Ervin, 17.

"She didn't have very many friends, but it didn't seem to bother her," said Ervin, who attended both Burroughs and Monterey Continuation High School this year with Bray.

Her parents separated when Bray was 3 and divorced when she was 7. Her father, a former jazz musician named Tom Bray, subsequently moved to Las Vegas. Because he lived out of state, Bray did not see him often, but they maintained contact by phone, said Sonya Chang, 42, a friend of the Holliers.

Other classmates said that while she was at Burroughs, Bray was known as an exceptionally bright student, "the type of girl you always copied your Spanish homework off of," in the words of one. She did well in her honors-level classes even after she started regularly cutting school last year.

Due to her chronic truancy, Bray was transferred in mid-October to Monterey Continuation, an alternative school for students with academic or attendance problems. There, she continued the same low-profile, high-performance pattern of behavior she had exhibited at Burroughs, according to school officials. By Christmas break, her attendance at Monterey had become sporadic and she would have been expelled from school on the same day she was arrested.

None of her friends knows why Bray skipped school so much, whether she was bored, lonely or both. She did not drink or use drugs and was known as a fervent anti-smoker, friends said.

Her closest friends tended to be older and formed two seemingly disparate circles. One group came from the evangelical church her family attended, Toluca Lake Trinity Foursquare. The other was the "gaming" crowd around Ayers.

WHen Hollier's family buried her Wednesday, it was the church group that showed up to offer sympathy.

 
 

Inheritance Was Motive in Burbank Slaying, Police Say

Los Angeles Times

January 18, 1996

A Burbank teenager spent months plotting the slaying of her mother with a 21-year-old boyfriend, who shot and stabbed the mother to death Tuesday, because the daughter expected a six-figure inheritance, police said Wednesday.

Investigators in the killing of Warner Bros. Records executive Dixie Lee Hollier, 42, have found papers in the Burbank apartment of the boyfriend that indicate he and Hollier's 18-year-old daughter talked about "how they were going to split up the money," said Burbank Police Lt. Larry Koch.

He would not say where the money was to have come from.

Jeffrey Glenn Ayers, of Burbank, and Hollier's daughter, high school senior Amber Merrie Bray, were arrested on suspicion of murder Tuesday after Hollier was repeatedly shot, stabbed and beaten.

Police allege that Bray let an armed Ayers into the family's home on West Oak Street around 5 a.m. as her mother lay sleeping. Ayers shot Hollier in her bed and when the woman attempted to flee down a hallway, he shot her again and stabbed her with a knife from the home, Koch said.

 
 

Girl, Boyfriend Held in Mother's Slaying

Crime: Burbank police say the couple plotted the predawn killing of the record firm executive. Authorities take custody of the woman's two younger children.

By Leslie Berger and Nicholas Riccardi - Los Angeles Times

January 17, 1996

A Burbank teenager let her boyfriend into her family's home before dawn Tuesday, and then stood by as he killed her mother by repeatedly shooting, beating and stabbing the woman, police said.

The boyfriend was still crouched over the woman's body, stabbing her, when officers arrived, a Burbank Police Department spokesman said.

Dropping his knife as ordered, officers said, he threw up his hands and conceded: "OK, you got me."

The dead woman was identified as Dixie Hollier, 42, a single parent and manager of international special projects for Warner Bros. Records in Burbank.

Arrested on suspicion of murder were Hollier's daughter, Amber Merrie Bray, 18, and Jeffrey Glenn Ayers, 21, who were being held without bail at Burbank City Jail.

Bray helped plan the slaying and admitted Ayers to the family's beige, stucco duplex in the 2300 block of West Oak Street about 5 a.m., as Hollier and her two younger children--a 15-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy--slept, police said.

Ayers found Hollier in her bed and began the attack by shooting her with a pistol. He then followed her as she tried to crawl away, hitting her and stabbing her, police said.

A woman's screams and the sound of gun shots inside the house roused neighbors, who called police.

Lt. Larry Koch said investigators had gleaned information about "minor disagreements" between Hollier and her older daughter, "but nothing that would explain such a vicious murder."

Koch said authorities may ask that "special circumstances" be applied in the case, which would qualify Ayers and Bray for the death penalty.

Hollier's younger children were taken into custody by the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services, which was trying to place them with relatives or in a foster home.

Bray, a senior at Monterey Continuation High School in Burbank, was described by her guidance counselor as an extremely bright young woman who had enrolled there in September after transferring out of another Burbank high school because of poor attendance.

"I wish I had 150 more like her," said Dan Mangani, the counselor. "She's one of the brightest students I have in this school."

But Mangani said he knew virtually nothing about Bray's personal life because she tended to be a loner.

Hollier had worked at Warner Bros. Records since 1982, but a company spokesman would not comment further. Co-workers described her as extremely capable and one of the smartest people they knew.

"I found her extremely articulate, and really up on her job and just really quick," a colleague said.

Hollier, who favored jeans and wore her brownish-blond hair long and straight, sometimes brought her children to screenings at Warner Bros. Studios.

She "seemed like a very dedicated mother," a co-worker said. "They seemed very happy."

But in the family's modest neighborhood off busy Olive Avenue, one neighbor said he heard shouting at the home almost every weekend. Others said they heard shouts occasionally, but nothing out of the ordinary between a mother and her children.

Another neighbor, Ken McKnight, said he not only heard frequent, early-morning arguments at the house but last year heard a man there threaten, "I'm going to kill you," which prompted him to call police.

McKnight also recalled that Hollier and her family briefly moved out of the house last year after a small fire caused smoke damage.

Times staff writer Beth Shuster contributed to this story.

 
 


Amber Bray

 

 

 
 
 
 
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