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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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,
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
"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
Prosecutors contend Amy tried to call 911 but
was thwarted by Amber, who pulled the telephone cord out of the
Lawyers Give Closing Arguments in Slaying
Courts: Separate juries will decide fates of
Amber Bray and Jeffrey Ayers in her mother's death.
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
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
"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
Hollier was shot twice, but she struggled.
Ayers then beat her with his gun and stabbed her 24 times,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
''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
''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
''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
''fully responsible'' for the killing,
''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,''
Officer Melinda Wolfe said Hollier was dead by
the time police arrived.
Teen, Boyfriend Plead Not Guilty in Mother's
Court: Defendants' supporters pack courtroom.
Pair are accused in death of a Warner Bros. Records manager in her
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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