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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Slain Teen's Parents Awarded $1 Million

Lawsuit: Default judgment is issued in wrongful-death action against David Alvarez, convicted of killing Kali Manley.

September 12, 2000|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although they have little hope of getting any money, the parents of slain Oak View teen Kali Manley were awarded $1.01 million Monday in a wrongful-death lawsuit against convicted killer David Alvarez.

The 24-year-old Ojai man, who pleaded guilty to murder earlier this year and is serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life, never responded to the lawsuit. As a result, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh issued a default judgment against Alvarez and ordered him to pay $500,000 in general damages to Charles and Holly Manley.

Walsh also awarded $500,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 to recover funeral and other costs related to the December 1998 slaying of the couple's 14-year-old daughter.

"We don't expect to see a dime," said Charles Manley, an Oxnard schoolteacher who wanted to prevent Alvarez from inheriting any money from his wealthy family.

The lawsuit, he said, was mainly to ensure that Alvarez couldn't persuade a parole board someday that he has funds to get by outside prison.

Ventura attorney David Shain, who represented the Manleys, determined that Alvarez has no money of his own and will probably never be able to pay the judgment. But he characterized the ruling as a victory nonetheless.

"I think the Manleys feel really good about it," Shain said. "This was never about money."

A Nordhoff High School freshman, Kali Manley disappeared on Dec. 20, 1998, after leaving a girlfriend's house in Meiners Oaks with Alvarez and his friend, Robert Miears. They bought wine coolers at a nearby convenience store and went to a trailer owned by Alvarez's family. According to Miears, Manley and Alvarez went into a back bedroom. She was never seen alive again.

Her disappearance prompted a massive search of the Ojai Valley. During those days, Alvarez reportedly told a detective that if he wanted to find Manley he should "put her on a milk carton." According to court records he also stated: "I don't really care. I don't even know that girl. So it doesn't matter to me."

But on Dec. 26, Alvarez led authorities into the back country to a large drainage pipe cradling the girl's naked body. She died from asphyxiation, the coroner said, noting wounds that may have been caused while fighting off a sexual assault.

Alvarez, a high school dropout with a history of drug abuse, was charged with murder and attempted rape by state prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to the charges in February and received a prison sentence a month later.

During the sentencing hearing, Charles Manley lashed out at Alvarez and called him a monster with no remorse for the life he destroyed.

Alvarez stood up later in the hearing and against his lawyers' advice denied that he ever attempted to rape the girl. He blamed his actions on a two-day cocaine binge and suggested Manley died from a drug overdose or possibly exposure to the cold--not from being strangled.

Alvarez is trying to appeal his conviction, although his appellate lawyers said in a recent brief that there are no arguable issues. The 2nd District Court of Appeal is expected to issue an opinion on the matter in coming weeks.

The Manleys filed their wrongful-death action last December. The lawsuit alleged that Alvarez is civilly responsible for the girl's death and should be made to pay for the emotional distress and loss of companionship by her family.

Ventura defense lawyer James Farley said Alvarez decided not to fight the civil lawsuit.

"He just wanted to let it go," Farley said.

The suit also alleges that Alvarez and other unnamed individuals hid or destroyed evidence to keep the girl's death a secret. Shain said he didn't have enough evidence to pursue a wrongful-death case against the other individuals.

As for Alvarez, Shain said the judgment against him will help the Manleys move on with their lives.

"I think it was a strong and appropriate award," Shain said. "I think it also closes the circle for the family and allows them to heal."

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