Carolyn Avdeef, a divorced 62-year-old mother of two, was known for her generosity. When she needed help paying the mortgage on her home in Lake Forest, Calif., She turned to tenants to make ends meet. It was a decision born out of necessity that would have dire consequences.
On June 22, 2005, Avdeef’s employer reported her missing. A deputy did a welfare check at his residence, according to Brian Sutton, a retired Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigator. There was no obvious sign of a struggle.
Her roommate Joyce Miller said she last saw Avdeef on June 18, Sutton said “The Real Orange County Murders,” aeration Sundays at 7 / 6c and 8 / 7c to Oxygen.
On June 27, Avdeef’s son Eric visited his mother’s house, which was messy and filled with unopened boxes, suggesting a recent spending spree. He told detectives that it was not normal for his mother to take off without leaving her route.
Investigators scoured the Avdeef neighborhood, paying particular attention to the dynamics of the area. Lake Forest is a world of gated communities and strict neighborhood associations.
Detectives learned that some of the tenants Avdeef greeted were viewed as loud and uncontrollable irritants by its neighbors. âThey weren’t healthy people,â a neighbor told producers. “They weren’t family members.”
Its need to pay its bills through tenants has made Avdeef “a stranger,” former Los Angeles Times reporter Geoff Boucher said. âIn her neighborhood, she was the unmade bed in the street.
Detectives also learned that Avdeef’s cash-strapped situation changed after his mother’s death.
Avdeef used some of the inheritance to spruce up his house and buy a new car, a practical blue Honda. Like Avdeef, the vehicle was gone.
Investigators focused on Joyce Miller, who had rented from Avdeef for about a year and had no information on her whereabouts. As officials dug deeper, they discovered that three checks made out to his name and endorsed by Avdeef were worth over $ 5,000.
When pushed by officials, Miller “got defensive,” Sutton said. They also learned that Miller’s daughter and her boyfriend – Debbie Miller, 39, and Nick Vovos, 22 – were living in Avdeef’s house shortly before his disappearance.
Detectives discovered a wave of activity on Avdeef’s debit card. Charges have been piled up in southern California, including in several grocery stores. Investigators obtained images of people using the card from store security cameras.
Joyce Miller identified the couple using them as her daughter and boyfriend. Miller told investigators the two left when Avdeef went missing. She said her daughter did not have a cell phone. Detectives wondered if Miller knew more than she said.
A background check of Debbie Miller and Vovos revealed trouble with the law. She was on probation for welfare fraud, said Dan Salcedo, a retired investigator with the OC’s sheriff’s department. Vovos was a parolee at large who spent time behind bars for burglary and possession of stolen property. They had met while he was in detention in San Bernardino. Soon after, they moved into Avdeef’s house.
“This woman was not only missing, but there was an extremely dangerous person with a criminal record who was involved, âsaid Salvadore Hernandez, former reporter for the Orange County Register.
To track down Debbie Miller and Nick Vovos, investigators have turned to the media to shine the spotlight on the couple. The strategy paid off. On June 30, detectives interviewed a man who told them the couple stayed with him for several days after Avdeef went missing.
The informant told investigators the couple were driving a blue Honda and saw two shovels in the trunk. He told them that Vovos was on methamphetamine and had a shotgun and that he said he was not going to be captured alive.
Investigators released an APB on the couple, noting that they were armed and extremely dangerous. While the police don’t have a cell phone to track, they were able to monitor activity on Avdeef’s stolen debit card. They tracked recent purchases made 70 miles north of Lake Forest at Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Detectives learned that Debbie had friends in that area who told authorities the couple had passed by and asked where they could bury a dog. Investigators searched the area for a burial site for Avdeef.
On July 2, Wyoming Highway Patrol officers in Laramie made a routine traffic stop. After stopping a blue Honda, they discovered that the license did not match the vehicle identification number. At this point, Vovos pulled the engine and drove away, eluding the police after a high-speed chase.
On July 3, a telephone informant reported that the couple were at a gas station in Colorado. After another car chase in which Colorado MPs “inflated the tires of the Vovos and forced them off the freeway,” reported the Denver Post, the suspects were cornered and a shootout ensued. Debbie Miller was shot and killed in the shooting. Vovos threw down his gun. He was charged with attempted murder of a police officer.
Sutton and Salcedo flew to Colorado to question Vovos about Avdeef’s disappearance. He denied any involvement. Despite being in possession of Avdeef’s debit card and vehicle, investigators had no evidence directly linking him to his disappearance and presumed death.
July 31, 2005 a hiker walking her dog in Crestline tripped over Avdeef’s body in a shallow grave not far from where investigators had searched earlier.
In October 2006, Vovos was convicted of attempted murder of a police officer in Colorado. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison. Two years later, he was extradited to California on charges relating to Avdeef’s stolen property. Investigators then took an unexpected break. Vovos wanted to tell the truth.
He told them that on June 15, Avdeef received a call from his portfolio manager warning him of suspicious checks written to his account. She confronted Debbie and Nick, who were living on her property at the time.
Verbal accusations led to physical assault. Vovos confessed to strangling the 62-year-old man. He and his girlfriend devised a plan to escape and bury the body.
On January 15, 2009, Nick Vovos pleaded guilty to the murder of Carolyn Avdeef. He was sentenced to 25 years in life in a California state prison.
To learn more about the case, watch says “The Real Orange County Murders,” aired Sundays at 7 / 6c and 8 / 7c on Oxygen, or streaming episodes here.