Arrest made in bat attack

Fri, Sep 24, 2004 (11:15 a.m.)

An 18-year-old man arrested Thursday on charges of beating a group of women with a baseball bat at a park last week made a full confession and told Metro Police he was sorry, according to police officials, but one of the victims said she doesn't buy it.

"Then why did he hide for a week?" Kristin Berwald, the most seriously injured victim, said shortly after Elvin Avila was taken into custody. "We don't believe it. If he was sorry, he would have turned himself in."

Avila was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday at his home on the 1400 block of Pawnee Drive near the Boulevard mall. An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers led to the arrest, police said.

He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on four counts of battery with a deadly weapon, two counts of battery with substantial bodily harm and two counts of attempted robbery.

Avila told police he knew they would find him before long because of the local and national media attention given to the attack, which was captured on videotape by one of the victims.

"He was waiting for the knock at the door," Metro Robbery Sgt. Chris Tomaino said.

Avila had made prior arrangements with an attorney, who accompanied him to the robbery bureau where he confessed to the attack, Lt. Ted Snodgrass said. Avila appeared to be "very remorseful," he added.

Snodgrass said Avila had no criminal record since turning 18. However, he was cited for stealing beer. "That helped us because the beer was the same kind we found at the park," Snodgrass said.

Avila also gave police the names of the three other people who were with him that night and police may make additional arrests, Snodgrass said.

When police called Berwald and the other five victims about the arrest, "we were so happy," she said. "All of us were calling each other back and forth."

But while they are relieved that the alleged main player in the crime is in custody, Berwald said they will be happier when the three others -- another man and two women -- are also captured.

"After (Avila) hit me, a girl came up and punched me on the head where I had just been hit," she said.

Avila told police he attacked the women because he thought the woman with the videocamera, Deanna Saavedra, had taped him and his friends and he was upset about it.

But Berwald said Avila is mistaken -- she was not taping them. Police said the first time Avila appears on the tape is when he is pulling an aluminum bat from behind his back and hitting Saavedra with it.

Berwald said she doesn't know why the man attacked them. He and the others ran off without stealing anything from them.

"He's a coward," Berwald said. "Coming at girls with a bat? They're cowards, all of them."

The attack occurred about 3 a.m. Sept. 16 in Shadow Rock Park, on Los Feliz Street near Carey Avenue near Sunrise Mountain. Berwald, Saavedra and four other friends had been in the park enjoying the view of the valley below while celebrating a birthday.

Saavedra was taping her friends with a videocamera as they walked through the park when a young man came up behind her.

She said he said something and, after she turned -- still looking through the camera -- he hit the camera then her head with the bat. Four of the women were beaten, but only Berwald and Saavedra sustained injuries serious enough to warrant hospitalization.

Berwald suffered a fractured skull and may have permanent hearing loss in her left ear. Staples were removed from her head wound Wednesday, but it's not clear yet if she will ever regain her full hearing, she said.

Saavedra needed three stitches to close a wound under her eye, and she was left with a broken rib, a gash on her head and cuts and bruises all over her body.

Tomaino said police received 35 or 40 phone calls from people claiming to know the attacker. Not all of the tips were solid. One person called from another state saying the suspect was a relative who travels to Las Vegas a lot to gamble.

A woman called and said the attacker was her boyfriend, but police said it appeared that she was trying to exact revenge for a prior domestic violence incident. Police had been zeroing in on a different man who they thought might be the suspect, but on Wednesday they ruled him out, they said.

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