Alexander DeLuca, M.D.
Audrey's journey from role model… to liar… to killer has brought her back to a snowy mountain pass in Washington state.Audrey Kishline: I just feel incredible deep sadness that I've just an incredible deep sadness.
A spot in the road on the Interstate 90 marks the before and after of her life.Kishline: It just makes it so incredibly real what happened.
The story of Audrey Kishline is really an American tragedy. Her flaw was self-deception. The consequence was sudden death.
What the old family snapshots from those years don't show was the pain of dislocation, always being the new kid in school. Her family moved 21 times before she turned 10 years old.
That's when her parents divorced.Kishline: I adored and worshipped my father. And then, to suddenly have him gone, it was just a really difficult part. I mean, every time I would walk down a street or saw a car go by, I'd think he was in it. And I, you know, almost never got to see him.
Not until she was 16, did her father invite her to come live with him in Washington state where he ran a construction company.
One day, he asked Audrey if she'd like an after-school job out on the sites working with the hard-hats and she jumped at the chance. More time, she thought, with dad.
Audrey's ballerina slippers went into the closet and she never looked back. And it was at the construction sites that teenage Audrey met her first true love -- alcohol.Kishline: I remember the very first beer. I remember exactly, I thought to myself, "this feels good. This is how normal feels actually.”
As a young woman, Audrey continued to let alcohol play a prominent role in her life. When she was 28 years old, she became engaged to a software engineer named Brian Kishline. Audrey acknowledged before the wedding that she might have a little drinking problem. So she checked herself into a treatment center.Kishline: Course after I had been there for about a month I said, "There's no way I'm as bad as these people. They've lost their homes, their jobs, their this, and their that. I'm not that bad. I've been mislabeled.”
She checked out of rehab and stayed sober. She wouldn't even allow herself a taste of champagne at her own wedding. But sobriety didn't last for long.Kishline: Within two or three months after this, I started secret drinking. Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: Secret drinking meaning what? Kishline: Husband out of town. Drinking at noon. By the time he'd get home, it'd be off my breath.
For the next few years, Audrey was a sneak drinker. It wasn't hard as her husband was often away on business. But when she became a mother - first to daughter Lindsay and three years later to son Samuel - she says she got a handle on the booze and simply quit when she wanted to, no problem.Kishline: And, here's where my experiment with this told me in my mind then, "I'm no alcoholic. I could quit drinking through the pregnancies. I could drink when he was gone and not get hung over. I could control it.” Murphy: Get kids back from school, dinner's on the table and - Kishline: Oh yeah. Doing all the normal motherhood things. So, I really felt I still could control it.
Moderation: A new idea
Audrey decided to create a support group for people she believed were just like her: problem drinkers who simply needed to reduce their drinking. She called her approach "MM” for Moderation Management.Kishline: I just thought that I would write this little, you know, 12-page pamphlet based on some of the little research I had done up to that point. And, I thought that I would start a little group at a church.
But her little group caught on in a big way with chapters cropping up in five states. In fact, that's when we first became acquainted with Audrey back in 1995.Dateline 1995 - Dennis Murphy: So who is in MM? Who is it for? Kishline: Well, it's for people that are just beginning to realize that they have a drinking problem...
Audrey shared with "Dateline” her personal story as a kind of case study: she maintained that she was a problem drinker who didn't fit the AA model which tells people they are alcoholics who should never drink again.Kishline: When I decided I didn't have a disease and I wasn't an alcoholic all of a sudden I didn't binge anymore. I could have one or two drinks and nothing happened. There was no lightning bolts, nothing happened.
Audrey explained the ground rules of MM - first an initial month long period of abstinence. Women were then allowed up to 9 drinks a week and men could have 14. Members were asked to go 3 or 4 days a week without any alcohol. And there was another rule -Kishline: MM has a zero tolerance policy about drinking and driving and that kind of thing.
Audrey's group attracted tremendous buzz. People wrote her, eager to start groups in their own communities. And Audrey got a book contract.
MM also came in for heavy criticism. It's very premise was a direct challenge to the conventional treatment for alcohol problems.Dr. Nicholas Pace (1995 interview): I'm afraid her experiment is doomed.
Dr. Nicholas Pace who treats alcoholics issued his warning in our report that aired in 1995.Dr. Pace: Unfortunately so many alcoholics will try to go back to social drinking. It doesn't work.
We confronted Audrey back then with the doctor's gloomy prognosis.Murphy: Audrey, there are critics out there and they think you're going to get some people in there who are going to get themselves in trouble who sign on for his program and say, "Oh boy, you know I really can have a drink, this is OK , it's great.” Kishline: People, if they understand that this program is not for chronic drinkers, not for alcoholics I think that they would understand more.
That distinction was Audrey's mantra: she said research showed that there are two kinds of drinkers - "problem drinkers” like her with "mild to moderate” levels of alcohol dependence who could benefit from MM and "chronic drinkers” who may experience withdrawal symptoms, liver damage and who Audrey believed should attend an abstinence group like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Audrey was running the national MM organization and still leading her group in a small church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, still reassuring the members that she had her own drinking under control.
We wondered back then how hard it was for her to fight temptation.Murphy (1995 interview): Do you ever have a really bad day where you feel like going on a bender? Kishline: No, I haven't. I haven't at all since I've been moderating. I've had days when - I maybe tempted to over - you know, go over my limit slightly. But, it's usually a fleeting situation. And, I would never act on that. Murphy: You don't feel yourself straining against the chains? Kishline: There's no magnet pulling that me to drink more and more. Murphy (2006 interview.): Were you being straight with us? Kishline: No. I wasn't - Murphy: That wasn't the situation. Kishline: No. Murphy: Were you in fact drinking over your limits? Kishline: After a period of time I definitely was. And I wasn't truthful about that.
The founder of Moderation Management was failing at her own program.Kishline: For a long time I hid my drinking, you know, that I was going over the limits. Murphy: What did you go to? Kishline: Three or four drinks every day. Murphy: Every day? Kishline: Every day. Murphy: Seven days a week. So 28, approaching 30 drinks a week. You were way outside the MM rules. Kishline: Oh yeah, definitely way outside the rules. And then when I would binge, it would be you know, seven or eight drinks. Murphy: As you look back on it, was MM something you devised to give yourself license to drink because you didn't want to abstain? Kishline: I do think that deep down as an addict, that was the purpose. Murphy: All the good research that you did and the presentation of it to a national audience, it was really to justify it for you as a drinker. Kishline: It would legitimize my drinking.
MM continued to grow with about 50 chapters nationwide. And Audrey continued to drink far more than her own group permitted.
Kishline: I felt trapped. How could I let all these people who thought I was doing so well? How could I now tell ‘em the truth?
Her great fear was being exposed as a hypocrite. She had no idea what was in store for her.
Audrey Kishline, founder and leader of moderation management maintained her high-profile position and her secret binge drinking for 5 years. But in January of 2000 at the age of 43 she decided to come clean.Audrey Kishline: I finally had a moment of clarity that said, "You can't live this lie anymore.”
She posted a message on the Internet to MM members that said: "I have made the decision recently to change my recovery goal to one of abstinence rather than moderation.”
The creator of MM was admitting defeat. She checked herself into a detox facility followed up by AA meetings, but she couldn't play by those rules either. It did not go unnoticed by her 10-year-old daughter.Kishline: I would keep falling off the abstinence wagon. Eventually, my daughter would say, "You know mom, you smell like alcohol when you kiss me goodnight.” It just about killed me. Just about killed me. Murphy: So the kids knew you were sloppy? Kishline: Yeah.
After two months of these failures Audrey, a wife and mother of two, came to another life decision.Kishline: Finally, I decided that I couldn't abstain anymore. And I was going to leave the family so I could still drink. Murphy: Chose drink over the family? Kishline: I chose drink over everything! I couldn't imagine living without alcohol.
Until that evening.Kishline: All I do remember is backing out of the driveway and having my hands on the steering wheel, just looking back to make sure there's no traffic there and backing out of the driveway. Murphy: You're in a vehicle that's bigger than a pickup truck, yeah? Kishline: It's a huge Ford 350 long bed - Murphy: Double sets of tires in the back - Kishline: Huge, yeah. Huge truck. Murphy: And where are you going in it? Kishline: I'm gonna go live with my dad.
To get to her dad's home in Spokane, Audrey had to cross the mountains and drive more than 250 miles along interstate 90. She drove east for about 100 miles, the vodka bottle tucked in the truck with her. At one point Audrey began making calls on her cell phone to various family members. They knew immediately that Audrey was in trouble and called for help.911 Operator: State Patrol. Caller: Yes, hi, um. I would like to report uh, someone who may be on the road that's been drinking.... I'm just concerned about everybody else out on the road if she is actually driving. Murphy: What's the next thing you remember? Kishline: Waking up in the hospital. Murphy: Who was at your bedside when you came to? Kishline: My two sisters were there. Murphy: And what'd they tell you? Kishline: They were both holding my hands, you know. And I could tell - ‘cause I know my sisters - they both have the big jaw line, and I could see them clinching their - and I could see the red tired eyes. And I said you know, "What happened?” And they both looked at me. And neither of ‘em could speak at first. And I said, "Was there an accident?” And they kind of looked, "Yes.” You know, "Did I wreck the truck?” "Yes, Audrey.” "Well, was anybody hurt?” And then they kinda looked back and forth. I could tell that neither of ‘em wanted to tell me, you know. "Yeah, two people died, Audrey. Two people died.”
Two - Danny Davis and his 12-year-old daughter LaShell. Audrey was facing vehicular homicide. Prison.
Audrey Kishline lay in the hospital semi-conscious. She'd been told she was involved in a fatal accident. Hours earlier, she'd been driving along the interstate en route to her dad's. She says she remembers almost nothing about what happened while she was driving except for one detail.Audrey Kishline: I called a family member that told me to turn around.
She doesn't know now if she was following this advice or made the decision on her own. In any case, Audrey did turn around and somehow she wound up driving west in the eastbound lane of Interstate-90.
Other drivers frantically called 911 to alert police that a vehicle was barreling down the freeway the wrong way heading right into oncoming traffic.911 OPERATOR: 911, what are you reporting? CALLER: Okay, you got a pickup heading the wrong way on the freeway... And it looks like a woman driving. 911 OPERATOR: Female driver. OK. All right, we'll update ‘em on the location. CALLER: All right. She almost had pile up right just around this curve. It's unbelievable.
Sergeant Tom Hickman of the Washington State Patrol reconstructed how Audrey managed to get herself so turned around on the interstate.Sergeant Tom Hickman: She was actually traveling eastbound on I-90 and she drifted off on the shoulder here, got onto the gravel part, made a complete U-turn crossing clear over the roadway and into the median part onto the gravel, came up out of the roadway and crossed back over the roadway and down into the ditch here. She came up out of the - people described it as the vehicle came up out of the forest. She comes straight up out the roadway and then got back onto I-90 this time heading the wrong direction, westbound in the eastbound lane.
Sergeant Hickman pieced together what happened next. Audrey actually drove for 3 miles in the wrong direction. Several cars swerved out of the lane to avoid being struck. Danny Davis and his daughter LaShell were traveling in a light blue Dodge two-door right behind a Ford explorer. When the SUV suddenly changed lanes to avoid Audrey's oncoming truck Danny had no time to react. The vehicles both traveling between 60 and 70 miles per hour collided head on.911 OPERATOR: 911. What are you reporting? CALLER: Yeah, there looks like there's one guy that's probably dead, and one uh, person not moving at all in the other - in the - in the pickup. 911 OPERATOR: OK. So - CALLER: In the car. 911 OPERATOR: The guy in the car's not movin'? CALLER: The guy in the car looks dead. His head is smashed. 911 OPERATOR: His head is smashed? CALLER: Yeah.
Her victimsSheryl Maloy Davis: I was running circles through the house screaming and stomping. And, just freaking out and hollering out, "My baby. Not my baby.”
Sheryl Maloy Davis was made crazy by the news. It was her family members whose lives collided fatally with Audrey Kishline's recklessness on I-90 that wintry march night. Her 12-year-old daughter LaShell and her 38-year-old ex-husband Danny, both killed when Audrey's truck slammed into them in the wrong lane. Danny had been bringing his daughter over the mountain to see her mom.Davis: When they didn't come home, I thought, "Well, he probably worked late. Probably stopped off to get her dinner.” Or, something like that.
But Danny and LaShell never made it.
Sheryl's life had been shattered by a drunk driver and not for the first time. Sheryl thought back to a dark episode when she was a child. Her father had been driving drunk and nearly killed himself in a wreck.Davis: I have been against drinking and driving since I was a little girl. That was my campaign before it ever was a campaign. Murphy: It almost took your father early out of your whole family. Davis: Actually it did take my father. He was never the same.
But this was so much worse. Her daughter was dead and so was the father of her two surviving sons.Davis: They died at 6:08 in the evening. And, they were not finished with the crash site until midnight. It took them hours to be able to cut them out of the car.
As for Audrey Kishline, who'd built a career and a support group based on the notion that she could control her drinking, she had a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. She was helicoptered to a Seattle hospital with major blood loss, broken ribs and a concussion. She was heavily medicated when she learned what she'd done.Kishline: I was told it was a young girl, near my daughter's age and her father.
Numbed, she watched news reports, the same awful story over and over with her killing two people. But, for some reason, the full impact didn't hit her until she got an anonymous letter a few weeks later. There were photos inside.Kishline: I see a picture of a young father in a trailer and a young blonde girl. And I'm thinking, "Who - who sent this - who - who are these people?” Murphy: These were the people you killed.Kishline: That was the first time I actually saw pictures of those people. It wasn't as real before then. You know, it wasn't as real. Now all of a sudden they had faces. And you know, I just dropped to the floor.
Meanwhile, back across the mountains, Sheryl Maloy Davis said her final goodbye to her only daughter and her ex-husband.Murphy: Did you bury the two of them together? Davis: Oh yeah. Murphy: Mothers aren't supposed to bury daughters, huh? Davis: No. That was very hard ‘cause I don't think there's anybody around who, when they get pregnant, doesn't think about what this child might do or what this child might be when they grow up.
For Audrey the gravity of what she had done was inescapable. Thinking about the victims, the members of MM, her own family.Murphy: You have two children, how do you tell them, "I'm a killer. I killed two people, including a little girl,” who's about the age of your own daughter? Kishline: I told them that mommy killed two people. She you know drove drunk. And my daughter just you know, broke down crying. My son was too young really to fully comprehend what happened. But I had to tell him.
At first Sheryl Maloy Davis had no idea that the drunk driver who had killed her daughter and ex-husband was the founder of something called "MM” and author of the book that outlined the approach.Davis: It was someone from I believe the Seattle Times that called me. And, he says, "Don't you think it's interesting that Audrey B. Kishline wrote a book about controlling your drinking?” Murphy: What'd you think of that? Davis: I was shocked.
On the day of her sentencing, Audrey sat in court and heard family members and friends of the people she killed tell the judge what they thought of her.
Audrey spoke directly to Sheryl.Kishline (in court): If it's any comfort, please know that I will carry the guilt for causing your grief for the rest of my life. I am so sorry.
The word sorry is a damn poor word for what happened. But it's the only word I could say.
Audrey was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. She arrived at her new home - the Washington corrections center for women - in August of 2000. Eventually life behind bars transformed Audrey.Kishline: The first few months, I would see my kids on visits, and then I'd have to see them walk back out those 15 million double locked metal doors, cry my eyeballs out, you know cry, cry, cry. Within I don't know, six months to a year, I wasn't crying anymore.
Audrey was leading the life of a prisoner... doing her best to survive, and blocking out most of what had brought her to this place. But then one day she was told that someone wanted to pay her a visit: Sheryl Maloy Davis, whose life Audrey had destroyed.Kishline: Oh my God. I was scared to death.
The confrontation was looming.
On a windy February morning in 2001, Sheryl Maloy Davis traveled west down I-90, past the same stretch of road where her nightmare began. She was on her way to have a face to face meeting with Audrey Kishline.Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: You make a decision to go see her. Sheryl Davis: I made that decision the day Danny and LaShell died.
Sheryl had been preparing for this confrontation for months. Audrey was bracing herself.Audrey Kishline: I see them come in. You know, they've already been through all the checks and stuff. We're brought into a glassed-in room where the guards can completely watch us, but can't listen. Davis: And I looked at her lawyer. And I asked, I said, "Is it okay if I hug her?” Kishline: And all of a sudden her arms were around me, and my arms were around her. Murphy: And you expected perhaps a slap across the face. Kishline: That's what I was expecting when she - but when she touched me, and I was gonna try to say, " I'm sorry,” I got the - "I am,” she goes, "Audrey, I forgive you.” Now those were the very last words I ever ever expected to hear from her, out of her lips. Murphy: She was the person that drove drunk and killed your daughter. Didn't you have every reason to say, "How dare you be a drunk driver?” Davis: And what good does that do? If you don't forgive somebody you're going to live with that turmoil for the rest of your life. Murphy: What impression did you have of her? Davis: She's a very quiet person. Very - she was very remorseful. She cried the whole time. Murphy: Did you need to hear her sorrow for what had happened? Davis: If she was going to say she was sorry, I needed to see that she meant it. Murphy: And not in a courtroom kind of setting, huh? Davis: Yeah. Murphy: Did you hear it? Did you see it? Davis: Yeah. She meant it.
When their meeting was over, Audrey felt she could actually start the long, slow process of forgiving herself.Kishline: I felt like I was walking on air. The one person in the world who could forgive me, the one person it would mean the most from who could forgive me was Sheryl.
released and the tough days that lay ahead
But soon, Audrey found the adjustment to family life too painful to endure. An abyss had grown between her and her husband and children. While in prison, she'd hardened her heart against missing her family and now she was unable to thaw it. Her family distrusted her.Kishline: When I got out of prison, I tried to reconnect with my family. And it actually was a failure. I had become another kind of Audrey.
Audrey had gone 3 1/2 years in prison without drinking and now that she was on parole she was forbidden to drink for two more years. But one desperate night, Audrey walked into a liquor store and fell into the clutches of alcohol again. A worried friend she called that evening contacted her parole officer.
Audrey was sent back to jail. Her sentence was just 42 days but her life with her family was ruined.
She recalled a pact she had made with her young son Samuel during her first prison sentence.Kishline: Every night in prison, I'd tell him, "Okay, 8:00 p.m., look up at the moon and I'll look up at the moon at the same time so we'll both be lookin' at the moon at the same time.” You know? And then promising him I'll be home within 997 more days, or however many. All those promises.Murphy: And then home didn't work?Kishline: And I come home, I blow parole. I leave the family again.
Years earlier, as part of a civil suit settlement Sheryl had requested that Audrey write a book, a kind of first-person warning about drinking and driving. Audrey had no idea whether Sheryl still wanted the book written, whether she'd be willing to dig up the past in the process.Kishline: I didn't think she'd be wanting to do it. But she does.
They decided to write the book together. It is called "Face to Face.” Working on the project brought Audrey deep into Sheryl's world, into a place where she'd have to confront the loss she caused head on. Last winter she attended Sheryl's bible study group where she was introduced in a way that summed up their unusual connection.Sheryl (at Bible group): This is my friend Audrey. I've never introduced her before as my friend. Six years ago I would never guess she'd be my friend. Fact I was positive she wouldn't have been my friend. So just for those of you who don't really know much about either one of us, Audrey is the woman who killed Danny and LaShell.
Audrey visited Sheryl's home where she met her 10-year-old son Cody.Davis: Cody, this is Audrey. Cody: Hello (without looking up) Kishline: How you doing?
And she pored over dozens of photographs of Danny and LaShell.Davis: Here's when she was a little baby. Kishline: Oh my God. Oh Gosh Sheryl. Oh. Davis: Oh, god. How old - how old was she? Davis: 12. Kishline: 12. Was it two weeks before or after her birthday? Davis: Ten days. Kishline (to correspondent Dennis Murphy): Seeing those pictures of her daughter, you know, all different poses. Going through them. Murphy: And you're the architect, you're the prime mover of this awful sadness, this tragedy that's happened. How awkward is that for you? Kishline: Now all I can do is do what Sheryl has asked me to do. That's the only way I can give back. All I can do is try to help her as much as I can. I can't take back that day. I can't bring back her daughter. I can at least listen to her wishes.
Which brings us back to that difficult journey Audrey is taking along the freeway that crosses Washington state.Kishline: What I am feeling now is a lot of fear. Just a lot of fear.
Sheryl has asked Audrey to return to the crash site where their lives first intersected.Davis: We're going to the last spot my daughter and her dad were alive. They took their last breath there.
Sheryl has been back only once before.
Audrey has never been back.Kishline: I think it's something I have to do. I think it's a part of what I have to do.Davis: Coming here is like a form of closure.
Sheryl has shown unwavering forgiveness to Audrey, but on this day she is struggling with complicated emotions.Davis: You wanna know how I really feel right now? I'm mad that my daughter and her dad had to die so senselessly. Doesn't mean I don't forgive her. It just - I wish things could be different.
When the women meet at the site their conversation is at first striking for its matter-of-fact tone.Davis: You turned around, you went off the road on this side. You did a figure eight and you came back out. Kishline: It was that last turnoff. That's where I just saw that, yeah. Davis: Danny didn't have hardly any time to see anything, because it's on a bend. He was behind a semi. And the semi pulled out of your way and you hit them. Kishline: Wow.
One mother describing to the other how she killed her daughter.
Audrey's been told some of the accident details before... but hearing them from Sheryl is now here, it's too much for her.Kishline: Oh Jesus. (Hugs Sheryl)
Sheryl allows for some anger - albeit a brief showing.Davis: I was mad for a little bit on the way here. Kishline: Were you? Davis: Yeah. Kishline: I'm sorry you're angry. Davis: Huh? Kishline: I'm sorry you're feeling angry. Davis: Oh, I'm not angry. I was angry for a little bit on the way here. Kishline: That's normal. Davis: But I'm not angry.
a new life
And after all she's been through does Audrey Kishline founder of Moderation Management still think her program can work?Kishline: I have very conflicted feelings about that. Obviously it was something that didn't work for me. Murphy: It still exists. There are chapters around. Kishline: The book's still on the Internet. Murphy: Do you think people read it at their own peril? Is this something you disavow now? Kishline: You know, whether you read my book or you walk by 7-11 and see the bottle of wine, temptations are always out there. You know, I clearly said in that book that if you're abstinent now or you're a chronic alcoholic, this book won't work for you. Murphy: Do you still believe a person can be a moderate controlled drinker? Kishline: As long as they're not truly an alcoholic. Murphy: But what's that line? Kishline: Nobody knows where it is.
Including Audrey Kishline. And now she wants everyone to hear her cautionary tale loud and clear.Murphy: You're in the free world but you're still in a kind of prison, aren't you? Kishline: Yeah. The message to the drinker out there, who doesn't think that they might get in a car and drive drunk when they go into a blackout, needs to really hear this.
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