Rapist jailed after faking own death at ‘Mortuary Beach’ in California

Kim Avis tried to evade justice by leaving Scotland then faking his own death at one of California’s most dangerous coastal spots

Avis pictured after his arrest by US Marshals (Credit: US MARSHALS)
Avis pictured after his arrest by US Marshals (Credit: US MARSHALS)

A rapist has been jailed for 15 years after he fled Scotland and faked his own death at one of California’s most dangerous coastal spots.

Kim Avis, a market trader from Inverness, was eventually found by US marshals in Colorado - more than 1,000 miles away from where he was reported missing - and brought back to Scotland.

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He was found guilty of a total of 14 offences of rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and indecency at Edinburgh’s High Court on Friday (11 June).

The 57-year-old had been placed on bail when he travelled to Los Angeles International Airport under the name Ken Gordon-Avis on 16 February 2019.

Nine days after his arrival in California, his son reported him missing at Monastery Beach, Carmel, which is notoriously dangerous due to the water’s strong undertow and rip current.

It is nicknamed Mortuary Beach after the deaths of multiple swimmers and divers there.

Son told officers Avis had gone for an evening swim

Avis’ son told the local sheriff's office that his dad had gone for an evening swim.

Authorities in California were initially unaware of his history and carried out an extensive three-day search of the shore.

Mary Schley, a reporter for the Carmel Pine Cone newspaper, told the BBC: “The water is very cold, so it's unusual for someone to go swimming only in a pair of shorts in the evening in late February, when it's nearing dark, as Avis was said to have done.

"The water that night was unusually flat and calm, and therefore not nearly as dangerous as when the surf is high, and the weather was clear."

The search, co-ordinated by the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, included forestry and fire protection services, a dive team, a coastguard helicopter and a drone.

But Commander Derrel Simpson and his officer Sgt David Murray said they felt things were not quite right.

Avis seemed to have taken all his personal belongings, including his passport, with him during his swim.

Officers had also been told that the father and son duo had been staying in hotels and camping, but they had no hiking equipment, while a hotel where Avis was understood to have stayed had no record of him as a guest.

Sgt Murray contacted one of Avis’ relatives in Scotland and learned that he was facing sexual assault charges in the Highlands.

Commander Simpson told the BBC: "We have had a lot of deaths at Monastery Beach, but I can't think of anyone using it as a ploy before."

Avis was eventually tracked down in Colorado

The US Marshals Service, which deals with catching wanted criminals, then took over the investigation.

They were able to track down Avis in Colorado Springs with the help of Interpol and Scottish authorities, five months after he disappeared.

The man was arrested the following week and was extradited to Scotland in July 2019, where he was held in prison until his trial.

In May 2021, a jury at the High Court in Glasgow found Avis guilty of raping three women.

He was also found guilty of attempting to rape one of the women when she was 12-years-old, and guilty of sexually assaulting a girl when she was 11.

Avis was further convicted for failing to appear for the previous trial.

In total, the market trader was found guilty of 14 charges spanning from 2006 through to 2017. He had denied all charges.

He was jailed for 12 years for his crimes committed in the Highlands, and three years for failing to appear in court.

Judge Lord Sandison said Avis had once received a “good citizen award”, and that he had been a well-known street trader in Inverness for a number of years.

But the judge said the man had another side and he had manipulated and coerced his victims.

A background report described Avis as having "a controlling and dominant personality".

Police Scotland praised the victims for the "courage, strength and dignity" they had demonstrated throughout the court case.