Exclusive: New Details Emerge About Audrey Kishline's Death

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Exclusive: New Details Emerge About Audrey Kishline's Death

By Regina Walker 01/17/15

Sheryl Maloy-Davis tells The Fix about her friendship with Audrey Kishline after Kishline killed Maloy-Davis's daughter and husband; about the book they wrote together, despite Kishline being too drunk to write; and about her friend's final choice to hang herself.

Image: 
Audrey and "Sheryl in Hollywood
Sheryl Maloy-Davis and Audrey Kishline in Hollywood.

Since writing about Audrey Kishline's passing for TheFix last week, I've been preoccupied with her story—I'm a psychotherapist who has specialized in addiction treatment for most of my professional career, and I can remember, vividly, both Audrey and the beginning of Moderation Management, as well as the controversy she and it sparked—and the fateful accident that, in March of 2000, changed her life and that of the victims' families, forever.  

Tellingly—and sadly—she wrote, in Face to Face, "I knew in my heart I could never stop drinking. Never."

After the accident, Kishline largely disappeared from public life. But since her passing, I've discovered that the years of silence were marked by a drama of both reconciliation and ongoing struggle, in which a key figure has been Sheryl Maloy-Davis— the wife and mother of the man and child who were killed on the night Kishline got behind the wheel of her truck and tried to drive home to her father from her own house, fleeing a troubled marriage. Maloy-Davis was Kishline's co-author for Face to Face, which chronicles the aftermath of the accident, and the unlikely friendship between the two women. She told me in a recent interview that on December 19, 2014, Kishline committed suicide, hanging herself in her mother's home.

On the evening of Christmas Day, 2014, Audrey's mother phoned Sheryl Maloy-Davis—according to Sheryl—to tell her of Audrey's death. Her mother found her with two empty vodka bottles on the floor, and with every prescription medicine bottle in the house emptied. "She meant it," said Sheryl. "She overdosed and she hung herself." Sheryl said that Audrey's mother had told her that Audrey had been "deeply, deeply depressed for at least two months" prior to her death, and that her drinking had continued unabated.  

By phone, Sheryl was clearly grief-stricken, even shocked—she and Audrey, after their reconciliation during Kishline's prison term, had become friends (close friends)—and had even collaborated on Face to Face. Even more surprising is Sheryl's friendship with Audrey Kishline's mother. "Me and her mom just clicked the minute we met each other," she told me. Though Sheryl knew Kishline had fallen into obscurity in the last years of her life, she still expressed surprise that Audrey's death had gone unnoticed at first - admitting as well that Kishline, "...had a hard time being forgotten." But even the book, though meant as an expression of reconciliation, was marked with Kishline's struggles.

In the second edition of Face to Face, Audrey wrote with blunt candor about her own struggles and shortcomings. In the preface to the second edition of the book—dated June 14, 2012—Audrey wrote, "The book is all wrong," admitting to not having written the text of the first, 2007 edition, but also having failed to live up to her obligations to promote and support it. "I'm trying to rewrite words that I never wrote...I was drunk...most of the time."

“Alcohol is the love of my life.” ~ Audrey Kishline “Face to Face”

"Audrey," she writes to herself, "none of this would be an issue if you had done what the lawyers for Sheryl asked you to do in the first place, in the civil suit. YOU were supposed to write this book. You signed a legal document saying you would do your best to fulfill this request. You're the one that dropped the ball. You had your chance. And you took the easy way out. You let the agent get someone else to write it." And then, writing as if defending herself from her own accusations, she admits, "I was drinking too much to write a coherent grocery list."

In an email, Sheryl wrote, "they said the book Audrey and I co-wrote was a bestseller. Sadly, though the day before we were to have our media blitz Audrey went off the deep-end and know (sic) one could find her. I was the only one she would call but had no way of finding her. At least she called me and I was able to get her to come back."

"Where were you," Kishline goes on in the same dialogue with herself style, in the second edition preface, "when the book was published, and you were supposed to be there for the media to promote Face to Face? To give Sheryl a chance to tell her story, to get her message out about the horrible consequences of drinking and driving?" As if responding to an interviewer, Kishline answers, "Most likely face down, passed out in a park in Portland somewhere. I remember one day clearly. I woke up with my purse underneath me, empty cans of beer scattered about, my glasses broken, missing a shoe, unbathed for weeks, in jeans wet with my own urine. My legs hurt, scratches and cuts . . . my billfold was gone."

A watershed moment for Kishline was the now well-known message she posted in January of 2000, to the Moderation Management email listserv, in which she frankly admitted that not only was her drinking out of control, but that it had never really been in control at all. In Face to Face, she says that message was precipitated by something specific: a drinking binge that started one morning shortly before she wrote and sent the message. The binge had continued through the entire day. By evening, she feared she'd given herself alcohol poisoning, and called 911. In the time between the call and the arrival of the ambulance, she became terrified that, if taken to the hospital, she'd be found out, and she tried to deny entry to her home to emergency services. The result was that she was taken in handcuffs to a three-day detox program. Convinced she'd be exposed as an alcoholic—a label she'd always strenuously denied—she published her message to the Moderation Management listserv, saying that she was no longer going to be pursuing moderation, but rather, abstinence.

In 2012, after the publication of the second edition of Face to Face, Kishline and Sheryl Maloy-Davis were invited to appear on The Dr. Drew Show, hosted by well-known TV personality and internist, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Sheryl said she was surprised when Kishline told her, "I am so excited. Maybe this will get us our own TV show."

"I just wanted to get the message, don't drink and drive, out there," Maloy-Davis added. "Audrey wanted the media to notice her again."  

It was never her intention originally, says Sheryl Maloy-Davis, to establish a long-term friendship with Audrey Kishline. She believed at the time of her visit to Kishline in prison, to tell her she had forgiven her for the deaths of her husband and daughter, that it would be the last time the two women would meet. Forgiveness was not an easy thing for Sheryl—during the sentencing phase of Kishline's trial, after being told that Kishline had been given two sentences of 4 ½ years each for the deaths of her husband and daughter, but that the sentences would run concurrently, Sheryl said bitterly, "Which member of my family is the freebie?" But Maloy-Davis, who is a devout Christian, felt that it was God's will that she forgive Audrey. She was surprised, years later, when she was contacted through her lawyer by Kishline's attorney with a request from Kishline for permission to call her: "I said sure," said Maloy-Davis. And the friendship grew.  

Sheryl's contact with Audrey Kishline had been limited in recent years, thanks to financial difficulties both women had, and to illness in Sheryl's family. "We were trying to figure out a way to get together," Sheryl says, "but it never happened."

Over the years, Kishline was psychiatrically hospitalized, and she tried several different medications for psychiatric problems, and also tried a myriad of addiction treatment approaches in a desperate attempt to curtail and eliminate her drinking, but never succeeded. Tellingly—and sadly—she wrote, in Face to Face, "I knew in my heart I could never stop drinking. Never."

Addendum: Since the publication of this story, a member of Ms. Kishline's immediate family has contacted The Fix regarding some of the information in our story. In particular, with respect to the circumstances surrounding her death, we've been told that there were no empty pill bottles, nor were there two empty bottles of liquor in the house at the time of Audrey's death; we have also been told that Audrey's drinking was largely "in check for the prior year or two." We deeply regret any pain this may have caused Audrey's family, and thank them for sharing this with us.

Regina Walker is a regular contributor to The Fix. She is a licensed psychotherapist as well as a writer and photographer in NYC. She broke the news of Audrey Kishline's death a week ago on The Fix and has also recently written about gender and addiction and interviewed Faces of Addiction photographer Chris Arnade.

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Regina Walker is a licensed psychotherapist in NYC. She has written for multiple publications and is an avid photographer. You can find her on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.

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