true crime

Remembering the case of Marc Evonitz…

The featured photo is a screenshot of Richard Marc Edward Evonitz, a rapist, murderer, and coward who is no longer around to hurt people.

In early summer 2002, I was newly graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. Bill and I were engaged to be married. He was working at the Pentagon. I was looking for a job.

We had just moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Why Fredericksburg? Because it’s a cute town, and because it reasonably offered me the chance to access work in Richmond, Northern Virginia, or Fredericksburg, itself. Also, Bill found a two bedroom apartment owned by the same (slumlord) apartment company that owned the building where he had been living in a studio apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. I think the rent in Fredericksburg was only marginally higher, and the complex offered more amenities.

So there we were in the summer of 2002. We were broke, but excited about our upcoming wedding. We had a new dog, a blue-eyed beagle/husky mix named CuCullain (C.C.). I was hopeful about the future, even if living in that apartment made me miserable. I’m definitely not cut out for communal living.

As I wrote cover letters and printed resumes, which I would then circulate, I watched a lot of TV– especially the news. During that summer, there was a true crime case that really intrigued me. It involved a man named Richard Marc Edward Evonitz.

Richard Marc Edward Evonitz is now long dead. He died by his own hand on June 27, 2002, at 38 years old. Looking back on it, Evonitz was probably smart to kill himself. He was not destined to enjoy the rest of his life. He had finally been caught, and if he hadn’t committed suicide surrounded by cops, he might have wound up on death row.

A true crime documentary about Richard Marc Evonitz’s crimes.

I remember hearing about this case when it happened, thinking it was so surreal that Evonitz and I had basically been in the same places within weeks of each other. I don’t think I would have been the type of victim he was hunting for, since all of his victims were teenaged girls. Still, I remember being really freaked out by this story. I’ve never forgotten this case after all of these years, mainly because I lived in the same places Evonitz did within weeks of his final criminal act.

Richard Marc Edward Evonitz was born and raised near Columbia, South Carolina, which was where I had lived from August 1999 until May 2002. He was born at Providence Hospital, a Catholic owned hospital in a part of Columbia near where I had done an internship. I used to drive past that hospital when I went to my social work field placement during my last semester at the university.

Known as Marc to avoid confusion with an uncle named Richard, Evonitz grew up as the oldest sibling in his family. He had two younger sisters, Kristen and Jennifer. He graduated from Irmo High School in 1980. I know where Irmo High School is. It’s not far from the university, either.

After he finished high school, Evonitz worked for Jiffy Lube for a time, then went on to join the United States Navy. He spent eight honorable years serving in the Navy, then left military service. He married twice, first to a woman named Bonnie Lou Gower, from whom he was divorced in 1996. Then in 1999, he married Hope Marie Crowley, and they were still wed at the time of his death in 2002.

There I was, back in the summer of 2002, living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, having just moved from Columbia, South Carolina, hearing about Marc Evonitz’s last crime on the news. Evonitz was of special interest in the Fredericksburg area. It turned out that he had kidnapped and murdered at least three teenaged girls who lived in Spotsylvania County, very close to the Fredericksburg area, during the 1990s. He is also suspected of a 1994 rape and abduction and a 1995 rape in Massaponax, Virginia, which is also very close to Fredericksburg.

But as of June 2002, when Evonitz died by suicide, no one knew that he was guilty of those crimes that had taken place in Virginia. At that point in time, it wasn’t known who had abducted, raped, and murdered 16 year old Sofia Silva on September 9, 1996. The May 1, 1997 rapes, abductions, and murders of 15 year old Kristin and 12 year old Kati Lisk were also unsolved. Authorities had been searching for clues for years, but they kept coming up empty handed. It took the actions of a brave and clever 15 year old girl– Evonitz’s last victim– to finally solve those crimes.

On June 24, 2002, Evonitz abducted 15 year old Kara Robinson. She had been in her friend’s front yard, minding her own business, just as the girls Evonitz abducted and murdered in Virginia had been. Evonitz approached Kara, friendly at first, offering her magazines. Then he brandished a handgun and forced her into a Rubbermaid container in the trunk of his car. He bound her hands and feet and gagged her, warning her not to scream. The whole time, Kara was paying close attention to everything. She was hyperaware of everything she was seeing, hearing, and feeling as they traveled to the apartment where Evonitz lived.

Evonitz took Kara inside his apartment, raped her, and tied her to his bed. She noticed the names on his mail, the red hair in his wife’s hairbrush, and the magnets on the refrigerator. She even thought to talk to Evonitz, and later described him as “cordial”. Prior to going to bed, Evonitz made Kara smoke marijuana with him, and gave her a Valium. While Evonitz slept, Kara managed to free herself, using her teeth. She fled the apartment in bare feet, still wearing fuzzy blue handcuffs, and went to the police, where she was able to identify Evonitz. Kara says that the police were initially kind of skeptical, but they finally called her mother. The deputies took Kara back to the scene of the crime before they took her to the hospital.

Upon discovering that his captive had escaped, Evonitz took off, eventually ending up in Sarasota, Florida, where his dash for freedom was ended by the police. As the cops surrounded him, demanding that he surrender, Evonitz cowardly opted to end his life. He put his handgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Police searched Evonitz’s apartment, and soon found “trophies” that Evonitz had collected– evidence that Kara had not been his first and only victim. Richland County police officers discovered clues that would finally shed light on crimes Evonitz had perpetrated in Spotsylvania, Virginia in the 1990s… crimes that, in June 2002, had not been solved.

After Evonitz died, the police analyzed what was left of his life. In the course of their investigation, police found that Richard Marc Edward Evonitz’s hair matched hair that was found on the bodies of Sofia Silva and Kristin and Kati Lisk. They also found blue acrylic fibers from the “fuzzy handcuffs” that Evonitz owned, that matched fibers found on the three victims from Virginia. And then, five years after Kristin Lisk’s death, investigators found her fingerprints and a palm print in the trunk of Evonitz’s car. Finally, the families of those young victims could rest assured that the man who killed their daughters would never have the chance to hurt anyone else.

I remember seeing a news report about this case soon after Evonitz killed himself. Kara Robinson was interviewed at the time, and I remember hearing her say something along the lines of “Picking me was the dumbest thing Marc Evonitz ever did.” She sounded so tough and defiant. I was astonished by her bravery and ability to keep her wits about her. She was just fifteen years old at the time. I remember what I was like at that age… and I am just flabbergasted by how amazingly brave and strong she was… and apparently still is. YouTube tells me that Kara now thrives in a law enforcement career.

Here’s a somewhat recent interview of Kara Robinson Chamberlain. She is interviewed by Elizabeth Smart, who was also famously kidnapped in June of 2002, and also managed to survive her ordeal.

Actually now that I think about it, 2002 was a terrible year for abductions. I remember there was a lot of news about girls being abducted and murdered all across the country. Elizabeth Smart probably had the highest profile case, as she was abducted in June 2002, at just 14 years old. That summer, there were so many tragic and horrifying cases of girls being victimized.

That was also around the time of the Beltway Sniper case, which also had strong ties to Fredericksburg, as a couple of people were murdered there. I remember how Bill would never let me walk behind him during that scary time in October 2002, as the snipers had been randomly shooting people at gas stations up and down the I-95 corridor, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. We actually lived a couple of miles from a mall and a gas station where people were shot on different occasions. It was terrifying, and went on for a couple of weeks before the killers were finally captured.

Looking back on our brief time in Fredericksburg– a town that is about 90 miles from where I had grown up, and had always regarded as a really cute place– now makes me think of criminal behavior. That area is also near where Erin McCay George committed murder when she shot her husband for insurance money in 2001. I went to college with Erin, and was there when she embezzled money from our alma mater.

We also lived in Fredericksburg at around the time Erika and Benjamin Sifrit committed their crimes in Ocean City, Maryland. The Sifrits had ties to Fredericksburg, because Erika had gone to college at Mary Washington College (now known was the University of Mary Washington). They committed two very bloody murders just fifteen days after Bill and I moved to Fredericksburg, and their story was all over the news in Fredericksburg at that time.

Kara Robinson Chamberlain went on to become a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina. Below is a video of Kara speaking in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a community that is no doubt so grateful to her for helping to solve the cases of Sofia Silvia and Kristin and Kati Lisk. She truly is a heroine in every sense of the word.

What an amazing, brave, young lady she was, and still is.

I still think it’s so weird, how close I’ve been to some pretty horrifying true crime cases. After my car was broken into at our crappy apartment complex in Fredericksburg, and we had a brush with a creepy guy who was going door to door, casing the area, I started paying a lot more attention to the crime statistics in Fredericksburg. I discovered that the apartment complex where we lived was a hotbed of criminal activity ranging from drug busts to rapes.

I feel pretty fortunate that I managed to escape living there having only had my window busted in my car, as some lowlife thieves tried and failed to steal my aftermarket CD player. We moved not long after that happened. I see that now, the Fredericksburg Police Department has an office next to the complex where we used to live. It’s probably a good place for them to be, given the historically high crime rate in that neighborhood. Looking on Google Maps, I can see that where there used to a big field where I walked C.C., there’s now a landscaped road leading to the police station. The boulevard running past the complex is now a four lane highway. It had been a two lane road when we were there.

I’ve often thought that in another life, I might have been a true crime writer… and now I’m so grateful to live in Germany, which has its crime issues, but none as dramatic as those in Fredericksburg. I’ll never again think of it as a quaint, picturesque town.

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true crime

Two wrongs don’t make a right…

G.O.M.N! Get out of my neighborhood!

A few days ago, I read about Sergeant First Class Johnathan Pentland and his wife, Cassie, confronting a young Black man who was in their neighborhood, near Columbia, South Carolina. I was interested, not just because Pentland is in the Army, but also because I used to live in Columbia. In fact, I used to work at a country club located near the area where Pentland’s home is, so I am familiar with the area. And yet again, someone caught a middle-aged White person on film, behaving badly, and put it on Twitter for the world to see and judge.

The video coverage of Pentland looks terrible. He’s talking to the young man as if he was on duty as the drill sergeant he is… (or was). He’s clearly being physically aggressive, trying to intimidate the young man. I don’t condone Johnathan Pentland’s conduct or behavior, although I also don’t know what led up to it before the camera started rolling. I hear him demanding that the guy leave his neighborhood, cursing at him, and looking like he’s about to beat on the much younger and smaller Black man. Given that the younger guy is on the sidewalk and not on Pentland’s property, I figure he has a right to be where he is, although I don’t know why the guy is hanging around instead of walking away. I figure common sense would dictate moving on to a different location rather than engaging someone who is obviously threatening, especially when one is standing outside of a homeowner’s house. But, that’s just me.

Someone called the police, and the officer who initially responded said, at the time, that he could only ticket Pentland for destroying the young man’s phone. Pentland had apparently broken it while confronting the guy. But then later, after an outcry on the Internet, Pentland was arrested and booked for third degree assault and battery. If he is convicted, he could be forced to pay a $500 fine and spend up to thirty days in jail. Based on what I saw in the video, I would agree that those charges are certainly justified. However, I don’t agree with what came next.

Pentland and his family, which includes two children, have had to be relocated from their home. Massive protests took place there, with large groups of people congregating outside of Pentland’s home with bullhorns. The home was vandalized, and people are demanding that Pentland be fired. I’m sure there have also been death threats issued.

This cop reminds me of being at home. I kind of miss America sometimes…

I absolutely agree that Pentland should be held fully accountable for his actions. However, I strongly disagree with people issuing death threats, destroying property, or doxxing the Pentlands. I also feel sorry for Pentland’s neighbors, who didn’t sign up to have masses of people coming into their neighborhood, starting riots, vandalizing property, and creating trouble. While I don’t know what it feels like to be a person of color, I do think that if anything is ever going to change, people have to work together for peaceful conflict resolution. Destroying property and disturbing the peace are not the ways to make those changes.

I liked living in Columbia. I met some great folks there, and had a really good experience studying at the University of South Carolina. And while I’m not a big fan of videoing people and making them go viral, I do think that if there is an obvious crime going on, video is a good thing to hand over to the police. Video shows what exactly happened and what was said. However, I don’t think it’s a good thing for private citizens to take it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner, trying to make a name for themselves by sharing stuff and promoting unproven theories or half truths based entirely on assumptions.

Having watched Pentland’s video a few times, I wonder what in the world led up to this confrontation. Based on the energy in that video, it doesn’t look like Pentland saw the guy and simply decided to come out and yell at him. That could have happened, but I find it unlikely. Does Pentland make it a habit to just confront random people walking around in his neighborhood, or was there some kind of history between these two people before the video started?

I also wonder if this encounter was entirely based on racism. I didn’t hear Pentland using overtly racist language toward the young man. Yes, Pentland was threatening him, bullying him, and shoving him, but I can’t come to the conclusion that he did so solely because the young man is a person of color. That could have been the case, but I don’t know that for sure. I can only assume, as I think a lot of people have, probably because of the many racist encounters that have been in the news recently. According to the Washington Post, Pentland said that he feared for his and his wife’s safety because the young man had been accused of earlier assaults.

From the Washington Post:

Two reports of alleged assault were also made against the young man after deputies responded Monday, according to the sheriff’s department, and they are being investigated. The young man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents,” the agency said.

On April 8, one incident report says, the man allegedly put his arm around a woman’s waist, put his hand down the right side of her shorts and then put his arm back around her waist as her pants were partly down. On April 10, another report alleges the man repeatedly picked up a baby without permission and tried to walk away.

Pentland told officers who had responded to a “physical dispute” Monday that he pushed the man “in fear for his safety and the safety of his wife,” according to the incident report.

Deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene,” the agency said in a statement.

Based on these statements, I would think it would have been better for the Pentlands to simply call the police and report the guy, especially given that there had supposedly been prior incidents leading up to the assault last week. But nowadays, calling the police when a person of color is involved is also discouraged, thanks to the fact that so many Black people have been injured or killed by the police. It is also notable that these alleged incidents involving the young man were apparently made after Pentland confronted him, rather than before. Was that because some people are making up stories trying to defend Pentland’s actions and discredit the young man? Or did the folks involved in the groping and “baby stealing” incidents decide they needed to report the guy.

Either way, I wish the public would stop spinning narratives based on videos that get posted by bystanders. While the videos show what happened in an objective sense, the people who see them have a tendency to insert their own subjective narratives. The vast majority of the time, the people who see this stuff on social media don’t have all the facts.

I, for one, would like to know more about what led up to this attack. I agree that Pentland behaved terribly, and he should certainly be held accountable. But I’m not quite ready to see his and his family’s lives destroyed over this incident. If there is any truth to the reports that the young man in the video was harassing women and tried to walk away with someone’s baby, there could be more of an explanation regarding Pentland’s conduct. And regardless of what happened, I don’t think people should be descending on private property, committing vandalism, issuing death threats, or disturbing the peace. A planned, peaceful, orderly protest is acceptable. Issuing death threats and driving people from their homes shouldn’t be… and all people– regardless of race– should have the right to a fair trial before being “convicted” by the public.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see what comes next in this case.

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