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.

Standard
psychology, rants

For shame!

As Germany is about to enter yet another partial lockdown, I’ve been looking for more ways to occupy my time. I decided to hang out in a Facebook group devoted to fellow graduates of Longwood College. I specify Longwood College because that was the name of the school when I attended. It is now known as Longwood University, and it’s changed quite a lot since my day. Those of us who were Longwood students before all of the insane building projects like to hang out there and reminisce about the old days.

Things have been pretty slow in that group lately, save for the frequent posts by one guy who has managed to sell Longwood College swag. Someone complained about the frequent sales posts. She said the group wasn’t intended to be a sales site. I have to admit, she’s right. But it’s not entirely the seller’s fault, since people did want him to start selling the Longwood College branded merchandise. He supposedly went through a lengthy licensing procedure in order to get permission to sell the stuff.

Now… I don’t actually care too much about the sales postings. It’s easy for me to scroll past them. But I did agree that things in the group had gotten kind of dull. A couple of months ago, I started a thread about Erin McCay George, a woman who used to be the editor of the college’s newspaper, The Rotunda. She ended up murdering her husband for insurance money and is now in prison. She also wrote a book about what it’s like to be in prison. For several days, that was a hot thread. No one seemed to take any issue with it.

Yesterday, I started a more innocuous thread about the State Theater’s roof collapsing during the spring semester of 1994. But then I remembered another “true crime” case involving a fellow alum. The trouble was, the case was about a man who is in prison for viewing child pornography. Although no one seemed to have a problem with chatting about a female murderer who is in prison, it somehow felt potentially icky to bring up the case about the guy who’s in prison for viewing kiddie porn.

People asked me to “spill the tea” about the case, so before I posted the details, I wrote that the crime was pretty yucky. I didn’t mind sharing what I know about it, but I advised anyone who had an issue with it to say so. No one did. In fact, I got more pleas to “spill the tea”, so I did. Bear in mind that this case is over ten years old and was all over the news in Texas back in 2009, 2010, and in 2016. In fact, one can even read very interesting legal documents about the case online. They are readily available to everyone. I also wrote about the case on my old blog.

So, without naming the guy explicitly, I wrote about the case in this group. Then I provided a link to a FindLaw article about his case. Sure enough, I got a shaming comment from someone who was “disgusted” that I would open that can of worms. I wrote that was why I posted a warning as the initial post. The story of the crime was in the comments. She could have scrolled past. She chose not to.

She pressed on that I shouldn’t have shared the story and implied that I should be ashamed of myself. My response was, “Why? No one had a problem with my post about Erin George, who MURDERED someone.” At least in this case, no one died.

Then someone else joked that no one should tell me anything “personal”. And I wrote that this was a news story that was covered extensively in Texas. It wasn’t confidential information. Moreover, I didn’t even write the guy’s name, although I did share a link about the case. It would be one thing if this was something secret, rather than just taboo. But it wasn’t a secret, nor was it even new news. Some people are interested in true crime. I certainly am.

Even if this case was not about someone I knew of in college, I would have found it very interesting, mainly due to the way he got caught. Basically, he hired someone to house/dog sit and did not lock down his computer. She helped herself to the computer, claiming that she was trying to rip music from one of his CDs (which investigators later found no evidence of her doing). She found his stash of child pornography and then went to the police. Granted, this happened in 2009, but it’s still amazing to me that someone with a habit like that one wouldn’t be more careful.

Some people in the group were grateful that I shared the story, salacious as it was. The one woman who “shamed” me eventually got swept up in trading insults with one of the more vociferous posters– the one who had complained about the many sales posts. Meanwhile, I was left perplexed that she’d tried to make me feel small for sharing a story about a ten year old news item. Yes, it was a negative story about an alum, but I did take the time to warn those who didn’t want to read it. And why should the shamer feel she has the right to dictate what people post about if something is not explicitly against the group’s rules? Just like I have explained in response to complaints about my blog, I can’t know what will or won’t offend individual people. I suspect more people were interested in the story– again well reported in the news– than upset by it.

I ended up explaining once again that I knew that some might not think the story about the pedophile was an appropriate post, but if someone who only wants to read positive posts doesn’t heed an explicit warning that a topic might be icky, that’s kind of on them. Even on this blog, I post explicit warnings when I’m about to get raw, raunchy, or inappropriate. Those who were offended by the post after reading the warning need to take responsibility for themselves. Moreover, I don’t understand why it’s okay to post about a murderer, but not a pedophile. No, it’s not a happy topic, but I explained that it wouldn’t be. She had a choice to avoid the topic entirely, but instead decided to call me out.

I have a problem with “shamers”. I’ve found that, so often, people who shame other people have an agenda. They have a momentary spark of self-righteous pleasure. It makes them feel better about themselves for being “above” another person. But the problem with that mindset is that as you point fingers at someone, chances are, a few fingers are pointing right back at you.

Take, for instance, last year, when a certain person sent me a private message “begging” me not to drag a mutual acquaintance through the mud on the Internet. She tried to appeal to my sense of shame in an attempt to silence me, even though Bill and I were victimized by the person she was protecting. The “certain person” who tried to shame me was very vocal about her desire to be “private” in her own life, yet she disclosed to me that she was sharing, and probably gleefully discussing, my personal business with the person she didn’t want me to “trash”. She’d write “supportive” comments to me on my blog, deleting them after she knew I’d seen them, although she didn’t delete all of them, and yes, they were used as evidence against the person whose honor she was defending. All the while, they were sitting around having a fine time reading my blog. Granted, it was a public blog, but I think she knew perfectly well that she was stirring the shit pot and being massively hypocritical. I think she was hoping that Bill and I would take the heat for shit she did and never took any responsibility for doing. And yet I’M the one who should be ashamed? I don’t think so.

In the back of my head, I knew what she was doing. But when she actually came right out and admitted it, and then tried to make ME out to be the asshole, that was just too much disrespect. I’m definitely not the one who should be ashamed about what happened. All I did was write the truth. It wasn’t a flattering look, sure, but abusive behavior rarely is. The person who was being protected tried to take advantage of us and ripped us off. We suspect she’s done it to other people who didn’t hold her accountable. We took legal action and prevailed, and we’re about to put the last nail in the coffin. Shit’s going to get even more real, as well it should. It would be a bigger shame not to address what happened and do our part to protect other people from someone else’s abusive, predatory behaviors.

Should I be ashamed for pointing out that things aren’t always rosy? Should I suffer in silence when someone treats me badly? Asking someone to be silent when they’re being abused is in itself abusive behavior. Shaming someone for being open and honest is shady behavior. I’ve had enough of that kind of treatment. I’m not going to take it anymore, especially from liars and cheats.

As for the woman in the alumni group, I have no idea what motivated her to try to shame me. She probably should know that I have no shame. I’m the same woman who made up a song called “Big Pink Dildo” to the tune of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. I’m not sure what her goal was… did she expect me to delete the thread? Apologize? I explicitly gave her warning. She could have practiced some self-control and accountability. Not everyone is a docile, genteel, “class act” like she is. What gives her the right to try to dictate what other people say and do? What gives her the right to speak for others when she chastises people for communicating things she thinks are “inappropriate”? She’s one of over 1860 people in that group. She should only speak for herself.

As for the “certain person” who tried to shame me into being silent and has stalked my blogs for years, KINDLY GO FUCK YOURSELF. Your efforts at advocacy for our mutual acquaintance made things a hell of a lot worse than they needed to be. If you had simply minded your own business and not done your level best to try to help your “friend” screw us, your “friend” would probably not be in the situation she’s in. Moreover, your intel gathering skills need lots of work. You obviously misjudged us.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is appropriate to call people out. But nine times out of ten, shaming is not about righting a wrong. It’s about one person temporarily feeling better about themselves for humiliating another person. Was the woman who called me out really upset with me for posting about a pedophile? Would she defend the pedophile’s actions? My guess is that I actually have more empathy for him than she does. The fact is, as awesome as Longwood is, there have been some pretty bad and, dare I say, fucked up things that have happened there over the years. I have never seen anyone have a problem with those topics– Erin George the murderer, the fire at Dr. Sprague’s house that killed her, the murder of Dr. Debra Kelley, her estranged husband, their daughter and her friend, and the murder of a local antiques dealer, just to name a few. We’ve discussed these things at length with no shaming. Why is a pedophile different?

Standard
politics, religion, true crime

Less drama… more mama…

Wow. I really could go on a tear today. I have a lot I could write about. I think I’ll start with Kellyanne Conway’s decision to step away from Trump’s re-election campaign. She says it’s “[her] voice and [her] choice”. Apparently, this is coming about due to her 15 year old daughter, Claudia, who has gone viral on TikTok criticizing Donald Trump and her mother’s support of him. Meanwhile, Conway’s husband, George Conway, is stepping down from his role on The Lincoln Project, a conservative anti-Trump political action committee. Why? Because these two folks have four children who are evidently going off the rails. Or, at least Claudia is… based on what I’ve read.

Let’s hope the next Trump advisor knows how to sit properly…

I don’t pay any attention to Kellyanne Conway myself. I thought she was laughable in the early days of the Trump nightmare and I never took her seriously. If she really is deciding to step down to be there for her kids, I think that’s a good decision. Better late than never, I suppose. At least we won’t see her sitting like a double amputee in the White House anymore. However, her poetic rhyming for the press could use a bit of shoring up in the wit department. Whatever she does, I hope it doesn’t involve a return to stand up comedy.

Alternative jokes?

Next on the agenda… Jerry Falwell and his sex scandal!

I have not made it a secret that I was born and raised in Virginia, and that is a hotbed of televangelism. My own childhood was spent in the shadow of Pat Robertson’s empire out of southeastern Virginia. I grew up watching WYAH, channel 27, which was owned by Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and had all kinds of censored sitcoms, cartoons, westerns, religious programming, and weird PSAs on it.

But in the southern central part of Virginia, there’s Lynchburg, home of Liberty University, which was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. I went to college at Longwood, which is about 55 miles east of Liberty. I used to drive through Lynchburg to visit my grandmother, who lived in Natural Bridge, Virginia. I remember getting the willies as I passed Liberty’s huge campus, remembering the religious vibes from my own part of the state.

But it seems that right now, the Falwell family is back in the news. Jerry Falwell Sr.’s son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., who looks like someone should put horns and a pointy tail on him as they hand him a pitchfork, is in the news right now because he and his wife, Becki, were apparently having an affair with a 29 year old business partner named Giancarlo Granda.

Falwell has been leading Liberty University since 2007, and it’s definitely grown under his leadership. However, Liberty students are required to adhere to a strict code of conduct which rules out sex outside of marriage between a natural man and a natural woman, drinking alcohol, and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t feel like looking up right now. Mr. Falwell was clearly engaged in activities that would not be tolerated from Liberty University students when he was recently photographed on a yacht with his pants unzipped as he drank some kind of dark liquid. He claimed it wasn’t alcohol, but it sure looked like it was.

Falwell took a leave of absence from leading the university when that photo started circulating. But then, more information came to light which prompted university officials to encourage Mr. Falwell to step down from his role as Liberty University’s president. Falwell initially agreed, but supposedly changed his mind, and now he’s throwing his wife, Becki, under the bus. All I can think is that Falwell is a pretty poor example of a Christian, but I think a lot of televangelists are pretty much charlatans, anyway. I have never been very comfortable with much organized religion, but I have been both fascinated and repelled by the religious folks I’ve seen on TV. There have been too many stories of these charismatic folks taking advantage of the poor and gullible who look to them for hope and guidance.

Of course, Falwell’s conduct should not be a surprise. His famous father, who started Liberty University in 1971, was not a whole lot better. See the below videos from 1987, during which Falwell Sr. was trying to defend the scandal that rocked the PTL network.

PTL always fascinated me when I was growing up, although it was never included in our cable channel line up. I probably could have fallen down the rabbit hole in a big way if it had been.
Yep… Jerry Falwell Sr. was full of shit, too. But he doesn’t look as evil as his son does.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Like I said… I find religious types like the Falwells and their ilk fascinating to watch. Almost all of them are total hypocrites who are up to their eyeballs in shit. Falwell Jr. is kind of a handsome guy, in a devilish sort of way. I would never trust him, though, mainly due to his dogged support of Donald Trump, who is about as anti-Christian as a man can get. And now, it seems my instincts about Jerry Falwell, Jr. were dead on. He’s definitely a dishonest creep, at the very least.

And finally…

It looks like the juicy thread I started last month about Erin McCay George in a Facebook group for Longwood University has reignited. Some more information has come to light about what went on back in the days when we were in college. I’ve heard from a former roommate of hers, as well as from a few people who worked with her on the college newspaper, for which she was editor in chief.

I was once myself briefly a Rotunda reporter. If I had continued with it, I might have had more insight than I would have ever wanted about Erin McCay George. From what I’ve read so far, she was not a very good person, underneath a veneer of superficial respectability. But then, that is often the case for people who commit crimes. Maybe it seems obvious that she wasn’t “good”, since she’s now in prison for 600+ years. But I can think of cases in which someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or got hooked up with someone who took advantage of them somehow. I don’t think that’s the case for Erin George. The more I learn about her, the more I think she has a serious personality disorder of some kind. I empathize with people who were in her sphere of influence, because I have an inkling of what that must have been like for those people.

More and more, I think that if only Erin had gone to jail for allegedly embezzling money from Longwood University back in the 90s, she would probably not have committed murder. If anything, her case is one that should show people that it’s important to hold others accountable when they commit crimes. But then, maybe if she hadn’t shot her husband for money, Longwood would have eventually caught up with her and prosecuted her for what she was accused of doing, back in the day.

It’s amazing to me how many people are interested in this case. Ever since I first wrote about it in 2013, back when I was still using Blogger, I’ve heard from all kinds of people who knew Erin at Longwood, knew Erin’s children in England, and even one of Erin’s children. People around the world are oddly fascinated by this story, and I’m not sure why. I even reposted my original posts about Erin George on this blog because a German requested to read them. I know the book she wrote about being in prison is being used in college courses, but I can think of a lot of true crime cases that would seem more interesting than Erin’s was.

Anyway… for all of the grief I get from social media, sometimes it really is useful.

Well, I’m going to sign off for now. Arran is jonesing for a walk and I need to practice my guitar. I’m glad to have a new topic or three for today. I’m sure if I could stomach watching politics, I’d have even more to write about. But I don’t really enjoy writing about Trump. I’d rather write about kooky religious shit. Maybe Falwell Jr. will give me an opportunity to do that.

Standard
nostalgia, true crime

Juicy threads!

I belong to a Facebook group that is dedicated to us old fogies who went to Longwood University when it was still Longwood College. I love nostalgia groups. I have a really long memory for obscure details and I like to share them with people who can add to them or are amazed by them. Yesterday, I really got on a roll and started three threads in that group.

The first thread was about the Tea Room at Longwood. It was basically a “fancy” restaurant for students. For five bucks, you could have a steak dinner… or something like that. I only got to eat there once. I didn’t know it existed for most of my time there. I was in a music fraternity for women (Sigma Alpha Iota) and a regional representative came to visit our chapter. We took her to dinner at the Tea Room. I remember enjoying the experience.

Sadly, a few years after I graduated, the building the Tea Room was in caught on fire. They rebuilt the Rotunda, but I don’t think the Tea Room survived. A bunch of people had memories of it, though… and lots of people like me didn’t know it existed. I’m glad I had my one chance to try it. Longwood actually had good food in the 90s, though.

The second thread was about French Pool. In my day, French was a dormitory, but I guess at one time, it was a gym, and I believe right now, it’s a computer lab. When I was at Longwood, French had racquetball courts and a pool. Other people said that it also had a basketball court, but I don’t remember ever seeing that. I do remember swimming in French Pool one time. It was an indoor pool, but there were garage doors that opened so that you could get some outdoor weather. The pool at the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center was also like that, back in the day. And, just like the pool at Natural Bridge, they also closed the French Pool.

When I was at Longwood, the French Pool was kind of on its last legs. It was often closed. However, it was a really pretty pool– very old school, and kind of small. I read that Longwood got rid of its other pool, which was in what was known as Lancer Hall when I was a student, but is now called Willett Hall. I remember swimming in the pool at Lancer Hall when I was a freshman. A friend of mine was a lifeguard there. We used to go in the evenings and I remember doing flips off of the diving board (which I figured out how to do quite by accident). That pool also had a natatorium, which allowed people to watch swimmers from a window under the water surface.

I guess the pool has been drained because it looks like the college is going to open a new convocation and events center and the old pool is obsolete, having been opened in 1980. Hopefully, they will include a pool, since I doubt people want to have to go to nearby Hampden-Sydney, a private men’s college, to use their pool, or rent an apartment off campus to have pool access. Especially since the “Hamsters” can be a bit snobby about Longwood. The funny thing is, when I was at Longwood, you had to pass a swimming test in order to graduate or take a swimming class and pass it. Now they don’t have a pool? WTF!

And finally, there was more talk about Erin McCay George, whom I have written about a few times on this blog. Erin George, author of the book A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women, was editor of the school newspaper when I was at Longwood. She abruptly left school before graduating. Word on the street was that she left because she was caught embezzling money intended for the newspaper to fund a trip to England to meet her boyfriend, James George. She met James George on the Internet when it was still in its infancy.

I posted about how Erin had run a couple of really controversial stories in the paper that had the whole campus outraged. I wrote about that in this post, which includes links to two posts I wrote for my original blog about how I came to realize that Erin had written a book about prison life that is now being used in a lot of criminal justice classes. Anyway… after reminiscing with people who were at Longwood at the time and knew Erin, I’m beginning to think that the spicy newspaper stories from 1992 that so upset people on campus were, in part, intended to be a distraction from what she was doing with money that she had allegedly stolen from the student newspaper.

Longwood had, and probably still has, a strict honor code. Lying, cheating, and stealing were not tolerated. Since she was evidently creatively using college funds to enhance and advance her relationship with her British boyfriend, it could be that the scandalous news stories were intended to shift focus from her alleged illicit activities to the content of the newspaper. Or maybe it wasn’t…

Erin went on to marry her boyfriend and then, just six years later, shot him in the head at point blank range for $700,000 in insurance money. She was eventually sentenced to 603 years in prison. Of course, she won’t serve that many years because it’s impossible, but I think it was mainly passed down to ensure that she is never released. Parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995, although some convicted felons can be released from prison early if they meet certain requirements and if they committed their crimes when parole still existed. Erin committed her crimes after parole was abolished.

Anyway, it’s clear that a lot of people didn’t remember the newspaper scandal in the 1990s and even fewer knew that Erin was in prison and had written a book. I reconnected with someone who was at Longwood when I was and knew Erin, explaining that Erin had a friend in one of the few eccentric English professors at Longwood during that time, a man named William Woods. I had Mr. Woods for a couple of classes. He was a lot of fun. I seem to remember that in the early 1990s, when this was going on, Mr. Woods was obsessed with Madonna’s Sex book, an expensive “coffee table” book that was full of erotic images. At the time, it was considered very risque.

I remember Vanilla Ice (Robert Van Winkle) was popular then, and Madonna had dated him. I think some of their sexy pictures were in that book and Vanilla Ice broke up with her over it. According to a Huffington Post article about their relationship, Vanilla Ice said of Madonna to the British tabloid, News of the World,

“She was older than me and a great lover… But I broke up with her after she printed that book because I was hurt to be an unwitting part of this slutty package. It was disgusting and cheap. We were in a relationship yet it looked like she was screwing all these other people.”

Since Mr. Woods was supposedly Erin’s ally, and he was so fascinated with Madonna’s Sex book (as well as the Price Club), I wonder if maybe he influenced her to dedicate an issue of the Rotunda to “safe sex”, which included the free distribution of condoms in the paper. Of course, at that time, one of the fraternities at Longwood also used to have an annual “safe sex” party, which included t-shirts one could buy. I believe that fraternity was eventually kicked off campus for hazing. That’s just speculation from yours truly. I really don’t know where the truth lies. Still, so many years after all of that happened, I kind of wonder if the prosecutors who worked to bring Erin to justice ever looked at her time at Longwood, which led up to her relationship with her victim and his ultimate untimely demise. Looking back on that time, it’s clear that trouble was brewing years before it culminated in murder.

I read a couple of old news articles about Erin George’s case and they implied that she confessed to the murder, claiming that George would not give her a divorce. According to those articles, one of her former cellmates said that Erin told her that her husband, James George, “had it coming”. But looking at the evidence– George was buying insurance but backed out because he was a smoker and it would cost too much– and two days later, Erin falsified his signature on paperwork and paid the premiums with a secret account she had… and then claiming that it was “normal” for her to sign his name on stuff since she “handled the business in their relationship”, I can’t help but think of Bill’s ex wife. Bill’s ex, a narcissist who abused him, also “handled the business” in their relationship, to disastrous results.

I doubt very much that James George refused to give Erin a divorce. I think the issue was, she simply didn’t want to have to deal with him anymore and murdering him for insurance money was the easiest way, in her mind, to make sure he was out of the picture for good. She clearly wanted to split from him, but she wanted to make sure she got paid handsomely without incurring the high cost and personal risk of divorce… and would never have to deal with custody issues, his influence regarding their three children, or the children having a stepmother. But again– just my speculation, having been married to a man whose ex wife was also very destructive (though thankfully not yet murderous– that I know of, anyway) and similarly narcissistic. I will admit that I don’t know anything more about this case than what I’ve read and deduced on my own, based on my own dealings with this type of person. I could be wrong, and I doubt we’ll ever know the real story.

Sometimes, I wonder if I missed my calling as a true crime writer. On the other hand, looking back at Erin George, I wonder if, had she been slightly less narcissistic and antisocial, she might have had a great career as a provocateur or paparazzo. She clearly had little fear of publishing things that would upset people. Longwood, in the 1990s, was a pretty conservative place– though not as conservative as Liberty University, just down the road in Lynchburg, was– and still is.

Posting the link to Erin’s book for those who are interested. As an Amazon Associate, I get small commissions from Amazon when sales are made through my site.

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true crime

Repost: Crime blasts from the past…

Here’s one more true crime repost for good measure. It originally appeared on October 30, 2013 and is reposted as/is.

In early June 1992, I was about to turn 20 years old.  I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia and was a rising junior at college.  I remember being shocked like so many other people in my community when a suicidal fifteen year old girl, her boyfriend, and another boy decided that they were going to kill her family and take off for California. 

Jennifer Kszepka was supposedly angry with her father, 42 year old Jerome Kszepka, because he didn’t approve of her boyfriend, Dominic Hendrix.  So, on the evening of June 7, 1992, they murdered him and Jennifer’s sister, 21 year old Ranae.  When Jennifer’s mother, Sieglinde, came home to the murder scene, they tried to kill her, too.  Their weapon jammed, so Michael Gaumer, a mutual friend of the teen couple’s, clubbed Sieglinde Kszepka on the head with a metal pipe, fracturing her skull.  Sieglinde Kszepka ultimately survived the attack.  But her husband and older daughter had been murdered by her younger daughter…  what a horrible thing to have to live with.

Jennifer Kszepka could have faced the death penalty, but she ended up getting life plus 90 years in prison.  Parole in Virginia was abolished in 1995, but Kszepka and her male friends committed their crimes prior to then.  Consequently, all three are eligible to be considered for parole.  Kszepka just had a hearing and was denied parole.  The next time she will be considered will be in 2016 (ETA: in 2021, Jennifer Kszepka remains in prison).

I remember all too well when this happened.  I had only recently graduated from the high school where Kszepka and her partners in crime attended.  My boss at Busch Gardens had known Ranae Kszepka, because she had once worked at Busch Gardens.  I remember reading the newspaper every day as Kszepka and her friends drove her mother’s car west.  They hoped to get to California and made it as far as Eureka, Nevada, where they were stopped for a routine traffic violation.  Their identities were discovered and they were shipped back to Virginia to face their crimes.

Jennifer Kszepka is incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which is the same place where Erin McCay George is imprisoned.  I note that both Jennifer Kszepka and Erin McCay George are involved with dog training… or at least they were ten years ago.  It appears that she has tried to straighten up and fly right.

Another case I remember from the 90s involved a guy named Frederick West Greene.  A friend of mine from college had grown up in tiny Franklin, Virginia.  She had a cute male friend named West who attended Virginia Military Institute.  My friend had the hots for this guy and was positively giddy when he visited her at our college.

Later, it came out that he and a friend had murdered a classmate over an insult.  They killed the young man and buried him, leaving his family and friends to wonder what happened to him for about two years.  I remember how distraught my friend was over finding out that this cute, popular, handsome friend of hers was actually a murderer.  She was very upset and kept asking, “How could he do that?” 

I was reminded of West a few weeks ago and started looking for more information about his case.  I had to do some digging before I found an old article about him and his friend and the terrible crime they committed.  I imagine that they are now about to be eligible for parole.  Actually, Michael M. Jervey, who was the accomplice in this case, may already be out of prison. 

I remember back in July 1993, a woman I knew when we were both little kids living on Mildenhall Air Force Base in England was murdered.  Her name was Lisa N. Bryant, and she had grown up to be a remarkable young woman with a bright future.  A graduate of Princeton University and a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, Bryant was about to go on her first assignment to Germany when fate put her in the path of her murderer, SGT 1st class Ervin Graves, a ROTC instructor who was staying in the same dormitory at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Graves apparently meant to rape Bryant but, when she struggled, he shot her.

Lisa Bryant is in a photo taken at my fifth birthday party in the base housing at Mildenhall where we lived at the time.  After England, we both moved to Fairfax County in Virginia and I saw her one last time at her birthday party in the Burke area of Fairfax.  Had we stayed in Fairfax, I would have gone to the same high school she attended and excelled at. 

My mom called me at school to tell me about an article she’d read about it in People Magazine several months after the murder.  I remembered what she’d looked like when we were kids and was shocked that at age 21, her life had been callously snuffed out.

It’s always creepy and unnerving when you realize how close true crime is to you…  

And here are the original comments from this post.

Mary Beth DooleyMarch 21, 2014 at 11:18 PM

I think I am the friend from college you spoke of in your blog. I am guessing you went to Longwood. Mike is out of prison & married. I believe he is living in Franklin. I don’t live there anymore so I only hear the gossip every now & then. West will not see a chance at parole for at least another 20 to 30 years. He was sentenced to Life + 45 years. He is serving his time in a federal prison because his father was a warden with the Virginia Bureau of Prisons. There is a far darker story that was never told in the press. There really should be a book written. Not sure who this is, but would love reconnect. I am happy to say my choice in men got exponentially better! You can email me at the3dooleys@gmail.com if you woildblijr.

  1. knottyMarch 22, 2014 at 8:28 PMHi Mary Beth! Glad to “see” you on my blog!

    Thanks for the update about West and that case. Sometimes I remember things and go looking for information. I remember meeting West and being really shocked when it turned out he was a killer. I’m sure my shock was nothing compared to yours!

Terry Mandy TeagueApril 9, 2016 at 5:58 AM

The Kszepkas are my family. To this day it still haunts all of us. By no means do we wish to have Jennifer or these guys that was involved the ability to see the outside world. I dont want that little bitch anywhere near my family. They can rot in there. My Aunt is doing well and has moved on as best as anyone could surviving this. Jennifer was a spoiled kid that threw a temper tantrums and has mental issues. She was supposed to be receiving help when this all occured. They all needed the death penalty. No reason to waste tax payers money on this, I dont even think the word “TRASH” fits it. Thank you.

  1. knottyApril 9, 2016 at 8:55 AMThanks for the comment. Given that the death penalty costs taxpayers much more money than life in prison does, I think it’s probably better from a fiscal standpoint that she got a prison sentence. It really is sad when someone so young screws up so badly that they spend most of their lives in prison.  

UnknownJanuary 12, 2019 at 9:29 AM

The case you speak about from the 90s where West and the other young man killed another student I remember very well. I knew the father of the victim for many years. As some one else stated there was a lot more to the story than was ever told to the public. I still live only 15 mins grfr Franklin and only about 10mins from where they buried his body. You can Google Trent Whitney Franklin VA to get a short version of what happened but there was a lot more to it. The reason Michael came forward was because West was planning to kill a girl he was dating and had threatened to kill Michael if he didn’t help him. I didn’t know either of the guys but from what I’ve been told Michael really did have a hard time with the first muder and he knew the girl West wanted help killing and he couldn’t go through with it so he turned it all in. There is much more to this story. If you would like feel free to contact me at mayopulley@gmail.com please put something in the subject to catch my attention such as Trent Whitney etc

UnknownJanuary 12, 2019 at 9:31 AM

If you’re interested in more information on the West guy from Franklin that killed another student contact me @ mayopulley@gmail.com lot more to it

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