Police: Suspect in abduction, murder cases had bra, panties
Two of the three girls were missing undergarments when their bodies were found, sources have said and an autopsy report confirmed in one case.
Meanwhile, Spotsylvania Sheriff Ronald T. Knight said Monday that analysis of DNA and other evidence that could prove whether Evonitz was involved in the 1996 and 1997 slayings might take “weeks, not days” to complete.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Knight said.
Evonitz committed suicide last week in Florida after a police chase. A girl had led authorities to his apartment where she said Evonitz had raped her following an abduction but had managed to escape.
Authorities gave mixed signals Monday on whether Evonitz could be connected to the slaying of Alicia Showalter Reynolds. She was abducted after stopping her car on U.S. 29 in Culpeper County in March 1996.
“Who knows?” said Spotsylvania Maj. Howard Smith.
Spotsylvania authorities say they are sharing information with investigators on the Reynolds case. The Virginia State Police special agent who is supervising the Reynolds case also routinely meets with a task force probing the September 1996 slaying of Sofia Silva, 16, and the May 1997 killings of sisters Kristin and Kati Lisk, 15 and 12, respectively.
Along with the undergarments found in Evonitz’s South Carolina apartment were handwritten notes that mentioned route numbers and a highway in the vicinity of where Reynolds’ remains were found.
But the notes also mentioned a brunette appearing to be alone at specific times of the afternoon, investigators revealed Monday, suggesting the writer might have been stalking a younger victim in that area.
“At this point, we don’t have definite information linking Reynolds to him,” said Lucy Caldwell, a state police spokeswoman.
Robert Ressler, a retired FBI profiler who is credited with coining the term “serial killer,” said Monday that although Reynolds was older than the other victims, strong similarities exist in the geography and “boldness” of the crimes.
“Both in broad daylight, both in public places,” said Ressler, adding: “These people experiment.”
Prince William County police Detective Sam Newsome, who has handled cases of female drivers who said a man attempted to stop them in the days before Reynolds was abducted, said, “Common sense tells you the Lisk sisters, Silva and Reynolds cases are likely connected, given the abduction of females that resulted in murder in a close geographical area.
“Men who abduct strangers and kill, or rape and kill, them are relatively small,” he said.
Prince William County police are also investigating to see if Evonitz is connected in the attempted abduction of a woman in February 1996 on Dumfries Road near Montclair.
In that case, the woman was driving alone when the driver of a dark-colored pickup flashed his headlights in an attempt to pull her over. She complied and the man convinced the woman he had seen sparks coming from her vehicle and offered her a ride, which she accepted. Following an attempted assault, the women jumped from the vehicle, breaking her leg, according to Sgt. Kim Chinn, police spokeswoman.
Police have forensic evidence from that attempted abduction, Chinn said, although she would not elaborate on its type.
Reynolds’ father, Harley Showalter of Harrisonburg, said Sunday evening that he had not talked to investigators about the events of the past week. “As they’ve told us, they’re not backing off,” he said, referring to earlier talks with investigators.
Evonitz, 38, came to the attention of Spotsylvania authorities while South Carolina officials were investigating the abduction and rape of a 15-year-old girl in Columbia. The girl later escaped, and Evonitz fled to Florida.
Evonitz lived in Spotsylvania when Sofia was abducted in September 1996 and when the Lisk sisters were killed in May 1997. He and his first wife, Bonnie, bought their South Oaks house, within eight miles of the slain girls’ homes, in April 1996, court records show. The couple later divorced, and the home was sold in a June 1999 foreclosure.
Former neighbors said he had worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren in King George County, though Spotsylvania authorities said they could not confirm that. Sofia’s body, bound in a blanket, was found in a King George creek in October 1996. The bodies of the Lisk sisters were found in the South Anna River in Hanover County five days after their May 1, 1997, disappearance.
Authorities have not said how Sofia, the Lisk sisters or Reynolds were killed. Sources have said the Lisk girls were asphyxiated. Authorities also have not said whether DNA was recovered in the Reynolds case.
Evonitz worked at machine shops in the Fredericksburg area, including Walter Grinders Inc. from March 1995 to January 1999. The firm is within view of his South Oaks home. He later lived near Lake Anna and rented office space from a firm there, Centurion Tools Inc.
Before last week, Spotsylvania authorities had not looked at Evonitz as a potential suspect, although his name was part of a case database they had compiled on people in the county who had applied for business licenses, building permits and the like, Spotsylvania Capt. Michael Timm said Monday.
Authorities searching Evonitz’s South Carolina apartment also found a Fredericksburg newspaper clipping of a story that appeared the day after Kristin and Kati Lisk disappeared from their Spotsylvania home. They also found handwritten directions mentioning by name Block House Road, where the sisters lived. The notes mentioned a Block House intersection that is within a half-mile of the home, but the notes described making a turn in the opposite direction, Spotsylvania investigators said Monday.
An affidavit that a Richland County, S.C., investigator filed in connection with the apartment search there indicates that authorities were looking for 10 items, including a green Ford Taurus that Evonitz was driving. It is the same car he was driving while living in Spotsylvania during the time of the slayings, Spotsylvania authorities said.
Investigators seized between 150 and 200 pieces of evidence and have sent them to the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., for analysis, including hair and blood samples from Evonitz.
On a copy of the affidavit obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the other nine items were blacked out, though one of them was clearly legible as the plastic container investigators say Evonitz put the Lexington County girl in when he abducted her.
The girl’s description of the interior of the apartment is also blacked out. However, her reference to seeing a picture of a panther hanging over the living room couch can be seen.
Former neighbors and co-workers described Evonitz as intelligent, boastful and sometimes inconsiderate of children. Neighbors in the South Carolina apartment complex described him as a quiet man who kept to himself but seemed friendly. They said he and his 19-year-old wife kept hamsters and birds in the small apartment.
The wife, who has multiple sclerosis, was at Walt Disney World in Florida with Evonitz’s mother during last week’s abduction. Evonitz had taken vacation from work, but he did not go with them.
Evonitz attended high school in South Carolina and later served in the Navy. In 1987, he was serving aboard the USS Koelsch, docked in Mayport, Fla., when he was charged with lewd conduct in the presence of a child. He was 23.
According to Clay County sheriff’s office records, a 15-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister were about to cross the street when a man in a beige 1974 Dodge pulled up beside them, the passenger-side door just an arm’s length away from them.
The older girl looked over and saw that the man was exposed and was masturbating. The man looked at her, then down at his pants. He then sped off, squealing his tires and almost hitting some children on bikes. The girl was left crying.
The next day, the girl was with her mother when they spotted the car at a movie rental store. Police obtained a copy of the driver’s license, as well as other data on the suspect from the store manager.
Evonitz was charged, but the judge withheld judgment in the case and placed Evonitz on probation for three years. Court officials there said they knew of no probation violations.
Authorities are checking the dates and locations of Evonitz’s Navy service against crimes in Texas, Georgia and Florida.
The size of the Lisk-Silva task force, which includes FBI agents and local and state police, has doubled because of the new developments in the case, though authorities would not say how many people are involved.
Kiran Krishnamurthy is a staff writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Rex Bowman, Frank Green and Carlos Santos contributed to this report.