Richard Evonitz was responsible for the deaths of at least three girls across the U.S. East Coast, but his crime spree would finally end in 2002 after one would-be murder victim escaped his clutches and reported him to the police.
Richard Evonitz was never on police radar during his seven-year crime spree. Acquaintances and friends of Evonitz knew him as a Navy veteran and an average blue-collar working man. That would all change in 2002.
That year, two cold cases sat on a detective’s desk at the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia. One was the case of Sofia Silva, a 16-year-old girl who went missing from her front porch in 1996. Later, police found her naked body floating in a swamp. The other was the abduction and murder of two sisters, Kati and Kristin Lisk, whose bodies were found in a nearby river.
What detectives at the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office didn’t know at the time was that the escape of a young girl from an apartment complex in Columbia, South Carolina would finally bring down the perpetrator they had been looking for: serial killer Richard Evonitz.
Who Was Richard Marc Evonitz?
Richard Evonitz was born on July 29, 1963 in Columbia, South Carolina to Joe and Tess Evonitz. Even as a young child, Evonitz displayed early signs of violent behavior. According to a psychological study from Radford University, when Evonitz was eight years old he once choked his little sister until she passed out. Later, in his early 20s, he broke into neighbors’ homes and wrote fake checks.
According to a statement made by Evonitz’s younger sister, Jennifer, their father was a controlling man with a temper.
“We lived in a prison, Joe was a very controlling person. He wanted us to make straight A’s. If we didn’t we were stupid. It was all about power and control. ‘You’ll get an A or you’ll get a beating.’ I see him as a sadistic man who got pleasure — I know I saw the pleasure in his face — out of making us miserable.”
Because of his rough home environment, Evonitz eventually moved out and joined the U.S. Navy. In 1987, at the age of 23, Evonitz committed his first known sexual crime: He exposed himself to a 15-year-old and her 3-year-old sister. Police arrested Evonitz soon after, and according to the Washington Post, police records say he “confessed both orally and written to his guilt.”
“Suspect stated he has a problem with masturbating in front of girls,” the report adds. “When he feels the urge he drives around looking for a girl 18-19 years old short in height and has brunette hair.”
For this crime, however, Evonitz simply paid a fine and went on probation.
In 1992, Evonitz was honorably discharged from the Navy and moved to Virginia.
There, he began his brutal crime spree.
The Crimes Of Richard Evonitz
After moving to Spotsylvania, Richard Evonitz began work as a salesperson. Women at work reportedly avoided him due to his temper and misogynistic jokes.
Around that time, in June 1995, he committed his first known violent crime when he broke into a home and raped a 13-year-old girl at gunpoint.
Then, in 1996, Evonitz abducted 16-year-old Sofia Silva from her front yard. According to the New York Daily News, Silva had gone outside to do homework on the porch. When Silva’s sister went outside to check on her, all she found was an empty grape soda can and Silva’s class notes.
The police would eventually find Sofia Silva’s decomposing body in a swamp. Detectives noted that her pubic area had been shaved.
On May 1, 1997, Evonitz abducted the Lisk sisters from their front yard. Authorities later found the bodies of Kati Lisk, 12, and Kristen Lisk, 15, in the South Anna River. Both girls had their pubic areas shaved. According to the Radford University study, fibers from both of the crime scenes would forensically link the cases together.
In 1999, Evonitz moved back to Columbia, South Carolina, where he would go on to abduct Kara Robinson — a fateful act that would be the killer’s undoing.
Kara Robinson, The Last Victim
In 2002, Kara Robinson was 15 years old and living in South Carolina. Known as a bright young girl, Robinson planned on spending time at a friend’s house on June 24. After volunteering to help her friend with chores, Robinson grabbed a watering can and began watering flowers outside the home. Soon, a man in a Pontiac Firebird pulled into the driveway.
The man stepped out of the car with a handful of magazines he claimed to be distributing around town, and asked if her parents were home. Robinson said “no.”
Abruptly, the man approached Robinson and placed a gun against her neck. He told her that she wouldn’t get hurt if she listened to what he said, and he led her to the back seat of his car. There, he placed her into a large storage container, sealed the lid, and drove off.
But Robinson had snapped into survival mode, taking mental notes and memorizing everything she could about her attacker.
“I memorized the songs playing on the radio and the serial number on the container I was in,” she later wrote in Newsweek. “I repeated what became a mantra for me: ‘Stay calm, gather information, escape.’ It kept me calm and focused.”
Immediately after her abduction, her friend noticed that Robinson had simply vanished from the yard. Robinson’s parents quickly called the police to file a missing persons report, but police officers listed her as a runaway, according to Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, in a cluttered apartment, over a span of 18 terrifying hours, Richard Evonitz repeatedly sexually assaulted Kara Robinson. He also made her watch the evening news to see if there were any reports on her own abduction.
Robinson figured that if she went along with what the man said, and even treated him kindly, she might survive. In between assaults, Robinson helped the man clean his apartment and talked to him about his life.
In doing so, she learned he’d been in the Navy. And while cleaning his kitchen, she read his mail and studied the magnets on his fridge, memorizing the names of his doctor and dentist.
Eventually, Evonitz handcuffed Robinson back onto the bed, and while he slept beside her, she managed to remove the handcuffs from the bedpost. Finally, 18 hours after her abduction, Robinson was able to force her way out of the apartment and run out into the street to safety.
The Hunt For Richard Evonitz
After escaping her attacker’s apartment, Kara Robinson ran to the nearest vehicle begging for help. Luckily, the two kind strangers inside let her into the car and took her straight to the police station. The police marveled at how remarkably calm, collected, and detailed she was in giving her account of her ordeal
“She was so, so alert,” Lexington County Sheriff James R. Metts said to the Washington Post. “She was able to give us information down to the exactness of what was in the apartment.”
With Robinson as their guide, police officers quickly identified Evonitz as a suspect, located his apartment, and prepared to arrest the man. However, by the time they arrived, Evonitz had fled.
While hiding from the police in a Jacksonville, Florida motel, Evonitz called his sister Jennifer and confessed that he’d killed someone and was in trouble, saying he’d committed “more crimes than he can remember.” He asked to meet her at an IHOP in Manatee County, Florida. Instead, Jennifer called the police.
Police officers swarmed the IHOP and closed in on Evonitz. When he approached the restaurant and saw them waiting there, Evonitz panicked and fled, driving 120 miles an hour the wrong way through traffic. He made it to Sarasota before the police finally caught up to him.
Knowing they had him cornered, Evonitz pulled out his .25 caliber handgun — the same gun he had pressed against Kara Robinson’s neck — and fatally shot himself in the head.
The Aftermath Of Evonitz’s Crimes And The Legacy Of His Victims
For Kara Robinson, the news of Evonitz’s death brought only anger and disappointment.
“I wanted to go to trial and let him see me again and know I was his downfall,” Robinson said on “America’s Most Wanted” after Evonitz’s death. “I wanted him to look at me and know that choosing me was the biggest mistake he ever made.”
After Evonitz’s suicide, police searched his apartment and found items belonging to both the Lisk sisters and Sofia Silva. According to The Free Lance-Star, police also found a list of other prospective victims and their personal information.
“It is kind of scary that some guy was out there looking at me,” one teenage girl who was described in Evonitz’s notes told The Free Lance-Star. “I want to know why he didn’t get me.”
Because Evonitz died before he could confess to his crimes, it’s not clear just how many people he assaulted and murdered during his life.
Police are still hopeful that they will be able to connect Evonitz to more unsolved crimes. He has been investigated for the murder of Jennifer Odom, a 12-year-old girl that disappeared from her bus stop in Pasco County, Florida in 1993; Sarah Cherry, who at 12 years old was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Maine in 1988, when Evonitz was known to be working nearby; and several other young girls.
Today, more than 20 years after her abduction, Kara Robinson is a mother of two. In 2010, Robinson graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. She is committed to fighting crime and protecting others from the violence she experienced. Now, she works as as a victims advocate and social media content creator, sharing her story and helping others to heal from their trauma.
“I teach others how to heal and how to take control of their lives after being a victim,” she wrote in Newsweek. “I aim to show them that we are not defined by the things that happen in our past.”
After reading about the crimes of Richard Evonitz, learn about 11 prolific serial killers that you’ve probably never heard of. Then, read about the unsolved mystery of the ‘Freeway Phantom,’ a serial killer responsible for murdering six young girls.