Richard Marc Evonitz
29, 1963 -
June 27, 2002)
was a serial killer, kidnapper, and rapist responsible for the deaths of
three girls in Spotsylvania County, Virginia and the abduction and rape
of a 15 year old girl in Richland County, South Carolina. Evonitz has
been suspected of other murders, and confessed a number of crimes to his
sister shortly before committing suicide.
Early life and education
Richard Marc Edward Evonitz was born
July 29, 1963
at Providence Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina to Joseph Evonitz and
Tess Ragin Evonitz. He was the first of three children; two daughters,
Kristen and Jennifer, followed him in 1968 and 1971. Known as Marc to
avoid confusion with a paternal uncle also named Richard, he graduated
from Irmo High School in 1980 at age 16.
After high school, Evonitz worked briefly as the
manager of a Jiffy Lube before joining the United States Navy. He served
as a sonar technician and received a Good Conduct Medal before being
honorably discharged after eight years of service.
Following his stint in the Navy, Evonitz worked
steadily at businesses that sold compressors and grinding equipment. He
filed for bankruptcy in 1997, unable to keep up with bills following a
divorce, and had a house foreclosed on in 1999 following a failed
business venture, but at the time of his death had been working at an
air-compressor company since moving to South Carolina a few years
In January 1987, Evonitz exposed himself and
masturbated in front of a 15-year-old girl in Orange Park, Florida. He
was arrested a month later when his ship returned to port, pleaded no
contest and was sentenced to three years' probation.
Evonitz is suspected of a 1994 abduction and rape and
a 1995 rape in Massaponax, Virginia.
On September 9, 1996, Evonitz abducted 16-year-old
Sofia Silva from her front yard near Loriella Park in Spotsylvania
County. Her body was found a month later in a creek off State Route 3 in
King George County.
Sisters Kristin and Kati Lisk, ages 15 and 12, were
abducted from their front yard near Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 1,
1997; their bodies were found five days later in the South Anna River
near Old Ridge Road in Hanover County.
On June 24, 2002, Evonitz abducted a 15-year-old girl
from a friend's yard in Columbia, South Carolina. He took her to his
apartment, raped her and tied her to his bed. While he slept that night,
the victim was able to free herself, escaped and was able to identify
her attacker to police. Evonitz fled after finding her gone, ending up
surrounded by police in Sarasota, Florida.
Marriage and children
Evonitz was married twice, first to the former Bonnie
Lou Gower from 1988 to 1996, then to the former Hope Marie Crowley from
1999 until his death. He had no children.
Death and afterward
On June 27, 2002, Evonitz was surrounded by police
near the waterfront in Sarasota, Florida. He was urged to surrender
peacefully but kept a pistol in his hand until a police dog was released;
after being bitten multiple times, Evonitz shot himself and was declared
dead at 10:52 p.m.. Following the return of his body to his family, his
remains were cremated and scattered over the Saluda River.
Richard Marc Evonitz
The horrors of abduction and murder introduced
themselves to the residents of Virginia's Spotsylvania County on
September 9, 1996. Sixteen-year-old Sofia Silva was last seen doing her
homework on the front steps of her families county home shortly after
arriving home from school. Silva was taken quietly and without apparent
In fact her older sister was inside the home during the
abduction but was completely unaware of her sibling's situation. Despite
the best efforts of police Silva seemed to vanish into thin air and was
eventually found dead in a marsh six weeks later and twenty miles away.
She was wrapped in a white cover and her pubic hair had been shaved off.
Police were at a loss in the Silva case when two
sisters, Kristin Lisk, fifteen, and Kati Lisk, twelve, disappeared after
getting off their respective school buses on May 1, 1997, in
Fredericksburg. Their father came home from work some time later to find
no sign of his daughters except Kristin's book bag laying discarded in
the front yard. The two sisters were found dead five days later in a
river over forty miles from their home. Like Silva their killer had
shaved their pubic areas at some point during their forced confinement.
It was obvious the two cases were the work of the same
man. All three girls had been abducted at their homes after school and
without any struggle, all had their pubic hair shaved off by the killer,
all had been strangled or suffocated, and all were dumped in water. It
came as no suprise when DNA samples from both crimes matched. It brought
authorities no closer to solving the mystery and after a few years
passed it seemed likely that the Spotsylvania Killer would never be
Fate eventually did intervene, though, when a 38-year-old
man named Richard Evonitz abducted a 15-year-old girl on June 24, 2002,
in Columbia, South Carolina. After raping his captive and holding her
hostage in his apartment for eighteen hours, Evonitz got sloppy and
dozed off, allowing the girl to work herself free and escape. Police
responding to her report found the apartment empty but Evonitz was
eventually tracked down in Sarasota, Florida, two days later and shot
himself in the head before he could be arrested.
It was apparent during a subsequent search of the
deceased abductor's apartment that he was no first-time offender. A
footlocker was opened and found to contain what seemed to be items that
could be considered murderous 'trophies'. Among the things found were
newspaper articles about the Lisk/Silva murders and it was soon
discovered that Evonitz lived in the area of the abductions at the time
and had a criminal record from an earlier arrest for masturbating in
public in the presence of a young (and likely horrified) girl.
It took until late August for forensic tests to
confirm the obvious. That Evonitz had stalked and murdered Silva and the
Lisk sisters. Fibers from items in Evonitz' apartment matched many of
those found on the three girls bodies (Evonitz was a total pack-rat who
still had an old bathroom rug from the time of the murders), Kristin
Lisk's handprint was lifted from the inside of Evonitz' car trunk, and
DNA samples were a match. The residents of rural Spotsylvania County
could at last rest easy that their phantom killer would never strike
Authorities suspect Evonitz killed since the murders
of the Lisk sisters and believe he may have been responsible for the
unsolved slaying of Alicia Reynolds in Culpeper, Virginia, in 1996. Hand
written directions that seem to lead to Reynolds' dump site were found
in the footlocker. Evonitz has lived in Virginia, South Carolina,
California, and Florida, not to mention his many travels during an
eight-year enlistment in the Navy. He is also a suspect in many rapes,
including one that occurred in Spotsylvania in the mid-nineties.
The heroic South Carolina girl who escaped from his
clutches and put police on his tail has become the very deserving
recipient of the $150,000 reward for helping solve the Lisk and Silva
The making of a murderer
Evonitz's upbringing offers insight on crimes he
would commit as an adult
By Jim Hall and Kary Pugh - Fredericksburg.com
June 14, 2004
Richard Marc Evonitz forever changed the way area
residents view the community. After his crimes, Fredericksburg never
seemed as safe.
In September 1996, Sofia Silva, 16, disappeared from
her front porch in Spotsylvania County. Her body was found five weeks
later in a King George County creek. In May 1997, 15-year-old Kristin
Lisk and her 12-year-old sister, Kati, vanished from their front yard in
Spotsylvania. Their bodies were found five days later in the South Anna
The murders remained unsolved until 2002, when
Evonitz abducted and raped a girl in South Carolina. He fled, then
committed suicide while surrounded by police in Florida. Later,
authorities identified him as the Lisk–Silva killer.
In the two years since his death, federal, state and
local investigators have tried to link Evonitz to other crimes,
compiling an inch-thick timeline of his life.
Their continuing work has unlocked some of the
mystery that surrounds the man: the why behind his crimes, and the
nature and extent of his dangerous perversions. Next year, the FBI will
invite law enforcement officers from places where Evonitz lived or
traveled to be part of an investigators’ working group in Quantico. They
will focus on possible links between Evonitz and unsolved crimes.
This four-part series is based on interviews with
investigators and members of Evonitz’s family, and a review of public
documents from Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. A
A WARNING: Evonitz's sexual obsessions are key to
understanding him. They are recounted here in detail that some may find
disturbing. Indeed for the families involved, and for many others in the
community, any review of these cases would be painful. But perhaps that
pain will be bearable if these newly revealed facts help us to
understand how a man capable of performing these misdeeds could live
among us. From that knowledge, this community may gain some insight into
how such crimes could be prevented in the future. —The Editors
JOHN DOUGLAS, a best-selling author
and former FBI profiler, has written that serial killers are made, not
born. If so, then Marc Evonitz was made in Columbia.
Evonitz was born in the South Carolina capital in
July 1963, the first child and only son of Joseph Evonitz and Tess Ragin
Evonitz. The couple would later have two daughters, Kristen and
The Evonitz home was not a happy one. His parents
separated when Marc was a baby and again when he was about 12. Joseph
and Tess finally divorced in 1985, and both say now it might have been
better for everyone if they had divorced sooner.
Joseph Evonitz is originally from New Jersey, where
his father left his mother when Joseph was a child. He was stationed at
Fort Jackson, just outside Columbia, when he met Tess Ragin, who worked
at the Army base.
Joseph worked as a draftsman for sign companies and
later as a taxi driver. He also drank heavily. Tess remembers that he
would often get drunk and pass out.
"When he got up, he'd be even worse," she said.
Joseph, 67 and living now in Arlington with his
second wife, remembers it differently. He said he drank on weekends but
did not pass out and was never an alcoholic. He also said he has stopped
"I don't make any excuses. There's no way to make
excuses for what happened to those four girls," he said.
Joseph admits that he belittled his family, calling
them "morons" and "peons." Marc bore his share of that abuse.
"I had some psychological problems myself, which is
what the drinking was about," Joseph Evonitz said.
Two incidents involving father and son have intrigued
police and may shed light on a puzzling aspect of Marc's crimes--his
fascination with water.
In one incident, family members said, Joseph drowned
Marc's dog in front of him. Joseph says that is not true. He says his
children were always adopting strays, and he did take one of them to the
Marc also told family members that Joseph tried to
drown him when he was 6. Family members differ on the way the incident
played out. Some say Joseph Evonitz tried to drown his son in a wading
pool after the boy splashed water on the hamburgers during a cookout.
Others say it happened in the bathtub. Joseph
described it as a minor incident that his son misinterpreted.
"One time when Marc was little, I gave him a bath,"
Joseph said. "He kept yelling about the water going in his eyes so I
took a bunch of water and dumped it over his head."
Marc was frightened and never forgot the experience.
Joseph said he wishes he had never done it.
"Why would I try to drown my beautiful 6-year-old?"
he asked. "I loved him. I adored him. He could do no wrong. I spoiled
the hell out of him. That story is outlandish. It's just not true."
Investigators point to these incidents when trying to
understand the "why" behind Evonitz's murders.
They learned that the water in the Lisk sisters'
lungs was bath water, not water from the South Anna River, where they
were found. Apparently Evonitz drowned the girls at his home in
Spotsylvania County before disposing of their bodies in the river.
Evonitz also hid Sofia Silva's body underwater in a
swamp in King George County. And police learned from Kara that he made
her take a bath during her night of confinement.
Were these crimes inspired by Evonitz's past? Was he
Police have been asking these questions for nearly
two years. They have no answers.
His widow, Hope Evonitz, said her husband had
nightmares about his father.
"They were starting to crop up more and more," she
Tess Ragin, 62, said her son came to her in the weeks
before his death. He was crying and wanted to talk about the violence
and abuse he had suffered at his father's hands.
"I told him I didn't want to hear it," she said. "It
was too painful."
Two young wives
Those who have studied Evonitz also have been
intrigued by his wives. They believe that his marriages offer another
view of the turmoil that lived inside him.
Evonitz married two women who were much younger than
he was. Both women were dependent, compliant and naïve, police said. For
both women, he was their first love.
Evonitz married his first wife, the former Bonnie Lou
Gower, when he was 25 and in the Navy. She was 17.
Bonnie had been his neighbor in Columbia and a friend
of his sister. He had known her since she was in the sixth grade and she
had a crush on him.
Tess Ragin remembers a family picture of the kids
dancing in their living room when Bonnie was still in middle school. In
the picture there is an arm touching Marc's arm. Bonnie wanted that
picture to remember Marc by, Ragin said. It was her arm.
Soon there would be wedding pictures. Bonnie married
Evonitz in Columbia in 1988. The couple lived in California and Maine
while he was in the Navy. They moved to Fredericksburg early in 1993,
soon after his discharge.
The couple chose Fredericksburg because members of
Evonitz's family lived here, and because Virginia said it would honor
Bonnie's California cosmetology license. South Carolina would not.
The Evonitzes moved first to Stafford County, where
Marc's uncle, Richard Evonitz, lived. Later they lived in apartments in
Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg.
In 1996, they paid $125,970 for a new home in the
South Oaks subdivision near Massaponax. Five months later, Bonnie was
preparing to leave her husband.
She had met a man from California on the Internet,
she told Evonitz, and she wanted to move there. Her mother and brother
also lived in California.
Bonnie visited California in early September 1996.
She returned a week later and began packing her things to move there
permanently in November.
"Marc was devastated," recalled his mother. "He
talked about getting in a bathtub and cutting his wrist."
Investigators who have interviewed Bonnie Evonitz in
California note that she eventually realized that her husband was not
like other men.
"Bonnie grew up," said Gerard F.
Downes, supervisory special agent for the FBI.
Evonitz abducted Sofia Silva while Bonnie was on
vacation in California. He abducted the Lisk sisters after the couple
separated but before he met Hope Marie Crowley, a Caroline County
resident and the woman who would be his second wife.
Evonitz met Crowley in 1999, when she was 17. He was
They met when she waited on him at Aunt Sarah's
Pancake House in Massaponax. His mother and sister were with Evonitz for
that breakfast. When Marc flirted with Hope, his sister encouraged her
to go out with him.
When Hope turned 18, she moved from her parents' home
and lived first in King George County. She later moved in with Evonitz.
They married in 1999.
"We just clicked," said Hope Evonitz, who remained in
South Carolina after her husband's death. "There were a lot of things
about him that are very much like me, too."
Some investigators believe that Evonitz's choice of
wives and his relationship with them may explain the periods in his life
when he apparently committed no crimes.
Police are puzzled by these periods, from 1987 to
1996 and from 1997 to 2002. Usually a predator as dangerous as Evonitz
does not have such "quiet" periods, they said.
However, during these periods Evonitz may have found
what he wanted at home. His wives may have satisfied his sexual
He and his wives shaved each other's private parts,
police said, and they also played games in which he bound them or played
the "daddy" role.
With Hope, "He'd ask her to dress up like a young
girl and then he would actually force his way into their apartment and
act like he was raping her," Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith said.
Hope Evonitz doesn't see her intimate relationship
with her husband as outside the norm, though she admits she was young
"When the FBI started talking to me about bondage and
all that sort of stuff, they acted like it was such atrocious behavior,"
she said. "Our sex life was not extreme in any sense of the word. People
do that sort of thing all the time."
According to the police theory, as Evonitz's wives
grew older and more womanly he became restless. His wives told police
that he wanted them to look younger and dress younger. He told others he
no longer found them attractive.
As he became less interested in them, he grew more
dangerous, this theory holds. He hunted outside the home.
Problems at home
Evonitz's relationships with his wives were complex,
as was his relationship with his family.
Investigators have discovered that the former Boy
Scout and Little Leaguer began drinking and smoking at age 12 and
started using marijuana at 13. He was brilliant, said his father, but he
had problems at home and a reputation for a bad temper.
Soon he was violating his curfew and breaking into a
"Every time he got in trouble, his mom came and
bailed him out," said Downes, the FBI profiler.
All of this occurred in a household that was sexually
charged. His mother and father had affairs that the children were aware
of, Downes said. At one point, Joseph Evonitz enlisted his son to
deliver messages to a neighbor with whom he was having an affair, the
Later, after her divorce from Joseph, Tess Evonitz
began a phone relationship with Perry Deveaux. Deveaux was in a South
Carolina prison at the time, convicted of murder and rape. Tess Evonitz
married Deveaux in prison and divorced him 12 years later. He is still
After graduation from Irmo High School in Columbia in
1980, Evonitz became the manager of a Jiffy Lube. He was 17.
Joseph Evonitz did not like the people his son was
hanging out with, calling them "four criminals." One day the elder
Evonitz drove by the Jiffy Lube in the middle of the day to find it
closed. Marc Evonitz had shut the store to be with his friends.
Later, Evonitz and one of those friends wrote bad
checks for $350 to a local Kmart.
"I had to go to the manager and beg the guy" not to
prosecute, Joseph Evonitz said.
Finally, Joseph Evonitz pushed his son to join the
Navy. His mother supported the idea.
"I thought it would give him direction," Tess Ragin
Evonitz's career as a sonar technician did what his
family hoped for. He emerged after nine years with skills and
discipline. He became a family man with a good job who played the guitar
and enjoyed raising a gray-cheek parakeet named Clyde.
"He was a lot of fun to be with," said Tess Ragin.
"He had a great sense of humor. He always did all kinds of practical
Evonitz was glib and confident, some would say
arrogant. Smith, the Spotsylvania sheriff, said he watched a video made
by Walter Grinders, Evonitz's employer when he lived in Spotsylvania. In
the video, Evonitz is making a sales presentation to hundreds of people.
"He was very articulate, a very good speaker," Smith
But Evonitz also was egocentric. Society's rules did
not apply to him.
"Marc was always railing against authority," his
mother recalled. "It's kind of ironic that he went into the military."
Ragin once visited her son in Jacksonville. Evonitz
didn't agree with the rule that everyone on the Navy base had to wear
seat belts. In protest, Evonitz pulled the belt across his chest but
would not fasten it.
"He called it his pseudo-seat belt," Ragin said.
For much of this time, Evonitz was estranged from his
father. Later they socialized when both were living in Fredericksburg
and after the elder Evonitz moved to Arlington.
Once, Evonitz spotted a promotion on a travel
agency's Web site touting a vacation package to Washington. Evonitz told
his father, then a cab driver in Arlington, and the elder Evonitz made
arrangements to shuttle the tour group throughout their stay.
"I made a bundle of money," Joseph Evonitz said. "This
kid knew computers."
Evonitz allowed his father to visit him in
Fredericksburg but told him to leave whenever he would "start in," Tess
Once when Joseph was having marital troubles, he
asked if he could stay with Marc. Evonitz said no, but the elder man
drove to Fredericksburg anyway and parked in Evonitz's driveway. He
figured that his son would relent. He didn't. Joseph spent the night in
"Marc said when he left this house, he'd never live
under the same roof as his father again," Ragin said.
Close to his family
Evonitz was much closer to his mother and sisters.
When he and his wife-to-be Hope Crowley moved from Virginia to Columbia
in 1999, they lived with Evonitz's sister, Kristen Weyand, and were
married in her home.
Later, when Evonitz's employer in South Carolina
transferred him to its Spartanburg office, his mother urged him to move
there to avoid the 90-minute commute.
"Not unless you move up there too," he told her.
Today, Tess Ragin remembers her son with pictures
above the fireplace in her Columbia home. More photos line the bookshelf
in the living room and the hallway.
Ragin's devotion was apparent on the day Kara fled,
when Weyand called her at Disney World in Florida.
"Marc's all over the news," Weyand said. "Police are
looking for him. He kidnapped a girl at gunpoint and held her in the
"That's ridiculous," Ragin told her daughter. "Why
are you saying this to me? It can't be true."
Weyand repeated her message three times.
Weyand herself had shown her loyalty earlier that day
when she met her brother near Orangeburg, as he fled from police.
The next day, police say, one of Evonitz's relatives
called him from the police station in Columbia to warn him that the
police were on the way to Orangeburg to arrest him. By the time police
arrived at the Days Inn, he was gone.
When police interviewed his widow, Hope Evonitz, she
refused to believe them. She blamed Kara for what happened. Even if Marc
did it, Hope said, it didn't matter to her. She still loved him.
"I don't look at him as a horrible person for what he
did," she said recently. "I think that he just acted out on things that
other people think of."
The family's devotion to Marc Evonitz did not blind
them to something else inside him, however.
"I'd seen glimpses of his dark side," Hope Evonitz
said. "It was really my intuition; I'd wonder if he'd done something. He
would get quiet and dark."
Tess Ragin said she recognized a sense of inadequacy
in her son, a feeling of inferiority.
Despite all the bragging he did about how smart he
was and his successes at work, Evonitz considered himself a failure, his
mother said. The assaults by his father had taken their toll, she said.
His failures seemed to multiply in 1996 and 1997 and
may have been the stressors that profilers look for when studying serial
Bonnie Evonitz had met a man in California and was
visiting there when Evonitz abducted Sofia Silva. One of the items
police found in Evonitz's secret footlocker in South Carolina was a
postcard from his wife, sent from California and postmarked the day that
Sofia was abducted.
After Bonnie Evonitz moved out of their new home,
Marc Evonitz couldn't pay his bills. His take-home pay as a parts
salesman at Walter Grinders was about $2,100 a month. His monthly
mortgage payment of $859, a student loan and other obligations were more
As a result, Evonitz filed for bankruptcy in federal
court in April 1997. On May 1, 1997, he had to meet with his creditors
in U.S. District Court in Richmond.
The court hearing took place at noon. When it ended,
Evonitz climbed into his 1992 Ford Taurus and drove back to Spotsylvania.
At 3:20 p.m., he pulled into a driveway on Block House Road. He had
scouted the house and was interested in the two girls who lived there,
Kristin and Kati Lisk.
Whatever feelings he experienced that day in
bankruptcy court--humiliation, inadequacy, anger--were gone when he
forced the Lisk girls into his trunk.
Now he was in control.
Evonitz survivor lashes out at him
Girl who escaped Richard Marc Evonitz's grasp says
she wanted to escape, send him a message.
By Kari Pugh - The Free Lance-Star
July 14, 2002
She wanted to be 'his downfall'
Richard Marc Evonitz's final victim escaped her 18-hour
nightmare with one ambition--to see her captor's face in a courtroom.
"I wanted to go to trial and let him see me again and
know I was his downfall," the 15-year-old South Carolina girl said last
night on the TV show "America's Most Wanted."
"Picking me, that was the greatest mistake of his
The teenager revealed chilling new details about her
ordeal in her first media interview since the former Spotsylvania County
man abducted her at gunpoint June 24 outside Columbia, S.C.
Evonitz, now the prime suspect in the slayings of
Sofia Silva in 1996 and Kristin and Kati Lisk in 1997, repeatedly raped
the girl after abducting her from a friend's front yard in Lexington
County, S.C., on a sunny afternoon.
"He put me in a plastic container in the back seat
and stopped after 10 or 15 minutes and put handcuffs on me," the South
Carolina girl, her face shadowed, told "America's Most Wanted."
She said Evonitz also put a rope around her neck and
a wad of paper towels in her mouth as a gag.
He drove to his home in nearby Richland County, S.C.,
and carried and slid the container--with the girl inside--upstairs to
his apartment. He raped her for hours after telling her he wouldn't hurt
her if she did what she was told.
When the sexual assault stopped, Evonitz began "playing
house," as the victim described it. He washed dishes, wiped down
counters and vacuumed. She offered to sweep the floor to gain his trust.
"But when it came time for bed, he tied me up again,"
The girl was handcuffed and her legs were shackled,
her arms and feet tied with rope to a restraint system on the bed. When
she heard Evonitz snoring, she untied the rope and sneaked out of the
house, still in her hand and leg cuffs.
They also found detailed notes revealing that Evonitz,
38, had stalked young girls around the Fredericksburg region when he
lived in Spotsylvania.
He was surrounded by police when he shot and killed
himself--three days after his victim escaped.
Investigators on the Lisk-Silva Task Force hope the
girl's story will lead them to other victims of Evonitz.
The decorated Navy veteran lived in
Spotsylvania from 1993 to 1999. He met his 20-year-old wife, Hope
Crowley Evonitz, at Aunt Sarah's Pancake House in Massaponax, where she
worked as a waitress. They moved to his native South Carolina two years
Authorities are awaiting the results of forensic
tests before naming Evonitz as the man who killed Sofia Silva and the
Sofia, 16, vanished from her front porch in
Spotsylvania's Oak Grove subdivision on Sept. 9, 1996. Her body was
found in King George County a month later. Kristin and Kati Lisk, 15 and
12, were abducted from their front yard eight months later. Their bodies
were found in Hanover County five days later.
"My heart goes out to those girls' families," the
South Carolina victim said last night. "My family got me back, but
they're never going to see their daughters again."
Show host John Walsh called Evonitz a "scumbag" and
praised the teen victim as a hero.
"It's an amazing tale of survival and a textbook case
on fighting back," Walsh said. "She's everything this show is about."