Investigation into death of JHU student revisited

Police say notes may tie Evonitz to Reynolds case

July 02, 2002|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

A series of Virginia murder mysteries from years ago, including the death of a 25-year-old Johns Hopkins graduate student named Alicia Showalter Reynolds, are on the investigative front burner again, police say.

Authorities in South Carolina believe that Richard Evonitz, 38, of Columbia, S.C., was involved in the killings of two Virginia girls because of evidence found in his home. There was also evidence that could link Evonitz to the killing of Reynolds.

Evonitz killed himself in Florida with a handgun June 27 after being pursued by police in connection with the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl from Lexington County, S.C., on June 24.

When police searched Evonitz' South Carolina home, they discovered handwritten notes that appear to link him to the Virginia killings.

Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said that among the notes were directions to the area where Reynolds' body was found. The notes mentioned taking "29 north" and crossing a "highway" with the letter "G," according to Metts.

But South Carolina investigators who had been optimistic about that apparent link to Reynolds were less certain yesterday about the connection.

"The connection is very, very weak on the case," said Leon Lott, sheriff of Richland County, S.C., where Evonitz' home is located.

Reynolds' body was discovered in May 1996 by a logger near Lignum near Germanna Highway, also known as Route 3.

Police feel more strongly about notes they found connecting Evonitz to the murders of Kristin and Kati Lisk, ages 14 and 12, of Spotsylvania County, Va.

The Lisk killings have been connected by the FBI to the death of Sofia Silva, 16, who was taken from her Spotsylvania home in 1996.

Evonitz also had notes and other "trophies," such as photos and clothing, in his apartment that led Metts to believe that Evonitz was linked to other victims. The 38-year-old worked as a traveling salesman.

"I'm convinced he's a serial rapist and killer, and he's involved with the killings," Metts said.

While South Carolina officials say they are confident that Evonitz is related to some of the crimes, other agencies are reserving judgment.

"I can't say we have enough information right now [to prove Evonitz killed Reynolds]," said Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State police, who are investigating Reynolds' death.

Lawrence Barry, a spokesman for the FBI's Richmond office, declined comment. Spotsylvania County Sheriff Ronald L. Knight did not return phone calls for comment yesterday.

Reynolds' family is in a wait-and-see mode. Family members had hoped many times that their daughter's killer had been found, so "we're holding our position of being patient," said Harley Showalter, Reynolds' father.

If forensic tests, which authorities hope could be done by this week, prove that Evonitz did commit the killings, it would mark the end of a series of cases that have confounded authorities for years.

Authorities have investigated hundreds of suspects in the cases.

Residents of the Culpeper, Va., area bought cellular phones for their safety after Reynolds was abducted along Route 29. The Johns Hopkins graduate student, a native of Harrisonburg, Va., who was working on her doctoral research, was on her way to North Carolina, where she was going to surprise her husband for his birthday.

Witnesses said that Reynolds stopped to talk to a man wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and later got into his dark-colored pickup truck.

Authorities later found Reynolds' Mercury Tracer sedan along the road. It was locked and undamaged.

"We're hoping this will be the end, but we'll just have to see," Showalter said.

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