Evidence leads police to revisit 1996 homicide

Authorities believe notes may link dead S.C. man to killing of Hopkins student

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

A series of Virginia murder mysteries from years ago, including the death of 25-year-old Johns Hopkins graduate student 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 Reynolds slaying.

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

When police searched Evonitz's 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's home is located.

Reynolds' body was discovered in May 1996 by a logger near Lignum and 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," including photos and clothing, in his apartment, which led Metts to believe that Evonitz had 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.

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

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

"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, which is investigating Reynolds' death.

Reynolds' family has taken a wait-and-see stance. The family had hoped many times before that her 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 committed the killings, it will mark the end of a series of cases that have confounded authorities for years.

Authorities have investigated hundreds of suspects in the cases.

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