Serial Killer in a Small Town

Serial Killer in a Small Town

Today’s story is a solved case from my hometown and it’s what got me interested in true crime. I grew up near Fredericksburg, Virginia in the nineties. There were a lot of crimes that took place there at that time, but today I want to tell you about the serial killer who raped and abducted three teenage girls in 1996 and 1997.

So that you understand the areas mentioned, I’ll describe them to you. Fredericksburg is located in Spotsylvania County which is 412 square miles. It is known for the Civil War battles that took place there and the battlefields and a hospital still remain. Today they’re museums. You can also visit the infamous Sunken Road.

 The “town” of Spotsylvania is where the courthouse is located along with schools and, at the time, a few small businesses. Downtown Fredericksburg is filled with businesses that have been open for fifty to one hundred years, antique stores, and a few local businesses that have sprung up in recent years.

The other side of Fredericksburg has a mall that was built in the 1970s and the first Walmart in the area. There was also a Kmart, Giant foods, some law offices, churches, a small college, a community college, and restaurants scattered around town. Once you got out of town there were miles and miles of farmland as well as the four battlefields.

On September 9, 1996 Sofia went inside her home near Spotsylvania Courthouse, where her older sister was. She talked to a friend on the phone for about thirty minutes. They considered attending the first football game of the season that evening, but decided to skip it. After hanging up, Sofia grabbed a soda and headed outside to do her homework. It was a beautiful sunny day and she didn’t want to be cooped up inside. Her sister didn’t see or hear anything when a man stopped and got Sofia in his car. When she went outside to check on her sister, all she found was an open can of grape soda and Sofia’s class notes.

Despite being in a neighborhood where the houses were relatively close together, her neighbors didn’t notice anything suspicious. Police searched nearby Loriella Park and a pond behind her house, but didn’t see any signs of her.

Her body was found five weeks later by men removing a beaver dam about twenty miles from her home in King George, Virginia. Her body was wrapped in a blue moving blanket, bound with rope, and partially submerged in a creek. King George is across Rappahannock River bridge from Downtown Fredericksburg.

An FBI profiler estimated that they were dealing with a pedophile who would likely do this again. Police began questioning locals and several people told them about Karl Michael Roush. Neighbors had seen him sitting in his van watching children getting on and off their school buses. He lived in a basement apartment a few houses down from Sofia and her family. When police talked to his employer they found rope, similar to what had been used on Sofia. His employer also told police that several blue moving blankets they used for work were missing.

Mr. Roush moved to Florida soon after Sofia went missing to start his own business. He returned to Spotsylvania as soon as his ex-wife informed him that police wanted to speak with him. He was arrested, but maintained his innocence while he awaited trial. Meanwhile, the state crime lab in Richmond, Virginia matched carpet fibers from his van to the ones on Sofia’s body.

About seven months later on May 1, 1997, Kristin, age fifteen, got off her school bus around 3pm followed shortly after by her younger sister, Kati, age twelve. It was assumed that they began walking up their driveway in Fredericksburg when someone abducted them. They usually called their dad, Ron, to let him know they were home. So, when they didn’t call, he tried to call them several times. They didn’t answer so he decided to drive home and that’s when he found the front door open. Kristin’s bookbag, Kati’s math book, and several homework papers were scattered across the driveway. They lived about eight miles from Sofia.

Five days later, a bridge worker saw what he thought were mannequins floating in the South Anna River near Hanover County, Virginia. The South Anna River flows from Lake Anna in Spotsylvania to the Pamunkey River in Hanover, Virginia about forty miles away. Of course, the bridge worker was mistaken, it’s never a mannequin. He called police who identified Kristin and Kati. They had been left partially naked and dumped off a bridge like garbage.

At first, Spotsylvania County law enforcement denied a connection between Sofia and the Lisk sisters, stating that they had the murderer behind bars. Two weeks later they turned all of the evidence over to the FBI in Washington, D.C., but said they still believed Mr. Roush murdered Sofia.

Fredericksburg police realized there were a lot of similarities between the Silva and Lisk cases, but assumed Spotsylvania County had Sofia’s murderer behind bars. The similarity that stood out to them the most was that Sofia and Kristin had both been shaved by their killer.

The FBI quickly determined that the carpet fibers didn’t match at all and the DNA found on Sofia and the sisters didn’t belong to Mr. Roush, but belonged to the same man. Mr. Roush was released from jail and the police announced that they were looking for a serial killer. The state crime lab tech who implicated Mr. Roush was asked to resign after it was discovered her notes and her actual findings did not match. She had lied to Spotsylvania PD, the fibers and DNA hadn’t matched at all and she had intentionally framed an innocent man. Her supervisor was demoted for not catching what she had done.

An FBI profiler said that the killer was likely a white man in his thirties and his appearance allowed him to fit in with everyday society. Nothing about him would stand out at all. They said he probably used a smile rather than violence to gain the trust of his victims to get them in his car.

On June 24, 2002 a fifteen-year-old girl, Kara Robinson, was abducted in Columbia, South Carolina. She escaped and ran into the Richlands County Police Department screaming for help. At first the detective didn’t believe her and called her mom to come get her. Her mom, of course, made sure that it was her daughter and said that she had been abducted the day before and they were looking for her.

The detective then noticed she had one blue furry handcuff on her wrist that was reinforced with wire. She told police that she had been watering plants in a friend’s front yard when a man in a Pontiac Firebird approached her saying that he was selling magazines. He pulled out a gun, held it to her neck, and ordered her to get in a plastic tote in his backseat. He carried the tote into his one-bedroom apartment and let her out. They spent some time talking until he needed to make a phone call. He called his wife who was in Walt Disney World with his mother, completely oblivious to what was going on in her home.

They both fell asleep, but Kara awoke before the sun rose and knew this was the chance she had been waiting for. She carefully removed her bonds and eased out of her captor’s bed. She carefully slipped through the front door and ran to a car that was driving by and told them that she needed a ride to the local police department.

After talking with the detective and a hospital examination, she was able to lead police back to the apartment where she had been kept overnight. They learned that the apartment was rented to a registered sex offender named Richard Marc Evonitz and his wife. His neighbors informed police that he had left early that morning, but no one knew where he went.

In the apartment they found empty prescription bottles for Viagra, bondage equipment, adult toys, and a footlocker. Inside the footlocker they discovered newspapers from Fredericksburg and the surrounding areas talking about Sofia, Kristin, and Kati’s abductions and murders. They also found handwritten notes he had taken detailing the abductions, interviews he had done with each of the girls, and the white shirt he wore for every abduction. When police asked Evonitz’s wife about the footlocker she said that he had told her not to look in the footlocker so she had never even opened it.

A woman with the Center for Exploited and Missing Children looked into Evonitz and discovered that he had lived in Spotsylvania County in 1996 and 1997. When the three girls were abducted and murdered.

Police learned that Evonitz had cleaned out his bank accounts and refilled his prescription for Viagra before heading out of town. Looking into his background they learned he had a sister in Florida. She admitted to renting him a hotel room near her home, but he had fled before police arrived.

In the meantime, Fredericksburg police flew to Columbia to look at the crime scene and the evidence. They discovered the blue Ford Taurus that Evonitz had owned when he lived in Spotsylvania five years earlier. They discovered a child’s hand and fingerprints inside the trunk lid but couldn’t lift them. So, they removed the lid and took it to the FBI. The hand and fingerprints belonged to Kristin Lisk.

Three days after fleeing to Florida the trail went cold, until Evonitz’s sister invited him to eat dinner with her at a local restaurant. Somehow, he got tipped off to the setup and sped down the highway, going over 100 mph with his lights off at night. Police headed him off, throwing out stopping sticks to bring him to a gradual, safe stop.

Evonitz stayed in his car and opened his door, but refused to show police his right hand. Sarasota police called in and deployed a K9 unit who attacked him in his car. Instead of exiting the vehicle, he shot himself and died on the scene.

The blue fibers found on Sofia, Kristen, and Kati’s bodies came from the same blue fuzzy handcuffs used on Kara five years later.

While he was on the run from South Carolina police, he called his sister and confessed that he had committed more crimes than he could remember. Virginia police tried to link him to other unsolved rapes and murders in the area, but to date many are still unsolved.

At the press conference, Ron Lisk said, “”Patti and I were robbed of our children. And all of you in our community were robbed of your trust in our fellow man,” he said. “Please hang on tight to your children. Tell them you love them every day. Treasure each moment with them. Give them a hug every day.”

One of the cases mentioned that he may have been involved in is the case of 24-year-old Julie Williams and her 26-year-old girlfriend, Laura “Lollie” Winans. Their bodies were found inside their tent nude, bound, and gagged near Skyland Lodge on June 1, 1996.

Police have DNA on a gag and hairs from the scene, but nothing has been analyzed in twenty-five years.

Deirdre Enright, the defense attorney for the innocent man initially charged with the murders, mentioned Richard Marc Evonitz. Personally, I disagree since both women were older than eighteen and he strangled his victims. These women were murdered aggressively. They also didn’t find blue fibers at the crime scene and apparently Evonitz loved using them.

I was about the same age as Kati when the murders took place. I lived in Stafford County about thirty minutes away with my parents. It has been 27 years and I can still remember making my neighbor’s dog, a small cocker spaniel mix, walk me home because my driveway was long and secluded. In hindsight, the only way Daisy could have helped me was if she pinned a would-be abductor to the ground while she licked him to death.

I was scared because it took fifteen minutes for me to walk up my driveway. One side was heavily wooded and the other side was our pasture where we grew most of our fruits and vegetables. There weren’t any houses nearby and only a couple of our neighbors could see the road from their house. I doubt they would have noticed a different vehicle driving through because most people in our area had four or five broken down cars that they drove regularly.

I also thought about our neighbor’s four-hundred-acre farm that was heavily wooded. It joined our five acres beside and behind our house. It stretched for miles and joined more forest outside of our small community. There were plenty of deer, squirrels, and rabbits so someone could live in those woods for a long time if they knew how to hunt and forage for food.

Before 1997 I stayed in our woods a lot. I would setup my tent and camp there all summer, just returning home to eat and take care of necessities. There were two graves, a husband and wife, about a football field away from our backdoor. They had owned and lived on the property until their deaths in the 1950s. Having loved their land and home they decided to be buried there instead of in a traditional cemetery. My friends and I often snuck out there when it was still dark to tell ghost stories and play. We never disturbed the graves, though. Out of respect and because we were superstitious.

We would also explore the woods around the neighborhood and discovered an abandoned cemetery from the late 1600s/early 1700s. It took almost an hour to walk to it and of course none of us told our parents what we were doing. Our parents had no problem whooping our butts back then.

We also enjoyed finding and exploring rickety abandoned houses. One time an elderly man saw us from his house and came out to warn us about a hundred year old well that was covered in weeds and wide open underneath. We still went out there to gather light furniture, old glass bottles, and other treasures though. We never did find the well.

After 1997, we stayed away from the woods and we didn’t explore the abandoned houses we loved anymore. It had never occurred to us before that old houses and graveyards several miles in the woods may not be safe. Besides potential murderers hiding there, there were hunters in the winter who wouldn’t be expecting a couple of kids as far back in the woods as we traveled. There were also snakes in the summer like copperheads and timber rattlers that we never thought about either. We never saw any of those things, in case you’re wondering.

Of course, it wasn’t just mine and the victim’s families lives that changed that year. Fredericksburg and the surrounding areas changed, too.

An article in the Washington Post from July 6, 1997 said, “The effect of the killings on a community noted for its Civil War battlefields, one caught between its rural roots and the suburbanization brought by new residents who commute to Northern Virginia, has been profound. At Courtland High School [in Spotsylvania], all adults now wear photo identification. People are increasingly armed [and] vigilant. What has happened is often hard to articulate, but it is deep and permanent.”

They are absolutely right. For those of us who lived in the area at that time we were forever changed. Even those who have moved out of the area to safe, small towns locked their doors and were suspicious of strangers and vehicles they didn’t recognize. Their kids weren’t allowed to venture out alone and definitely not into areas where their parents couldn’t see them.

Still today we are always watching and wondering if a tragedy like Sofia, Kristin, and Kati’s will happen in another sleepy little town.

If you enjoyed this story, please follow the Southern Macabre Podcast on Facebook and find me on Twitter @AerynGrey. I also encourage you to share your stories with me. I can be reached at Aeryn@southern-macabre.com If I tell your story I will credit you in the episode description.

Thank you for reading the first blog post! I hope to talk to you again next Friday. Have a great weekend and a fantastic week until then.


Credits

If you are interested, Sofia’s mother started a scholarship fund in her youngest daughter’s honor before she passed. Sofia’s older sister, Pam, is continuing it. I will put the link in the description. Fundraiser by Pam Silva Grimes : The Sofia Silva Scholarship Fund (gofundme.com)

The pictures of Sofia, Kristin, and Kati came from Find a Grave.

IN VA. COMMUNITY, DEEPENING GRIEF AND A PAINFUL MYSTERY – The Washington Post

Cold Case Files season 3 episode 1 “Soft” Kill

Sisters found dead outside small Virginia town | AP News

Kidnapped: Kara Robinson survives abduction by serial killer, thrives in law enforcement | Truecrimedaily.com

Slain Girls Cases Closed

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