Evonitz revealed: Serial killer story reveals tale of terrors

Richard Evonitz. The name still evokes a shudder. In the space of nine months in 1996 and 1997, Evonitz terrorized Central Virginia when he killed three teenaged girls: Sofia Silva and sisters Kati and Kristin Lisk.

The girls vanished from their homes in Spotsylvania County, disappearing in the after-school calm of quiet neighborhoods. Sofia's body was later found in a King George County creek, the Lisk sisters in the South Anna River.

Police and FBI agents pursued 12,000 leads, yet only identified Evonitz as the killer after he kidnapped and raped a South Carolina girl in 2003. That victim managed to escape and call the police, who pursued Evonitz to Florida.

With his tires in shreds after a high-speed chase, Evonitz finally gave up– but only to jam a gun deep into his mouth and fire. By the time Virginia police realized who Evonitz was, he was forever immune to questions. However, a new book, Into the Water, answers many of them.

At a recent book-signing in Fredericksburg, author Diane Fanning faced little of the hostility that some readers hurled at the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star for its continuing focus on the case. She also faced very little traffic. During 15 minutes near the checkout counter at Fredericksburg's Borders book store July 9, not a single patron visited her card table.

"A couple of people did glare at me," Fanning says after the signing. Fanning ended up selling a few books, but the turnout suggests that Fredericksburg might not be ready for unsavory stories about such a profound tragedy.

Few of Fanning's readers will be surprised to learn that Evonitz had a violent, alcoholic father or that he favored hard-core pornography and sex that included bondage and domination. What readers may be startled to learn is how and cunningly he concealed his dark side.

He was an able machine-tool maker, a good neighbor, was close to his mother and sisters, and married twice. "Most people," Fanning says, "seemed to like him."

Evonitz's name recently made a startling entry into another double murder, one that has haunted Central Virginia for eight years: the May 1996 slayings of Julie Ann Williams and Lollie Winans at their campsite in the Shenandoah National Park.

In April 2002, Darrell Rice was indicted in federal court in Charlottesville for the murders. In October 2003, however, the government withdrew the indictment, citing "new revelations" about evidence collected at the scene. The defense team charged that DNA tests excluded Rice– but not Evonitz.

The most disturbing element of Fanning's book is her description of other murders, kidnappings, and sexual assaults in which Evonitz is a suspect. The Free-Lance Star reports that the FBI plans to convene an "investigators' working group" next year at Quantico for law enforcement officers from places where Evonitz lived or worked.

When asked whether there's any reason to think Evonitz was the Shenandoah Park killer, U.S. Attorney Thomas Bondurant replies, "none– absolutely none."

However, Fanning's book suggests that there's ample reason to believe that the Quantico team will draw different conclusions in other unsolved cases. Richard Evonitz may be dead– but his reign of terror, now purely psychological, continues.

St Martin's Paperbacks released this true crime publication by Texas resident Diane Fanning.