Experts consider Evonitz’s history

SPOTSYLVANIA — Richard Marc Evonitz told police he was watching movies in a Florida motel room when the urge struck him. He got into his beige Dodge and started cruising that January day in 1987.

Evonitz, then 23 and serving in the Navy, later confessed to police that he had pulled up beside a teen-age girl walking down the street so she could see him masturbating. Then he sped away.

Experts say that incident 15 years ago could have marked the start on a path from sexual exhibitionist to suspected serial killer.

Evonitz, who fatally shot himself when cornered by Florida police on June 27, is suspected in the deaths of three Spotsylvania County girls. Investigators are awaiting results of DNA tests that could prove whether he is responsible for the 1996 slaying of Sofia Silva and the 1997 killings of sisters Kristin and Kati Lisk. The deaths are linked by forensic evidence.

Most exhibitionists do not turn into serial killers. But many serial killers have a history of exhibitionism, public masturbation, peeping into windows or violent sexual assault, experts say.

Sexual behavioral patterns typically emerge before adolescence, are reinforced during the teen years and are acted upon in early adulthood, said Robert K. Ressler, a retired FBI profiler who coined the term “serial killer.”

Ressler said serial killers typically start murdering in their mid- to late-20s, peaking sometime between then and their early 40s.

Evonitz was 38 when he allegedly abducted a 15-year-old South Carolina girl at gunpoint on June 24. He allegedly took the teen to his Columbia apartment, where he repeatedly raped her. The girl was wearing handcuffs when she escaped the following morning while Evonitz was sleeping.

He then fled to Florida, where Sarasota police surrounded him after a car chase that reached speeds of 90 mph. With nowhere to go, he put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Evonitz came to the attention of Spotsylvania investigators through the Alexandria-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which was assisting South Carolina authorities as they tried to track him down.

Spotsylvania authorities turned over evidence in the Silva and Lisk cases to the FBI after a state crime-laboratory worker erred in comparing forensic evidence from the cases. Before the mistake, Spotsylvania authorities assured the public the slayings were unrelated because a suspect in Silva’s death was in jail at the time the Lisk girls were killed. After the error, the man was set free. When arrested in 1987, Evonitz said he had “a problem with masturbating in front of girls. When he feels the urge he drives around looking for a girl 18-19 [years] old, short in height and has brunett[e] hair,” according to a police report.

Evonitz’s probation included an order to undergo psychosexual counseling. Court records indicate no probation violations.

While not knowing what exactly the counseling involved, Berlin said such efforts 15 years ago probably weren’t as intensive as they are today.

Ressler said it’s “highly unlikely” the Spotsylvania girls’ killer took a five-year break from the time the Lisk sisters were killed in May 1997 until now. “He didn’t go into a period of remission,” Ressler said of the Spotsylvania girls’ killer.

Authorities are probing the possibility of a link between Evonitz and similar crimes in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Florida. Besides serving in the Navy, Evonitz also traveled with subsequent jobs, authorities said. Authorities say they plan to delve into his life in detail.

Investigators said last week they have no hard evidence tying Evonitz to the abduction and slaying of Alicia Showalter Reynolds. The 25-year-old Baltimore graduate student was last seen getting into a pickup truck with a man after stopping her car on U.S. 29 in Culpeper on March 2, 1996.

Although Reynolds was older than the other victims, she fit their profile: youthful in appearance, brunette and abducted in the same geographic region.

Ressler said investigators are being prudent by looking at Evonitz in connection with Reynolds because it would be unlikely there was more than one such predator in the Fredericksburg area in the mid-1990s. “They’re so rare on a national level,” he said.

Kiran Krishnamurthy is a staff writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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