- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Forensic evidence including DNA test results proves that Richard Marc Evonitz, a rape suspect who killed himself in Florida in June, kidnapped and murdered three girls in Spotsylvania County during the 1990s, law enforcement authorities said yesterday.
The Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office said Evonitz worked alone when he killed Sofia Silva, 16, in September 1996 and sisters Kristin, 15, and Kati Lisk, 12, in May 1997.
Evonitz, 38, fired a gun into his mouth and killed himself June 27 in Sarasota, Fla., after a high-speed chase with police who were closing in on him for the kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old South Carolina girl.
The girl had escaped while Evonitz was asleep. "Luckily for that brave little girl, she was able to escape and lead investigators to her captor," Spotsylvania Sheriff Ron Knight said yesterday.
Maj. Howard Smith of the sheriff's office said he will recommend the girl be given the $150,000 reward offered for information in the Silva and Lisk slayings. "She's a hero," he said. "She made this case."
A June search of Evonitz's Columbia, S.C., apartment uncovered news clippings and handwritten notes about the Lisk killings evidence that quickly linked him to the sisters' deaths and the murder of Sofia.
Scientific tests of Evonitz's DNA, which is unique for each human, have since established an irrefutable connection to the death of the three girls.
"Over 10,000 scientific examinations have been performed on evidence, to include human hairs, animal hairs, textile fibers, nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, mineralogy, chemistry, latent fingerprints, audio and visual materials and tire tread evidence," police said.
Sheriff Knight struggled to keep from crying as he read a statement to reporters yesterday recounting the facts surrounding the case of the three dead girls.
Sofia was last seen doing her homework on the front porch of her home Sept. 9, 1996. Her body was found Oct. 14, in King George County, Va.
The disappearance of the Lisk sisters on May 1, 1997, was hauntingly similar. The two were reported missing after getting off separate school buses near their home. Kristin's book bag was discovered with its contents strewn around the front yard and Kati's bag was inside. Five days later, their bodies were found floating near a bridge over the South Anna River in Hanover County, about 40 miles from their home.
Sheriff Knight was joined yesterday by the three girls' parents at a news conference. Ron Lisk, fighting back tears, told reporters, "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. They are truly gifts from God."
Phylis Silva directed her comments to Evonitz's family. "I know that this is a trying and a sorrowful time for you. You have lost a loved one," she said. "But you can find peace with God."
Proof of Evonitz's guilt largely results from an investigative task force formed with officials from the Spotsylvania County and King George County sheriff's offices, the Virginia State Police and the FBI to solve the case.
The task force determined that all three murders were linked by common evidence and were perpetrated by a serial killer driven by his strong sexual obsessions.
"Sexually obsessed serial offenders often display a signature aspect in their crimes and frequently employ the same techniques and utilize the same devices with each victim," police said. "Evonitz' extensive pornography collection seized by investigators revealed [his] strong obsession. Forensic evidence has determined that these obsessions were evident among the victims."
One striking similarity common to the victims was that "the fibers found on the handcuff restraining devices Evonitz used in his South Carolina abduction were also found on all three victims in Spotsylvania County," police said.
The strongest evidence against Evonitz included two of Kristin Lisk's fingerprints found in the trunk of his car; his hairs found on the clothing of both sisters and one hair found intertwined in the rope used to tie up Sophia's body.
At the time of the girls' deaths, Evonitz worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in King George County. He was an initial suspect, but police lacked enough evidence to force him to submit to a DNA test.
While police said there is no evidence linking Evonitz to other murders in Virginia, investigators in South Carolina are reported to have found a note in his apartment with general directions to Route 29 in Culpeper, Va., near where the body of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, 25, a student from Baltimore, was found in 1996.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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