Every year, around 600,000 Americans go missing. In 2020, over 340,000 kids disappeared. And the most common victims of kidnappings are girls aged 12 to 17. The statistics are scary, and if you look into the numbers involved in human trafficking, it’s downright terrifying.
So, it is remarkable when children escape their kidnappers and make it out alive. It takes a special kind of person, and some luck, to escape a (likely) killer and make it out alive. This is the story of Kara Robinson, who was kidnapped, but escaped to tell her story, and even opened the lid on a ‘90s serial killer case gone cold.
She Was Being Watched
The morning of June 24, 2002 was like any other in Columbia, South Carolina: sunny and warm. 15-year-old Kara Robinson was prepping herself for a day at the lake with her friends. The teenager went first to a friend’s place to pick her up.
This friend told Kara that she needed a little more time getting ready, so Kara offered to water the plants in the front garden, to help her out with her list of chores. She started watering the garden. Did she think anyone was watching her? No, of course not. The thought never crossed her mind.
The Man in the Green Pontiac
It wasn’t long after Kara was alone in the yard that a green Pontiac Firebird pulled up in the driveway. The driver was a middle-aged man with dark hair and a goatee. He called the pretty teen over. It was one of those “stranger danger” moments that parents and teachers drill into kids from an early age.
Naturally, Kara was reluctant to approach this man. But he made himself approachable, telling her he was a magazine salesman. He stepped out of the car, with a smile, and showed her the magazines. “Come take a look; it’ll only take a second,” he told Kara.
It Only Takes a Second
As Kara walked over to his car, the man was standing next to the driver’s side door, which he left open. As soon as she got close enough, he reached into the car and pulled out a handgun from the seat. He pushed the muzzle into her neck.
“I think I felt a moment of terror. But I knew I just needed to do what he told me to do,” Kara later told reporters. At gunpoint, she was forced to climb into the back seat and into a 50-gallon plastic container the man had placed there.
Huddled in a Plastic Box
Within seconds, Kara was sealed in a constricted container, able to hear nothing but her own heart beating and the car speeding away. She didn’t get to see her friend step out onto the front lawn and look around for her friend who was supposed to be watering her plants.
As Kara huddled inside that plastic box, she knew the odds of her breaking out and knocking out her kidnapper were low. Kara later said that she knew she was going to have to wait it out if she was going to find a way to escape.
Her Mission: Gather Information and Escape
What this creepy man never expected was that he had simply chosen the wrong victim. He met his match in Kara Robinson, who was extraordinarily street smart. What she immediately thought to do was collect as much information as possible from the moment the car sped out of the driveway.
She explained that for the rest of that day, she thought of one thing only: “Gather information, wait for him to be complacent, escape.” That was “rolling through my brain constantly.” She first made note of the serial number of the box she was trapped in.
They Arrive at His Destination
She studied those numbers for the duration of her time in that container, which seemed like over an hour. She repeated those numbers over and over again until they were permanently carved into her brain. Suddenly, the box rocked forward, and she heard the handbrake lift up.
They were now wherever the man planned to bring her. Kara could do nothing but brace herself for what was to come. As soon as the door opened, she was lifted into the air and carried across a driveway. He then dumped her, complete with the box, onto the floor.
A Dirty Little Apartment
He opened the lid and Kara saw that same man staring down at her, but he had a different kind of smile now. “Do everything you’re told, and I won’t have to hurt you,” he told her as she climbed out. She nodded her head and looked around, to find herself in a grimy, little ground-floor apartment.
She was still in information-gathering mode, so she looked for more details. She took note of the magnets on the fridge – one of them showing the name of a local dentist – and the little rodents he had in cages in the living room.
Bound to the Couch
“I had to get as much information about this person and my surroundings as I can, so that I can escape and so that I can identify this person when I do escape.” Despite her legs being numb from the long, uncomfortable car ride, she made it over to the living room sofa.
It was on that sofa that the man fastened a pair of blue, fluffy handcuffs on her, secured with copper wire that cut into her skin. He then bound her legs as she sat in front of the TV.
Studying the Face of Her Kidnapper
As he was securing her to the couch, Kara finally got a chance to really study the man who had kidnapped her. He was white, about 40 years old, had brown eyes, was heavy, had dark brown hair and a double chin.
She knew that if she looked at his face long enough, she would be able to pick him out of a crowd of many, many men. She just needed to get the opportunity to get out of there alive. The man stood up and turned on the TV for the evening news.
“Nobody’s Coming to Get You”
Kara had no choice but to watch to see if her abduction had made it into the news cycle yet. So far, nothing. “Nobody’s coming to get you,” he told her at that moment. Kara said that she knew what this man’s intentions were.
Unsurprisingly, he took advantage of the teenage girl and had his way with her. All the while, she remained calm and collected. “I strong-willed myself into remaining as calm as I could, as long as I could. I remember at one point there was a gun within my reach.”
The Devil Is in the Details
Kara thought about grabbing the gun but realized there was “little chance that I was going to win that fight.” For Kara, it was about picking her moment wisely. As she was being assaulted, she looked for more bits of information.
She studied the distinctive paintings, the hairbrush in the bathroom with red hair strands tangled up in it. Each and every detail, as little as it seemed, exposed the man she was dealing with. As her dreadful experience continued on that day, she observed not only the apartment but the man who occupied it.
Kara understood that if she played into the captive role, he expected her to fulfil, she might be able to earn some privileges. After he was done sexually assaulting her, the man started acting normal. He was “playing house” as Kara put it.
He went over to wipe down the kitchen counters, vacuum, and wash the dishes. Kara asked if she could sweep the floor – in an attempt to satisfy him. What it did was free her from her restraints, and she was then allowed to move around without the cuffs on her wrists.
The Obedient Captive Role
Still, the man kept his eye on her every second, especially when she inched towards the front door. But Kara didn’t feel it was quite the right time to make a run for it. Being close to the door, however, let her get a good look at how it was both locked and bolted.
Even if she tried to make a dash for it, she wouldn’t be able to unlock it in time. And so, she played her own version of “house” and stayed in her obedient, captive role. But as the night rolled in, things got worse.
Her Ticket Out
She was soon forced to lie down in bed next to this worthless man. She was back in restraints, this time both her legs and the handcuffs were tied to the bed frame. That’s when she noticed one last detail. “I was in handcuffs, but they had a fuzzy ring around them,” Kara recalled.
The loose handcuff “provided enough slack that one of them was not that tight.” This, she knew, would be her one ticket out. Her plan was to pretend to fall asleep herself and wait until he actually drifted off.
Prying Herself Out of the Handcuffs
She shut her eyes and kept her ears on alert. After hours of waiting in agony, she heard the man start snoring. Kara then pulled her thumb into her palm, slowly working her hand out of the side of the handcuff. With one hand free, she carefully leaned forward to untie her legs.
As she shuffled to the edge of the bed, she saw he was just beginning to rise. She kept checking to see if the man was still sound asleep. She managed to get free, creep over the bedroom floor, and steadily open the door to the hallway.
“I Just Ran”
Without a creek of a floorboard, Kara made it to the front door. “This was my moment to escape,” she later said. A metal shutter had to be shifted to the side, which made a loud scrape, but she turned the lock, slid back the deadbolt, made a run for it.
She was held captive for 18 hours before that escape. “I just ran. I didn’t look back for a second.” She ran straight to the parking lot where she found two people sitting in a car. You can imagine what these people thought…
Detailing the Nightmare
Suddenly, a teenage girl comes running up to them, breathless, with a pair of handcuffs hanging off one of her wrists. She begged them to take her to the closest police station. They took her, and within minutes Kara was sitting at the Columbia Police Department office, detailing the nightmare she had just lived through.
She had to piece together everything, but she was quite perceptive for someone who had just gone through hours of abuse. “She was so, so alert,” one of the officers later recalled. “She was able to give us information down to the exactness of what was in the apartment.”
The Monster Has a Name
Kara reported every detail about her kidnapper’s appearance, car, belongings, and even his dentist. She was eventually able to lead the police back to the same apartment. The police were able to get a name of the kidnapper, thanks to Kara picking him out of a photo lineup.
The man was Richard Evonitz, a 38-year-old Navy veteran and South Carolina native. Both his name and license plate number were broadcast to law enforcement in the area. Meanwhile, a profile was posted on Evonitz. Who was this despicable man?
A Seemingly Normal Guy
Those who knew him described him as a completely normal guy. He was twice married and a good worker who was awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal not once but twice. His co-workers at the air compressor factory he worked at seemed to like him.
Little did they know this “normal” guy was keeping a dark secret. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott asserted, “What we’ve been able to discern, there were no signals, no signs. He was someone who just blends in.” So, Evonitz was getting away with his sick habit by simply blending in.
Pathetic Would be an Understatement
As it turns out, Evonitz didn’t live in that filthy apartment by himself but with his much younger wife and elderly mother as his roommates. At the time of the kidnapping, the women were on a vacation to Disney World. The green Pontiac he drove that day? That was his mother’s.
As the police picked apart this pedophile’s life, they discovered a man hiding behind his unremarkable mask. When Evonitz was 24, in 1987, he found himself involved in a public masturbation incident. He was on leave in Florida at the time.
Yet Another 15-Year-Old
He had gone to Orange Park and exposed himself to a 15-year-old girl and her little sister as they walked down the street. Luckily, the girl gave a proper description to the police, and they identified him as the man.
As soon as his ship (he was in the Navy) pulled back into port, the authorities were waiting to arrest him. And this was a man who received two Good Conduct Medals… After his service, he hopped between states, and finally settled in his home state of South Carolina.
From Indecent Exposure to Blatant Assault
Court documents state: “Suspect stated he has 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 brunette hair.” Yet Evonitz somehow flew under the radar…
Over the years, Evonitz developed from indecent exposure to outright assault. He kept guns and ropes in his apartment as well as kits he put together for the sole purpose of kidnapping girls. He was methodical, and Kara was most likely not his first victim. But the hope was that she would be his last.
A Long-Time Stalker
Hidden in his bedroom, investigators found a series of handwritten notes in which he noted the appearance and addresses of girls in the area. He had clearly been stalking young women for a long time, maybe even years.
Among the list of girls, there seemed to be one in particular whom Evonitz was homing in on, and she lived in neighboring Lexington County. “He described her, her house, the garage, everything. He was very organized. I have no doubt he was a serial killer,” a detective on the case shared. They needed more evidence to confirm that hunch, though.
The Three Girls Who Went Missing in the ‘90s
Police approached the girl in question, and luckily, she was still safe and sound. She told a local paper, “It is kind of scary that some guy was out there looking at me. I want to know why he didn’t get me.”
Among Evonitz’s written notes were newspaper clippings of the kidnapping and murder of three girls from Spotsylvania County, Virginia that took place back in the 1990s. Each of the girls was taken in broad daylight, just as Kara was. But unlike Kara, they were found dead in bodies of water.
The Virginia Murders
Not only did Kara realize she literally escaped death, but that she happened to re-open a cold case of unsolved murders. She inadvertently revealed one of South Carolina’s worst child predators of the past decade. Kara went from survivor to hero.
Among Evonitz’s notes was the name of a street – Block House Road – in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, the town in which Evonitz was living at the time. Underneath were details of five unnamed girls, all of them young teens who lived in the area. He was in his 30s, married to his first wife, and stalking girls.
The Disappearance of Kristin and Kati Lisk in 1997
He kept newspaper clippings about the disappearance of two sisters who lived on Block House Road. Investigators learned that these two girls did in fact go missing from the exact street Evonitz had been watching five years earlier.
Their names were Kristin and Kati Lisk, and they were 15 and 12 years old. They vanished from their own front yard (sound familiar?) on May 1, 1997, after coming home from school. The five-day search ended in tragedy, when their bodies were found in the South Anna River, 40 miles from their home.
The Vanishing of Sofia Silva in 1996
The Lisk murders bore a striking resemblance to a different crime from the September prior, also from the same county. It was strange considering the police thought they already caught the man responsible. It was the kidnapping of 16-year-old Sofia Silva, who also went missing from her front yard on September 9, 1996.
Sofia was sitting on the front doorstep doing homework, and when her older sister came to check on her, she saw only notebooks and a can of soda. Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith marked it as a runaway situation, but it didn’t fit the girl’s personality.
The Man They Assumed Was the Murderer
Missing posters were placed around the county, which led to a wave of sightings (people said Sofia was seen as far away as a Las Vegas casino and psychics were reporting visions). A month later, Sofia’s body was found in a swamp, wrapped up in a blue blanket.
Police focused their suspect list on registered sex offenders, leading them to a 44-year-old man named Karl Michael Roush who lived four houses down from Sofia. Evidence from Roush’s van revealed blue fibers, which seemed to match the blue blanket. “You’ve got him,” the lab tech reportedly declared to the sheriff.
They Had the Wrong Man
Sofia’s family even reported that Roush tried to talk to Sofia in the past, as she walked past his house after school. All signs pointed to Roush, and so he was arrested and charged with her death. That’s why, when the Link sisters’ murders took place, Sheriff Smith was confused.
As it turns out, that over-confident lab technician had actually botched some of the testing. Roush was released, and the hunt for the Virginian serial killer was relaunched. A $150,000 reward as well as a feature on America’s Most Wanted was broadcast. In the end, no one was charged with the triple murders.
A Week After Kara’s Escape…
But most serial killers eventually get caught. In Evonitz’s case, he got sloppy and ultimately chose the wrong teenager to kidnap. Come 2002, and the cops now had new evidence in the Virginia murders, thanks to Kara.
Apparently, Evonitz was never flagged because he never registered outside of Florida (at the time, it was on the citizen to register). It was now June 27, 2002, less than a week after Kara escaped. Evonitz managed to fly under the radar, despite his face being on every TV screen and newspaper in the country.
His Own Sister Calls Him Out
At 10 pm, officers of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida received a phone call from Evonitz’s sister. She reported that her brother called her on his way down to Florida, where he was heading and where she lived. She told them that he basically confessed to “more crimes than he can remember.”
Disappointed and disgusted, she felt the need to report him to the sheriff. She revealed that he was currently parked at an IHOP restaurant, off the US41, in Sarasota. Evonitz changed the license plates on his car, which was now a silver Ford Escort.
Blown Tires and a Car Chase
As soon as deputies arrived at the restaurant, they saw Evonitz’s car idling in the parking lot. But before they knew it, the car peeled towards the road. At least they were prepared – they already laid spike traps at the exit. All four of his tires blew out. But that didn’t stop him from fleeing.
The police cars chased him down the west coast of Florida, his flat tires wearing down to the rims. Eventually, the cops forced Evonitz off the highway and into another parking lot. His car then spun out of control, and 15 officers ran over to catch him.
Release the Hounds
Evonitz tried to run for it on foot, but he was surrounded. He was now backed against the wall of a restaurant, with K-9 units barking at the end of their leashes. Evonitz had nowhere to run, and no hope left. That’s when he pulled a gun from his waistband, and the cops released the hounds.
It was a matter of seconds before it was all over for him. Richard Evonitz placed the muzzle of the pistol inside of his mouth and pulled the trigger…
The End of Richard Evonitz
For him, it was the easy way out. Upon hearing the news, Kara was furious. She wanted justice for this despicable man’s crimes. She told America’s Most Wanted, “I wanted to go to trial and let him see me again and know I was his downfall.”
“I wanted him to look at me and know that choosing me was the biggest mistake he ever made.” Once the dust settled, investigators in South Carolina continued to build a case that would never make it to court.
All the Evidence They Needed
They wanted to prove that Evonitz was indeed the man who took the lives of the Lisk and Silva girls. It happened to be pretty easy, as detectives gathered 200 pieces of physical evidence linking him to the Virginia cases.
Included in the evidence were fibers from his car trunk, a blanket in his apartment, a carpet from his previous home in Fredericksburg, VA, and the handcuffs which Kara had on her at the time of her escape. It became obvious that Evonitz was the culprit.
A Troubled Childhood
By late August of 2002, the DNA results officially linked him to the murders. The cold cases could now be solved cases. But remember how he told his sister that he committed “more crimes than he could remember”? The man unmistakably lived a life of sexual crime.
An analysis of Evonitz’s history revealed his troubled childhood which was dominated by his alcoholic father. He was also exposed to a culture of infidelity in his parents’ marriage, where a young Evonitz would play the messenger between his father and his mistresses.
Both His Wives Were 17
Psychological profilers also underlined the fact that both of his ex-wives were a lot younger than him. At 25, he married a 17-year-old friend of his younger sister. His second wife, Hope Evonitz was also 17 when she married him at the age of 36.
Hope disclosed that her husband liked certain “niche bedroom activities,” regarding role-play, age, and even consent. There were blank spots in Evonitz’s rap sheet, which could be explained by his wives having fulfilled his desires. What most people might see as red flags, Hope apparently didn’t think too much of.
She Stood by Him
Believe it or not, Hope stood by him after all was said and done. “He was my husband, he is still my husband, and I love him dearly,” she stated. I guess at the end of the day, there’s someone for everyone…
Authorities continued to search through his shady past to see if he could be linked to any other cold cases. Sheriff Leon Lott said, “We’re going to do his whole life’s tale. We’ll take it from the time he was born and go forward. It’s going to be quite extensive.”
What Happened to Kara Robinson?
As of now, Evonitz’s crimes have only be linked to the four females we know of. As for Kara, she received $150,000 (the announced reward) for her part in solving the Lisk-Silvia cases. But for the survivor, it was about so much more than just the financial reward.
“Following my escape, I was able to go to Virginia and meet with the families of the three girls. And that meant so much to me,” Kara shared. She went on to enroll in the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, starting her career in victim’s services and sex crime investigation.
Helping Others Via TikTok
She graduated from the academy, and 10 years later, she’s now married with two kids. She left law enforcement behind when she started a family, but Kara now helps survivors around the world through TikTok.
With over 220,000 followers, she gives advice to those recovering from trauma and offers help and practical tips to avoid and escape possible kidnapping situations.