It makes a lot of sense when the FBI or any law enforcement agency withholds information when they are trying to build a case against a perpetrator still on the loose. But when the suspect in question is dead and the crimes are more than a decade old, what’s the point?
For months, the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star has struggled with the FBI over the seemingly simple matter of forensic testing. At one point, the FBI promised to process in evidence. But last month, the FBI told the newspaper that they were not going to perform additional tests out of deference to the families of the victims.
Funny thing, though, family members tell the newspaper that they want the testing done. They want answers.
In question are the abduction and murder of Alicia Showalter Reynolds on Route 29 in Virginia and the double homicide of Julianne Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans (pictured above) in the Shenandoah National Park—all in 1996. The FBI vigorously pursued Darrell Rice as a suspect in the death of Alicia and charged him with the slaying of Julianne and Lollie. That case was thrown out by the court, in part, because preliminary results of DNA tests on two head hairs found at the crime scene of the double murder did not match Rice.
Those same results, however, could not eliminate another predator operating in the area at that time, Richard Marc Evonitz. In 2002 and 2003, I researched and wrote a book about this serial killer. I noted the possible connection to those three murders.
The book’s focus, though, was on three other deaths in Spotsylvania that authorities tied to Evonitz: the murder of Sofia Silva in 1996, and the double homicide of sisters Kati and Kristin Lisk in 1997. He was never arrested or charged in those crimes because when he was cornered in a coastal community after a high speed chase, he put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
But the FBI was secretive even then.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act request. It was denied—the office claimed an ongoing investigation. It made no sense. The perpetrator was dead. No evidence needed to be protected before a trial.
I appealed to the Attorney General. I won that appeal. The FBI was ordered to release documents to me. Following that decision, I contacted the local office, in the spring of 2003. I was informed that it normally takes two to three years to process and provide material. So I waited.
Sure enough, I received a letter in 2006 informing me that I needed to pay thousands of dollars to obtain a complete copy of the file. As offered in the correspondence, I wrote requesting someone to assist me in narrowing down the file to pertinent documents. I am still waiting for that assistance.
The veil of secrecy from the lack of cooperation shown to me to the indifference to finding answers to the murders of Alicia, Julianne, and Lollie, casts doubt on the FBI’s conclusions in the deaths of Kati, Kristin, and Sofia. Does the FBI fear that transparency would reveal problems in the Lisk-Silva investigation or more generically with the FBI lab itself? What secret is the FBI hiding?