Friday, September 5, 2008

From Brother to Brother - Part 1

by Stacy Dittrich

I remember the night all too well. December 26, 2007, my husband Richard and I slept peacefully after a long, festive Christmas Day. We were glad to see the year coming to an end. I was still a deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office and Rich was a Mansfield police officer. We had endured one of those dark years in our profession, the kind that law enforcement agencies throughout history ultimately face. Our departments had been plagued with officer-involved shootings and deaths, all of which were scrutinized by the media. It was a year most of us went to work on edge, wondering if “today was our day.”

Last Christmas was a peaceful holiday—thoughts of work put aside as our daughters were always first priority—and we looked upon 2008 with high hopes. However, if we were ever to imagine how this year would end, we wouldn’t have believed it.

It was approximately 5:00 a.m. the day after Christmas when our phones began to ring: our house phone, and both of our cell phones—repeatedly, which is never a good sign in a household with two police officers. Rich and I were awakened and alerted to the fact that something was wrong—very wrong.

Unable to reach the various numbers that showed on our phones, I began to become extremely concerned about my father. A Mansfield Police Lieutenant, my father supervised Rich on the night shift. Since Rich usually takes Christmas off to spend with the family I was racking my brain trying to remember if my father was on his days off or not. Although it had seemed like several minutes, only seconds had passed when Rich opened his cell phone and read out loud a text that had just come in: MANSFIELD POLICE OFFICER BRIAN EVANS WAS JUST SHOT AND KILLED BY HIS BROTHER. (Evans pictured above.)

Standing in our kitchen in shock, Rich continued to read that Brian’s wife, Trina, had also been shot. I immediately fell apart. I had known the couple for a long time; their 10-year-old daughter Tess was a friend of my daughter’s, and the text didn’t reveal whether Trina was alive or not. The thought of this little girl losing both her parents was too much to handle at that moment. Rich, who had worked side by side with Brian nightly, was also overcome with grief. Regardless, the incessant phone ringing began again, and we began to learn the
horrific events that had occurred leaving two innocent people dead, and two shot.

Late Christmas night, Brian, a few friends, and his brother, Larry—a corr
ections officer at a nearby prison—decided to take in a movie. For reasons that can only be defined as premeditated, Larry excused himself from the theatre and walked out, leaving the rest of the men scratching their heads. Brian and Larry had a good relationship so no one could figure out why he did this. Unknowingly, Larry had taken Brian’s truck from the movie theatre and drove it home. Becoming concerned, Brian called Larry’s wife, Carol, and asked her to pick him up and drive him to their home to find Larry. Brian also called Trina, who was with his sister, Kimberly, and told them to start looking for Larry—something was wrong.

As Brian and Carol drove to Larry’s home, they were unaware that he had already ambushed, and shot his neighbor, 44-year-old Robert Houseman, in the head—killing him instantly.

After spending an enjoyable Christmas with his parents and two young daughters, the well-liked and quiet Houseman was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. As he put his keys in his front door to enter, Larry Evans approached Houseman from the darkness, leaving his body to lie on the front porch of the duplex they shared (pictured above).

Brian spotted the body immediately upon pulling into Larry’s driveway. Clearly sensing the danger, Brian ordered Carol to leave the area for her own safety. Brian, a highly trained SWAT member, was also certified in the area of crisis intervention. Emerging from the darkness carrying a high-powered assault rifle, Larry Evans gunned down his own brother in cold blood, before shooting at his own wife who was fleeing for
her life.

Mansfield Police Chief Phil Messer summarized Brian’s courage well:

“The fact that this was his brother makes the events even more tragic; however, it cannot be disputed his act to intervene instead of leaving in the vehicle with Carol Evans clearly saved her life and demonstrated his commitment to our oath. Yes, there may be a few among us who would have confronted such a situation in the same manner as Brian—the everyday heroes we read about from time to time—but there are those we expect to respond; our police officers and firefighters, what we call our hometown heroes.”

Brian’s body lay several feet from Houseman’s as Trina and Kimberly made their way to the home. Lying in wait, Larry opened fire on Trina and Kimberly as they pulled in, striking Trina in the right shoulder and Kimberly in the chest. Reacting instantly, Trina threw her car in reverse and sped away for safety. As she called for help, her main priority was getting a message to Brian—to warn him not to come to the house. Unfortunately, she was unaware that Brian had arrived first.

What followed was a stand-off between Larry Evans and my fellow officers at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Mansfield Police. Over thirty rounds from various weapons were fired at officers, weapons that—according to Carol Evans, who never reported the incident—were being stockpiled over the course of several days. Carol Evans, who now supports her husband, also has her sister, Debbie Spurlock on her side.

“Larry’s a good, good person. Everyone needs to know that,” Spurlock stressed about the barbaric monster that brutally killed two people and shot two others.

In no less than a cowardly fashion, Larry (pictured left) stripped his clothes off and surrendered to authorities, naked with his hands held high, knowing he wouldn’t be shot. In the aftermath of the brutal slayings, Evans was indicted on 19 counts of murder and attempted murder of Brian Evans, Robert Houseman, Trina Evans, Kimberly Evans, and countless law enforcement officers. His bond was set at one million dollars. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial of Larry Evans began—and ended—this week. Trina Evans courageously filed a motion to continue the trial, contending the findings of the psychiatrists were grossly inaccurate; the motion was denied.

This is only part one of an incredibly tragic story that has taken an astonishing turn of events. With the insanity plea thrown into the mix, the trial has already sparked outrage within the community, and numerous protests have already begun in downtown Mansfield. Was Larry Evans completely under the reign of a psychotic breakdown, or were the killings calculated by an intelligent, cold-blooded killer who knows the inner workings of the criminal justice system?

There is a growing, and all-too-realistic fear that Larry Evans may be out on our streets one day soon. While incarcerated, Larry has sworn to finish the job he started—a job that includes killing Trina and Kimberly.

On Tuesday, September 2, a three-judge panel (two, actually, since the third fell asleep) deliberated for only ten minutes after listening only to the testimony of one witness, a psychiatrist for the defense. The judges returned an appalling, and shocking, verdict of not-guilty by reason of insanity. A potential mass murderer may be on our streets in less than two years, as Larry Evans attempted to shoot and kill upwards of 15 people that night. At the announcement of the verdict, the courtroom erupted, stunning the victims, including Trina Evans (pictured above).

The second part of this story will focus on what went wrong during the trial, and how a historic lack of injustice could possibly be rectified. To hear Trina Evans' own thoughts on the verdict, listen here. WCI's Susan Murphy-Milano wrote her own blog on the tragedy when it occurred in December.

As for Trina and Tess Evans (pictured left with Brian), they are slowly picking up the pieces and holding their breaths.

Note: I will be discussing the case again on War On Crime radio with host, Levi Page, Sunday, Sept. 7th, at 10pm EDT:

1 comment:

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