UVA's Innocence Project Calls on FBI to Take Another Look at 25-Year-Old Cold Case

Jul 19, 2021

It’s been 25 years since two women were found dead at their Shenandoah National Park campsite.  Now, the FBI has put up posters, hoping to generate new leads, but the Innocence Project in Charlottesville has another idea.

Julie Williams and Lollie Winans
Credit FBI

Investigators tried for months to figure out who had killed Lollie Winans and Julie Williams without success according to Deirdre Enright, who headed the Innocence Project at UVA.

“Meanwhile, in ’96 and ’97, there were six other murders in central Virginia, like in a five mile radius," Enright explains.

Police thought they might be dealing with a serial killer but ended up charging three different men with the crimes.

“All three of those turn out to be the wrong people,” says Enright.

Deirdre Enright is director of UVA's Innocence Project
Credit law.virginia.edu

Then, in 2003, a new suspect appeared.

“There’s a guy named Richard Evonitz who’s just tried to abduct a girl in South Carolina," Enright explains. "She gets away.”

Police tracked Evonitz to Florida where he told his sister he had killed many more women, but when officers closed in, Evonitz killed himself.  Because his known victims had been teenagers, detectives branded him a pedophile and eliminated him as a suspect in the killing of Winans and Williams.  Enright thinks that was a mistake -- that kids were not his only obsession.  

“If you go through his pornography, like I did, you would know that that’s not the only thing he’s interested in,” says Enright.

Now, she’s calling on the FBI to compare DNA from the national parks murders to DNA from Evonitz.  The bureau did not respond to our request for an interview.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.