Gary Evans (serial killer)
October 7, 1954|
Troy, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 14, 1998(aged 43)|
Cause of death
|suicide, jumped off bridge|
|died before trial|
Span of killings
|February, 1985–October, 1997|
|State(s)||New York, Florida, Massachusetts|
|May 27, 1998|
Gary Charles Evans (October 7, 1954 – August 14, 1998) was a confessed serial killer in and around the Capital District of Upstate New York. His penchant for stealing antiques and his multiple escapes from custody — including one that ended in his death — made him headline news in the area on numerous occasions.
Evans was born in Troy, New York to Roy Evans and Flora Mae Lee. As a child, he suffered beatings at the hands of both parents, and claimed that he was raped by his father when he was eight. Flora Mae Evans was a mentally ill woman who attempted suicide on numerous occasions, once misfiring a weapon and accidentally shooting her husband in the shoulder. His parents divorced in 1968, and his mother remarried and divorced four times before coming out as a lesbian when Gary was seventeen. In the summer of 1968, Evans lived with his older sister and her husband in Cohoes, New York, after his parents divorced. Evans' brother-in-law was a violent man, and physically abused Gary and his sister. The abuse prompted Gary to return to his mother.
Beginning in early adolescence, Evans often ran away from home, stealing from local drug dealers to survive. He spent 90 days in a county jail for breaking into a house in 1970. In the mid-1970s, Evans shared an apartment with two old neighborhood friends, Michael Falco, who practiced zoosadism and bestiality, and Timothy Rysedorph. He also stepped up his thievery by studying antiques and jewelry. Evans became adept at speaking with antiques dealers and pretending to be a dealer himself, all the while casing for ways that he could break into the establishments unnoticed while Falco or Rysedorph assisted. On one occasion, he was stymied by a shop's alarm system and resorted to tunneling under the outside wall to get in undetected. Evans was convicted of 15 antiques-related felonies during his life.
Early prison time and escape
Evans's lengthy prison record started on January 13, 1977, when he was sentenced for a burglary in Essex County, New York and sent to Clinton Correctional Facility. While he was in Clinton, he met and befriended "Son of Sam" Killer, David Berkowitz. Evans, Berkowitz, and a few other inmates studied weight lifting together, with Evans as the mentor. David Berkowitz was transferred to Sullivan Correctional Facility in the late 70s and never saw Evans again. Berkowitz wrote "kites" to Evans (kites are short letters inmates write each other to communicate and pass time in prison). In 2005 it was discovered that Evans had kept these prison kite letters, probably planning to make money from selling them at auction.
Evans was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility and paroled on March 31, 1980, but was quickly back in jail for possession of stolen property while on parole.
His name first came to public light on June 12, 1980, when he escaped over the wall of the Rensselaer County jail. He fled to the Troy Public Library, where police apprehended him on the outside ledge while onlookers cheered. Evans was treated as an extreme escape risk from then on, and was caught planning escapes on more than one occasion. With the additional escape conviction, Evans was sentenced on September 11, 1980, to Clinton Correctional and paroled from Attica Correctional Facility on December 29, 1982. He was arrested twice more the following spring and was in county jail until his early release on March 31, 1984.
Disappearances and murders (1980s)
Evans immediately resumed his antiques and jewelry scams with his partners. On February 16, 1985, Evans and Falco burgled a flea market in East Greenbush, New York. About a week later, Falco became the first known associate of Evans to disappear. Evans convinced local criminals and law enforcement that Falco had fled to California. Only 13 years later would he reveal that he had shot Falco to death, rolled his body in a sleeping bag and disposed of it in a swamp near his sister's home in Lake Worth, Florida. Evans recounted that he thought Falco had stolen merchandise from him and that Falco would report him to the authorities.
Evans returned from Florida to Troy in April and, on April 21, 1985, stole $12,000 from local drug dealers. That led to a high-speed police pursuit through Cohoes and landed Evans back in custody. He was sentenced to another 2-to-4 years in Sing Sing the following July. The police being unaware that Falco was dead, let alone that Evans had killed him, Evans was paroled on March 1, 1988.
Soon after his release from Sing Sing, Evans started working with another neighborhood thief, Damien Cuomo (born September 10, 1961). Evans and Cuomo targeted a coin and jewelry store owned by 63-year-old Douglas J. Berry in Watertown, New York, several hours drive away from the Capital District. On September 8, Evans and Cuomo broke into Berry's store and, when Berry awoke in the back room, Evans shot him to death.
On December 27, 1989, less than four months after Berry's murder, Cuomo left his apartment with Evans and was never seen alive again. Not until his 1998 confessions did Evans recount that he shot Cuomo to death soon after they left Cuomo's apartment and buried his body nearby. Similar to Falco four years prior, Evans believed Cuomo had been stealing from him and that he would turn him over to police. Evans convinced Cuomo's girlfriend (and mother of his child) that Cuomo had abandoned them and fled the area voluntarily.
In October 1991, Evans spent two weeks on the roof of a building in Little Falls, New York casing a coin and jewelry shop on the first floor which was owned by Gregory Jouben, 36. On October 17, 1991, Evans walked into Jouben's shop, asked him to price a piece of merchandise, and then shot him to death. The small community in sparsely populated Herkimer County was outraged by one of the few murders of the year in the area.
In 1993, Evans stole over 800 antiques from a group shop in Quechee, Vermont. Evans used an engine crane to steal a thousand-pound bench out of an Albany cemetery, but he was arrested when his fence became nervous and turned him in. In early 1994, Evans agreed to assist the authorities by obtaining information on Jeffrey Williams, who was implicated in the high-profile murder of Karolyn Lonczak. When Williams was found guilty, Evans was released on February 12, 1994, with police still unaware that Evans himself had killed at least four people at that point.
Police needed Evans to stay clean before testifying against Williams. Instead, on March 20, 1994, Evans stole a valuable first American edition of the Havell of London printing of John James Audubon's Birds of America out of a library in Woodstock, Vermont. When Evans tried to sell the book through a prison inmate, he was turned in and wound up in federal prison. (The recovered book sold for over $300,000 at an auction in 2002.) With the shortened sentence he received for returning the book, Evans was released on June 6, 1996.
After his 1996 release, Evans reunited with Rysedorph, and they continued committing burglaries. In January 1997, a shop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts was burgled of $80,000 in merchandise. The following July, Evans sold antique jewelry in Albany which police later linked to the Great Barrington burglary.
In 1997 Evans took up building and construction in Texas while he was avoiding public attention and probation while he was sought after by his probation officer P. H. Roley, but soon after he was traced by sheriff John L. Langston and soon vanished for months.
Manhunt leading to the end
Evans jumped probation on October 3, 1997. Early the following morning, Rysedorph made a phone call to his wife and was never heard from again. That morning, Evans shot Rysedorph to death when he had his back turned and then dismembered him with a chainsaw. Evans had suspected Rysedorph of stealing from him and also claimed Rysedorph tricked him into thinking Falco had stolen from him 13 years earlier. The timing of Evans jumping probation and Rysedorph's disappearance was too coincidental causing authorities to suspect that Rysedorph was dead and that Evans was involved. They began a nationwide manhunt that lasted almost eight months. With the aid of Damien Cuomo's girlfriend, they finally caught up with Evans. On May 27, 1998, Evans was arrested without incident near St. Johnsbury, Vermont, near where he was living in a tent as a survivalist.
In reality, Evans had committed perfect murders, three of his victims unrecovered and two others a fair distance away, with no apparent connection to him. On June 18, 1998, although police had little hope of bringing murder charges, Evans surprised them by confessing to the murders of Falco, Cuomo and Rysedorph. He aided police in recovering all three bodies, including Falco's in Florida. Later, Evans also admitted to the murders of Berry and Jouben. The local news was abuzz with reports that their most notorious thief and burglar was actually a serial killer.
Evans was indicted on eight counts of murder in Rensselaer County, New York on August 12, 1998, for the deaths of Falco, Cuomo and Rysedorph. Because Rysedorph's murder involved him witnessing Falco's murder and because it occurred after New York reinstated the death penalty in 1995, Evans was eligible to be executed for his crimes. The following day, he was arraigned on another count of murder in Little Falls for Jouben's death.
The day after his Little Falls arraignment, Evans was being transported back to Rensselaer County Jail from an Albany court. Unbeknownst to authorities, Evans had a handcuff key shoved deep into his sinus cavity and managed to free his hands while in the police van. When they reached the Troy-Menands Bridge, Evans suddenly kicked out the side window of the vehicle, jumped out and started running. When police cornered him, Evans leaped off the bridge and plunged to his death into the shallows of the Hudson River over 80 feet below. When authorities retrieved his body they found the handcuff key up his nose and a razor blade taped to his ankle.
- "[untitled page]". Marijuana Library.org. quoting and republishing: Fitzpatrick, Edward (1998-12-06). "Snitches come with a price". Times Union (Albany, NY).
- M. William Phelps (2005-06-05), Every Move You Make, Pinnacle Books ISBN 0-7860-1695-7
- Albany Times-Union, 1998-06-28, page A6
- Stewart, Barbara (15 August 1998). "Shackled Convict Leaps to Death in Hudson". The New York Times.
- "[Report of Evans's murder indictments]". MSNBC via Findlaw. 13 August 1998.
- Utica Observer-Dispatch report about Phelps's book and Evans's murder of local jeweler Jouben[dead link]
- PDF (752 bytes)[dead link]
- Hewett, David (April 2002). "Top Lot in Northeast's Big March Sale Has Grisly History". Maine Antique Digest. Article regarding the Audubon book auction and Evans's theft
- "You Can Run, but You Can't Hide". Maine Antique Digest. 1998. Report of Evans's death and thefts
- AP report during Evans's confessions[dead link]
- Albany Times-Union report of Evans's indictments and facing the death penalty[dead link]
- Albany Times-Union report of Evans's indictments and confession[dead link]
- Lists three of Evans' terms in state prison