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Police say an eighth grader found dying on a roadway was a hit-and-run victim, but his parents believe he was murdered.
On June 4th, 1989, in Spokane, Washington, two friends on their way home were startled when their headlights revealed a body stretched out in the road. Thirteen year-old Russell Evans had apparently been struck by a car. He was barely alive, calling out for someone named Brian. Russell was admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital at 1:30 AM. Doctors struggled through the night to save his life as his parents stood by. The emergency team worked frantically, but by morning, Russell Evans was dead.
Russell was an active and popular 8th grader at Libby Middle School in Spokane. By the age of 13, he was already 6’3” tall. Aaron Abrhamson was one of his best friends:
“We did everything together. He was at my house every day and he was very well-liked. He had a good sense of humor. And he got along with pretty much everybody… he had no problems.”
On the night of June 3rd, in the hours before Russell died, he was with Aaron and other friends hanging out at a local park. It was a typical summer evening, until they were approached by two other teenagers. It escalated into an argument over Aaron’s girlfriend. Aaron said he was threatened and that Russell came to his defense:
“One of the teenagers said, ‘You’d better watch out, because maybe I’ll send my homeboys on you.’ But I didn’t really think much of it. So I just turned around and we left, and he got in his car with his friend and took off.”
After leaving the park, Russell spent the rest of the evening at a friend’s house. Then, at about 12:30 AM, he called his father to say that he was heading home.
Based on evidence found at the scene, police constructed a hit-and-run scenario. Spokane Police Lt. James Hill: ”On impact with the vehicle, he was separated from his shoes. He finally came to rest about seventy-five feet from where we think he was struck.”
Forensic pathologist George Lindholm concluded that Russell was likely struck in the back by a bumper. However, his father, John Evans, had a different opinion:
“We looked at him after he died and I thought he had been in a fight. Later on, when the police started talking about hit-and-run, his mom and I just couldn’t buy that. The injuries weren’t there.”
John and Sue Evans obtained copies of the official police report, complete with photographs. They noted that Russell’s shoes didn’t have their laces; they had been torn out. To Russell’s parents, it seemed like an important clue. The Evans’ returned to the scene of the accident with Sandy Ferris, the woman who had found Russell. Something didn’t feel right to Russell’s father:
“There was blood on the shoelace. Now tell me, how do you get blood on the shoelace if you’re struck and driven out of your shoes and thrown fifty feet down the hill?”
John and Sue became convinced that their son had been struck by something other than a hit-and-run driver, and they hired their own pathologist to investigate. While he did conclude that Russell had been hit by a car, the pathologist also told John that he found evidence of a struggle:
“This pathologist came back to us with the findings that Russell had been in a physical altercation prior to his death. If a body flies through the air, when that body hits the pavement, there would be some massive scraping. Russell did not have this.”
Based on their research, Russell’s father reconstructed his son’s final moments:
“I think it was a fight, going back up the hill. According to his hands, he got his licks in. He had finger bruises on his face and the side of the nose. Finger bruising on his upper arms, as though he were being held.”
Due to the allegations, the boys involved in the altercation with Russell and Aaron were given polygraph tests. They all passed.
Sandy Ferris, the woman who found Russell at the scene, claimed Russell was calling out to someone for help that night:
“When I first got there, the first thing I asked him was what happened. And he started calling for Brian. He said it more like the person was in listening in the distance, that his friend should have been there. After the police had gotten there, and they had started to put Russell in the ambulance, we saw a boy in white shorts up in the bushes and he was running up the hill. I tried to tell the policeman this a couple of times, but he kept telling me to get on the sidewalk. I thought maybe that could have been Brian.”
John Evans knew a friend of Russell’s named Brian and asked him if he knew anything:
“I asked Brian what he was wearing that night, and he said ‘Well, I was wearing white shorts and white t-shirt. But I was nowhere around.’ Then, later down the line, when the police questioned him, he denied owning that kind of outfit.”
Police speculate that the man Sandy saw running off was simply a curious citizen that heard the commotion and went out to take a look. But when Sue Evans arrived at the hospital that night, someone named Brian had just called the emergency ward to ask about Russell. She finds this more than suspicious:
“Who would have known about this? Unless somebody named Brian was at that scene, who he was calling for.”
Russell’s father John remains suspicious about the events of that night:
“There may be one or two people that know more than they’re telling, and the reason they’re probably not telling is that they are afraid for their lives.”
Evidence from the scene fully convinced Russell’s parents that he had been attacked and murdered, while police still believe Russell was the victim of a hit-and-run. However, officially, the case remains unsolved.