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The Rest Area Killer: The Brutal Crimes of Donald Leroy Evans

This killer's crimes will leave you with nightmares.

donald leroy evans
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  • Photo Credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been creeped out by highway rest areas. Maybe it was those long drives to Florida for family vacations in the 1980s, when we’d see creepy dudes lurking in rest area parking lots. Maybe it was the fact that I’ve been reading true crime news stories and books since I was young. Whatever the reason, the story of roaming killer Donald Leroy Evans is the stuff that my nightmares are made of. 

In many ways, Donald Evans was similar to Henry Lee Lucas, a drifter killer who, after his capture, admitted to hundreds of murders coast-to-coast. Most of Lucas’ claims turned out to be dead ends, but authorities know he did kill many people throughout his lifetime. Evans made similar confessions, and it is still unknown how many were true.

Related: The Yosemite Killer: Cary Stayner's Twisted Mind 

Donald Evans was born in Michigan in 1957 and displayed troubling behavior as a young boy. He attempted suicide at the age of 16, which led to his being locked up–the first of many. He was later kicked out of the Marine Corps for having a paranoid personality. In 1984, Evans was released from another stint in a psychiatric facility, even though a doctor said that he shouldn’t be on the street because “he would hurt somebody.”

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  • Photo Credit: Wikipedia

In 1986, Evans was convicted of rape in Galveston, Texas, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was paroled after only five years and returned to Galveston in 1991. Evans was not on the outside for very long, however. On August 1, 1991, the ex-convict snatched a 10-year-old homeless girl from a park in Gulfport, Mississippi. Evans raped and strangled the young girl and dumped her body. Four days later, Evans was arrested in Colorado, and, distraught over killing a child, admitted to the little girl’s murder and announced he wanted the death penalty. 

After he confessed to the 10-year-old girl’s murder, Evans went on a confession spree. He told authorities that he had killed more than 70 people across 20 states while he drifted aimlessly around the United States between 1977 and 1986. Evans added that he had abducted most of his victims from rest areas and parks. Investigators were initially skeptical of Evans’ claims, as they did not want to get conned into a situation like the one that had occurred with Henry Lee Lucas in the mid-1980s. But they were still obliged to look into his story. 

Related: House of Horrors: The Heinous Crimes of Fred and Rosemary West  

After a thorough investigation of Evans’ confessions, police were in fact able to tie him to the murders of Ira Jean Smith and Janet Movich, due to his in-depth knowledge of details from the two crime scenes. Both women were killed in Florida in 1985, so the investigations into their murders had long gone cold. In 1993, Evans was sentenced to death in Mississippi for the killing of the 10-year-old girl, and in 1995 he received an additional life sentence for the Florida murder of Ira Jean Smith.

On January 5, 1999, while awaiting the death penalty in Mississippi, 41-year-old Donald Evans was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate while in the shower. When he died, Evans took the true number of victims he had killed to his grave. The actual tally will likely never be known.