WATERLIVET, MI — Donald Leroy Evans entered the world on July 5, 1957. Four decades later, he left it a worse place for his ever having been here.
Before Evans died in 1999 at the hand of a fellow death row inmate, he was convicted of raping and strangling Beatrice Louise Routh, a 10-year-old homeless girl. Two years later, he was convicted for fatally choking Ira Jean Smith, a Fort Lauderdale prostitute. Police also suspected Evans of 12 other unsolved murders. Previously, Evans had done time for rape.
In addition, Evans “confessed” to killing at least 60 people in total, spinning tales that sent authorities on a multi-state hunt for bodies and evidence that proved fruitless. He simply wasted the authorities’ time and resources, the taxpayers’ money, and toyed with the hope for closure among loved ones of numerous victims.
After passing felon Jimmie Mack fatally stabbed Evans with a handmade shank en route to the shower in the Mississippi State Penitentiary, Harrison County District Attorney Cono Caranna noted, “We don’t mourn him. We simply close his file.”
Donald Leroy Evans grew up among a family of nine children in the rural farming community of Waterlivet, Michigan. Evans exhibited strange behavior early on and, reportedly, he attempted suicide at 16 with roach poison, leading to his first stay in a psychiatric facility.
From there, Evans contended with mental illness in and out of jails, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps, which booted him out for suffering from a “paranoid personality.” His travels then took him cross-country in random fashion.
Following a 1984 hospital stint, a psychiatrist warned that “[Evans] shouldn’t be on the street and that he would hurt somebody.” The right people failed to heed those words and, two years later, Evans forced a woman in Galveston, Texas, to perform oral sex on him at knifepoint. He got 15 years for the crime and served just five.
On August 1, 1991, the recently paroled Evans abducted little Beatrice Louise Routh from a beach in Gulfport, Mississippi. He raped, tortured, and murdered the child, then dumped her body in a wooded area. A medical examiner later reported that Beatrice was “conscious and could feel pain” during the horror that Evans inflicted upon her.
Cops picked Evans up in Colorado. Reportedly upset over never having killed a child before, Evans quickly admitted to murdering Beatrice and demanded the death penalty. His confessions hardly stopped there, though.
Evans claimed to have raped countless women in public parks and rest stops throughout America. He further stated that he’d murdered a minimum of 60 victims in more than 20 states.
Law-enforcement agencies took Evans’s words seriously, but acted on them with caution. Gulfport Police Chief George Payne told the press:
“You’re not going to see us do a Henry Lucas kind of thing. You’re going to see this thing done right, by the numbers, right down the line.”
Payne was referring to the notorious Henry Lee Lucas, another drifting serial slayer who boasted of killing more than 600 and sending authorities on all manner of costly and unproductive wild goose chases, many of which led to cold cases being closed that then had to be reopened.
Evans’ confessions did squander much of the authorities’ efforts, but they also did manage to connect him to at least 12 unsolved killings, and even got him convicted for one more.
In 1993, a court sentenced Evans to death for his crimes against Beatrice Routh. Three months later, investigators gathered sufficient evidence to try Evans for the 1985 strangling of Ira Jean Smith. In the short time between those proceedings, the once allegedly tearful and remorseful Evans seemed to have changed quite a bit.
Prior to going to trial for murdering Smith, Evans demanded his name be changed to “Hi Hitler” — which is reportedly what he thought Nazis said when saluting their leader — and that he be allowed to wear Ku Klux Klan robes in court. The state did not concede to Evans on those points, but they did deliver another murder conviction to him.
When death came for Donald Leroy Evans by way of a death row neighbor named Jimmie Mack, prosecutor Cono Caranna again spoke for many when he said:
“Most people, you’d be able to say something good about them. Everything I saw in [Evans’] life was pure self involvement and as close to evil as I’ve ever seen.”
Main photo: Donald Leroy Evans [Mississippi Department of Corrections]