Not many confront a serial killer and live to tell the tale, but in the case of Kara Robinson Chamberlain, she not only escaped the clutches of a horrific serial killer, but she also helped police put a stop to the murderous madman!
Kara is now 35, but when she was 15, she was kidnapped by a serial killer.
It all started when she was watering plants and bushes in the front yard of a friend’s house in West Columbia, SC, in the early afternoon of June 24, 2002. A Trans Am pulled into the driveway, and an affable guy in his late 30s, wearing jeans, a button-down shirt, and a baseball cap, got out to offer some “pamphlets.”
“He said, ‘Are your parent’s home?’ and I said, ‘Well, this isn’t my house. This is my friend’s house,'” Kara told PEOPLE Magazine. “And he said, ‘Okay, well what about her parents, are her parent’s home?’ And I said, ‘No, her mom’s not home right now.'”
“I’ll just leave these with you,” he told her as he approached.
Suddenly, the man, who was later identified as serial killer Richard Evonitz, pulled out a gun, pressed it to her neck, and forced her into a large storage bin that was stowed on the back seat of the car.
As he drove towards his apartment, Kara began counting the turns he made in hopes of later finding her way home again.
She noticed details: He was listening to a classic rock station and smoking Marlboro red cigarettes. She even memorized the serial number on the inside of the plastic container that he had forced her to kneel inside.
“My survival mechanism said, ‘All right, let’s gather as much information as we can,'” she says. “Fear barely even kicked in … the human will to survive and the survival mechanism really just can’t be underestimated.”
On his way to his apartment, he pulled over and restrained her with handcuffs and put a gag in her mouth. He then took her to his cluttered apartment — also home to a guinea pig, a lizard, and other small animals — and sexually assaulted her for 18 hours.
Despite fearing for her life, Kara tried to gain the man’s trust and offered to help clean his apartment. In doing so, she took note of things that she thought could identify him should she escape, like the names of his doctor and dentist that were written on his refrigerator.
In the dawn hours, while Evonitz was asleep, Kara was able to free one hand from a pair of handcuffs and unclip a leg restraint. She quietly tiptoed to the front door and made indeed made good on her escape.
She ran towards a car in the parking lot and asked the two people inside to take her to the police station, where she recounted her ordeal. She was asked by the officers to take them back to Evonitz’s apartment, and because of her clear thinking and keen powers of observation, they found his lair.
However, by the time authorities got there, Evonitz had fled. Inside his apartment, they found a locked foot-locker with newspaper clippings about the unsolved murders of three girls: Sofia Silva and sisters Kati and Kristin Lisk. They had all gone missing in Spotsylvania County, Va., more than five years before Kara’s abduction.
Police tracked Evonitz to Sarasota, Fla., and a high-speed chase there ended when he ran over spike strips on the highway and was attacked by a police dog. Evonitz then shot himself.
For her help in solving the murders of Sofia and the Lisk sisters, Kara received $150,000 in reward money and was able to meet their families.
“It was one of the most important things that has ever happened to me,” she says. “Because it brought home the importance of what I did. Because I felt like, ‘Wow, I’m actually giving these families something that they never would’ve gotten without me.’ Just the closure of knowing that the person responsible for their daughters’ death is no longer here.”
Encouraged by her ordeal and escape, and with the support of the Sheriff who worked her case, Kara eventually spent a few years in law enforcement and as a victim’s advocate. She hung up her badge after her two kids were born, but she still reaches out to victims and fellow survivors like herself.
Today, Kara runs a website where she shares her story and spreads “hope and encouragement to other survivors.”
She also uses social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to help spread the word and “provides advice on how to heal, how to support, how to speak to victims of crime, and how to embrace a survivor mentality.”
“One of the things is helping women to see themselves in others because I think that it can be so empowering when we just speak to someone who understands what we’ve been through,” Kara says. “I would love to help them tell their stories in a way that really lets them take ownership of the story and really empowers them to take back the power.”
She is also working with a consultant to try and overhaul victim representation in the media.
“In the same way, there would be an intimacy coordinator on a set. Someone that is checking in with everyone and making sure, if there’s a scene where there’s intimacy, they’re checking in with the actors, and they’re making sure they’re comfortable at every point of the game,” she says. “There should be someone who’s doing that when someone is working with victims. There is no media standard for how victims’ stories are told, how they’re represented, how they’re treated.”
She also hopes one day to investigate other possible unknown victims connected to Evonitz. “It is my gut belief that he was responsible for more than the three murders we know about.”
She is also in the process of writing a book.