A woman who survived being kidnapped by a serial killer when she was 15 years old has recounted how she ‘outsmarted’ her abductor, saying she studied his every move before engineering her escape.
Kara Robinson, 35, from Columbia, South Carolina, relived the harrowing 18 hours she spent held captive by Richard Evonitz nearly 20 years later in Oxygen’s new true-crime documentary, Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story.
‘Picking me was the greatest mistake he ever made,’ she said in the two-hour special, which was produced by kidnapping survivor and child safety activist Elizabeth Smart.
Horror: Kara Robinson, 35, from Columbia, South Carolina, relived being kidnapped by serial killer Richard Evonitz in Oxygen’s special Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story
Monster: Evonitz (right) held 15-year-old Robinson (left) captive for 18 hours and repeatedly sexually assaulted her before she escaped
Robinson was watering flowers by herself in her friend’s front yard on June 24, 2002, when a man she didn’t know pulled into the driveway and asked her if he could give her some magazines.
‘He leaned into hand them to me,’ she recalled. ‘As he was leaning in, I felt a red flag somewhere in my head, and the same time I felt that red flag, I felt a gun pressed to the side of my neck. He said, “If you scream. I will shoot you.”‘
Evonitz forced Robinson to get into a plastic container in the back of his car. She immediately started filing away information about her abductor, including the container’s serial number, which she memorized.
‘At that point, my brain shut off my emotions,’ she said. ‘I just went into survival mode.’
After driving her to his apartment, he handcuffed her wrists and bound her ankles before taking her inside, where he drugged and repeatedly raped her for 18 hours.
‘In that apartment, I knew what this man’s intentions were for me,’ she said. ‘While I was being assaulted, it felt like something that happened to someone else. I kind of shut off my brain and left my body.’
Robinson studied her abductor and his belongings while planning her escape, taking in everything from his kitchen magnets to the strands of long, red hair in his hairbrush.
Terrifying moment: Robinson was watering flowers by herself in her friend’s front yard (pictured) when she was abducted on June 24, 2002
Nightmare: Robinson said she shut off her emotions and went into ‘survival mode,’ recalling how she studied him and he objects in his apartment (pictured)
‘I can’t explain where it came from, there was just this voice that said my options were to do as I was told and to escape and to survive or to panic, to fight, and maybe die,’ she explained.
‘So I strong-willed myself into remaining as calm as I could for as long as I could.’
She remembered that at one point there was a gun within her reach, but she thought twice before acting rashly.
‘I thought for a moment about grabbing the gun and then I realized there was little chance I was going to win that fight,’ she said,
That reinforced the mantra that was running through her head: ‘Gather information, wait for him to become complement, escape.’
Robinson was able to free herself from her restraints the next morning while her abductor slept beside her in his bed. When she ran out the door, she flagged down a car and had the two men take her to Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
She helped identify her attacker, who fled to Sarasota, Florida, when he realized she had escaped. He killed himself after a police chase.
Trauma: ‘In that apartment, I knew what this man’s intentions were for me,’ she said. ‘While I was being assaulted, it felt like something that happened to someone else’
Escape: The next morning, she was able to free herself from her restraints, run outside, and flag down a car to take her to Richland County Sheriff’s Department
‘I was a little angry about that,’ Robinson told Fox News. ‘My feelings have gone back and forth over the years to feeling relief that he killed himself because I never had to go to trial. I never had to sit in a courtroom and talk about all the details of what happened to me. I never have to worry about him getting out or anything like that.’
Robinson later learned Evonitz was a serial killer after an investigation revealed that he had abducted and murdered Sofia Silva, 16, in 1996 and Kristen Lisk, 15, and her sister Kati, 12, in 1997, while living in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
Evonitz has been suspected of other murders, and before killing himself, he confessed a number of crimes to his sister, according to The Washington Post.
‘I’m angry now because I have a feeling he is responsible for other crimes,’ Robinson told Fox News. It’s now going to be very difficult to identify him as the person responsible for those crimes. And I think that we would have been able to link him to some things if it were not for the fact that he killed himself.’
There is also a part of her that wishes she could have confronted him.
‘I wanted him to know that I outsmarted him,’ she said. ‘I wanted him to know that in choosing me, I was not going to be his intended victim. He was the kind of offender who would stalk people. I was not in my normal place in my normal time, so I wasn’t an intended victim.
‘So I wanted him to know that choosing me, his victim of opportunity, was the biggest mistake that he could have ever made.’
Terrifying: Robinson (pictured with her father) later learned Evonitz was a serial killer after an investigation revealed that he murdered three other girls in Virginia.
Life-changing moment: Robinson helped identify her attacker, who fled to Sarasota, Florida, when he realized she had escaped. He killed himself after a police chase
The Oxygen special, with premiered last month and airs again on October 15, also touched upon her life after she was kidnapped and assaulted.
‘I did not want people to feel sorry for me. The worst thing in the world to hear or feel from someone, for me, was pity because I didn’t feel like I was a pitiful person. I didn’t feel like I was someone to be pitied,’ she said in the documentary.
‘I wanted people to view me in a way that was empowering, and when people looked at me with pity or they felt sorry for me, it made me feel weaker, and that’s not who I was. It’s not who I am.’
Both of her parents were overcome with emotion as they recalled the changes in their daughter’s personality when she returned home.
‘Kara used to be very affectionate. The child I got back was not huggy, not kissy,’ said her mom, Debra Johnson. ‘That was her coping mechanism. But it was beyond devastating.’
Her father, Ron Robinson, said she stopped calling him ‘daddy’ and started referring to him as ‘dad.’
‘I knew that had something to do with what happened to her,’ he said. ‘It broke my heart, but I understood why.’
Robinson didn’t receive counseling to cope with her trauma. She didn’t want to talk about it, and her mother refused to make her after everything she had been through.
New path: The experience inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement, and she later joined the police academy
Support: Robinson, who is now a motivational speaker, worked with fellow kidnapping survivor and child safety activist Elizabeth Smart (left), who produced her new Oxygen special
‘You would expect her to break down, but it’s almost like it didn’t really happen or something. She just wanted to erase that event out of her life it seemed like. We never spoke about it,’ recalled her former boyfriend Chris Putnam.
Robinson said she still suffers from dissociation from her body and turning off her emotions until this day.
The experience inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement. The summer after her abduction, she started working with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
She did administrative work in victim services and in the DNA lab for the rest of high school and college, which she paid for using the reward money she received for helping solve the murders of Evonitz’s victims in Virginia.
Robinson later joined the police academy and spent a few years working as a school resource officer. She then went into investigations, taking on sexual assault and child abuse cases, before finally returning to victim services.
She left law enforcement after having her two sons, but she is using her story of survival and work as a police officer to educate others as a motivational speaker.
‘I know that I was given the will to talk about this because I will help other people, so I have never thought, “Why me?” I’ve always known that it was me because I could handle this and I could help others with my story of survival,’ she said.
Robinson told Fox News that she chose to relive her past for the special because she wants to help others.
‘I realized that if I was going to do that, I had to tell my story…I wanted to be in control of it. I wanted to make sure the story was told accurately,’ she said.
‘So I reached out to my friend Elizabeth Smart. I told her this is something I wanted to do. She recommended the team that I ended up working with and they have just been so fantastic through the process.’