Harrington case reminding many of Route 29 Stalker

Published: Feb. 8, 2010 at 9:25 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2010 at 4:10 AM EST
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Alicia Showalter Reynolds
Alicia Showalter Reynolds

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) – The search for Morgan Harrington's killer continues. The skeletal remains of the Virginia Tech student were found two weeks ago on a farm off Route 29. Her murder is reminding many of a cold case from 14 years ago: The abduction and murder of a woman by the Route 29 Stalker.

A young woman goes missing. She's last seen on the side of the road. Weeks later her remains are found in a remote area near Route 29.  This isn't a description of what happened to Harrington -- this is the story of Alicia Showalter Reynolds.

For 46 days in the winter of 1996, the Route 29 Stalker terrorized women.

He would flash his lights and gesture from his window. When the women would stop he would tell them there was something wrong with their car. Maybe sparks coming from underneath.

In all 23 women were flagged down. At least three got in the man's truck, and just as suddenly as it began, it stopped the day Alicia Showalter Reynolds was murdered.

"We both had a lot of admiration for her grit and determination," said her father, Harley Showalter. "And her spunkyness… her brilliance and her beauty."

On March 2, 1996, 25-year-old grad student and wife Alicia was driving from Maryland to Charlottesville to meet her mother for a shopping trip.  She left early in the morning and traveled along Route 29 – and by mid- morning?

"She didn't show," said her mother, Sadie.

Alicia was gone.

Her car was found on Route 29. Her credit cards and coat in nearby by towns.

"Where is she? Where could she be? What is her state of mind? What's her state of body?" said. Harley.

She went missing for two long months. Thousands of tips poured in to police. Investigators released sketches of a suspect. Dozens of women began to come forward saying he had stopped them too.

Several drivers passing by say they saw Alicia and a man looking over her cars engine on the side of Route 29. Several more drivers told police they saw Alicia get in that man's pickup truck.

"I felt right from the beginning she was gone," Sadie said. "My biggest fear during those 9 1/2 weeks was not finding her body. That was such a big fear."

It ended May 7 when a man saw buzzards circling a clear cut field in Lignum, Va.  He had found Alicia's remains.  Fourteen years later, no one has ever been arrested.

The Showalters say Mark Evontiz could have been their daughter's killer. After his suicide in 2002 he was linked to the murders of three Spotsylvania County girls in 1996, but as far as the Showalters know his DNA has never been tested.

"If he was stopping that many women," Sadie said, "how is it that they haven't found him yet? They haven't been able to charge anybody with the crime."

Brian Hermsneier remembers Alicia every day. He still keeps a cross in his front yard along Route 29 where police found her car. People still leaves flowers there today.

"It's a little scary to think that it could happen, and that it could happen again," he said.

The discovery of missing Morgan Harrington's remains has the region once again on edge. For the Showalters, Morgan's story was startling.

"What really hit me was that it was found on Route 29. For some reason that emotionally was difficult for me," Sadie said.

Harley was struck by the cleverness of the killer in both cases.

"So ironically similar just kind of like got his victim and then disappeared," he said. "And they were found in very remote areas. Makes you wonder."

When Morgan was still missing, Sadie wrote a letter to the Harrington's. The Showalters -- more than anyone else -- know their pain.

"We knew what that felt like for her to all of a sudden be gone and not know," Sadie said.

"We just hoped that they wouldn't have to wait as long as they did," Harley said.

Alicia's case is now cold, the lead investigator recently retired. If you have any information on that could help state police, call 1-888-300-0156.

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