When Kara Robinson was just 15 years old, she was kidnapped by a serial killer. Against all odds, she survived.
Challenges go viral on TikTok everyday. Sometimes it feels like an endless repetition of short video clips all riffing on the same idea. But sometimes, someone participating in one of those viral video challenges can post something so shocking, it causes viewers to stop in their tracks.
That's what happened when thousands upon thousands of TikTok users watched Kara Robinson use the "put a finger down if... " challenge to recount her horrifying ordeal at the hands of a serial killer (the clip got 3.1 million views and almost 700,000 likes; when she reposted it, it got another 1.1 million views). Robinson's answer to the challenge, which she shares, in-depth, in the new Oxygen special "Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story," airing Sunday, September 26 at 7/6c on Oxygen, was that she was kidnapped as a teen and managed to flee, ultimately leading police to her captor.
Kara Robinson's Kidnapping Story
On June 24, 2002, Kara Robinson, then 15, was watering flowers in a friend's front yard in Lexington, South Carolina. A man approached her, claiming he was selling magazines. He then put a gun to her neck, forced her into his vehicle and put her in a Rubbermaid container in the back, the New York Daily News reported in 2015.
Robinson was brought back to the man's apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, where he handcuffed and bound her. He drugged her and raped her repeatedly, and even forced her to watch the evening news to see there hadn't been a report of her kidnapping, according to a 2002 Washington Post report.
According to Robinson's recounting in the TikTok video, her family had called law enforcement and filed a report, but she was listed as a runway.
After 18 hours, Robinson's captor fell asleep. She was able to slip her way out of a handcuff and flee the apartment, according to the New York Daily News. Robinson had made it a point to memorize key details about her kidnapper and his apartment, which helped police locate the building. However, he was gone by the time police got there.
Who Was Kara Robinson's Kidnapper?
Kara Robinson was abducted by a man named Richard Evonitz. When authorities searched his apartment, they discovered evidence indicating he'd murdered three women in Virginia, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Sofia Silva, 16, had vanished while doing homework on her doorstep on September 9, 1996. Her body was found in a swamp a little over a month later. Sisters Kristin Lisk, 15, and Kati Lisk, 12 disappeared just months later on May 1, 1997. Their bodies were found in a river five days later, according to the New York Daily News.
Authorities suspected all three cases were linked. But they had no real leads until Robinson pointed them toward Evonitz's apartment.
Evonitz's depraved behavior came as a shock to those who knew him. Evonitz, who was 38 when Robinson escaped, was a Navy veteran who was awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal. He was apparently liked by those who knew him. He was married to a 19-year-old woman, who was visiting Walt Disney World with his mother when he held Robinson hostage in their home, The Washington Post reported.
But there were red flags. Evonitz had actually been arrested in Florida in 1987 for masturbating in front of a teenage girl. He was given three years probation for the incident, according to The Associated Press.
Inside Evonitz's home, police also found clues he was scouting out other victims. They discovered notes that had addresses of two other young girls, along with physical descriptions of them. When the families were informed, they said they had absolutely no idea Evonitz had been watching them, The Washington Post reported.
What Happened To Richard Evonitz?
Evonitz fled after Robinson escaped, calling his sister Jennifer Harris on the way. He confessed to his crimes, admitting he'd killed before and committed "more crimes than he can remember," Richland County, S.C., Sheriff Leon Lott said, according to The Washington Post.
Harris in turn called the authorities, revealing the Sarasota, Florida restaurant where they'd be able to find her brother.
They tracked Evonitz down on June 27 and a high-speed police chase ensued, eventually ending with Evonitz killing himself with a gunshot to the face.
At first, Robinson said she was upset Evonitz had died before he could go to trial.
"I wanted to go to trial and let him see me again and know I was his downfall," Robinson said on "America's Most Wanted," according to the New York Daily News. "I wanted him to look at me and know that choosing me was the biggest mistake he ever made."
In a recent TikTok video, she admitted her feelings have changed.
"I was pretty angry. Since then I've realized it's the best thing that could have happened. Not only did I not have to go through the three-ring circus that can be a court trial sometimes … I don't ever have to worry about him getting out of jail. … I feel very lucky that's not something I have to deal with," she said.
Where Is Kara Robinson Now?
Robinson spent her college years working with victim services and the DNA lab at Richland County Sheriff's Department, according to a 2020 BuzzFeed article. Afterward, she attended the police academy and was the only woman in her graduating class. During her time on the force, she investigated sex abuse cases.
Robinson eventually left the world of law enforcement behind to raise her two sons, who she home schools. She also decided to share her experience with others and become a motivational speaker.
"I tell my story, help to educate those who work with victims, and empower individuals to be the best version of themselves they can be, regardless of their past," her website reads.
To help kick start that phase of her career, Robinson turned to TikTok, according to BuzzFeed. There, she's shared her story and gives safety tips and advice on topics like processing trauma, talking to victims, and escaping restraints. She currently has more than 200,000 followers.
When asked by a follower if she was over what happened to her, Robinson responded, "I understand that is a common sentiment and something people may wonder, but here's the thing about trauma: You never truly get over it, you just get through it. And chances are, even if you choose not to be defined by that, as I do, that traumatic event put you on the path where you are today and made you who you are so you never truly get over it ... you get through it."
For more on Robinson's story, watch "Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story" on Sunday, September 26 at 7/6c on Oxygen.