My sister has often told me that we’re more psychic than we give ourselves credit for. She tells me that she feels it’s possible that when I am inspired to write a book, that the killer’s spirit or energy has come to me. I admit that there have been many times that I’ve felt the magic of writing—the way everything just comes together flawlessly. Say, for example, a certain setting I’ve picked just turns out to be ideal for the plot of the book—in ways I hadn’t even imagined. These things rarely become clear until I’m well into writing the book or working through the editing stages. But I just recently discovered something that has given me goosebumps!!!
In 2013, I published Silent Graves. It was about a serial rapist and murderer in the area of Prince William County, Virginia. I set the book specifically in Dumfries, Virginia. I didn’t really know why honestly. It was just where the book had to be set.
The story was one that, in the original version, started out with a brief chapter from my killer’s POV:
“The graves lay silent. The graves lay untouched. The graves lay silent. The graves lay untouched.”
He tapped his hand against his thigh as he repeated the chant. He had done everything right. He had made sure not to leave anything behind and had chosen only those who deserved to suffer and die.
The way they’d tilt their heads back in laughter, flaunting what wasn’t theirs to own, draining their cocktails as if there was no tomorrow. No risk. Nothing to lose.
In a recent republishing of this book, I removed this from the beginning, but keep reading and you’ll see how incredibly close to real life it just may have come!
So, I’m on the internet researching something for a new book I’m working on, and I come across the headline “Missing persons cases along U.S. Route 29.” I click on it because the preview text was “Since 1996, there has been an unusually high number of cases involving young…” Turns out to be women.
Well, in Silent Graves, my victims were women—all lured out, abducted, raped, and murdered. The cases went back many years. A couple of the cold cases dated back decades—the women’s bodies found next to the highway.
Okay, so this suspected serial rapist and murderer—in real life—was believed to have taken women from along U.S. Route 29. Two men are suspected of being the Route 29 Stalker: Richard Evonitz and a Darrell Rice. Evonitz was an active serial from 1996-2002. Rice’s whereabouts is unknown since 1996.
Well, US Route 29 intersects with US Route 234 within Prince William County, VA, specially at Manassas! But there’s more…coincidence?
This is what I gleaned from quick research and how it coincides with my book—and I swear, I had no idea bout these real-life cases!
|My Book||Real Life|
|As I said above… The book is set in Prince William County, Virginia. US Route 234 is mentioned.||US Route 29 intersects with US Route 234 within Prince William County, VA, specially at Manassas.|
The first victim was found in a field, washed up after heavy rains. She was believed to have been buried next to a river.
In fact, I have my killer bury his victims next to the water.
My killer targeted married women who were cheating on their spouses.
In 1996, a woman by the name of Alicia Showalter Reynolds of Baltimore, Maryland, left her husband to go shopping with her mother. She was later found in an isolated field after vultures revealed her location.
Also, in 1996, the decomposed body of a young girl was found in a creek over State Route 3 in King George County (an hour and a half from PWC).
My killer had a horrid relationship with his father who taught him how to rape and murder—and took part early on.
He was a long-distance truck driver, and mention was made of running into Maryland.
The man wanted in Reynolds’ disappearance is Darrell Rice, also known to have used the alias, Larry Breeden. His current status and whereabouts are unknown. He’s been wanted since 1996!
Apparently, a week before Reynolds’ disappearance, a man approached a woman and created a ruse to get her into his pickup truck. She managed to get away, but police believe the man was trying to perfect his future abductions. The man and vehicle she described led them to Rice’s father.
Rice’s father was charged with the attempted abduction.
But Rice himself was also considered a person of interest in the case, but he did serve time in jail for trying to kidnap a female bicyclist.
Were father and son working together? Was the father grooming his son?
Also, Alicia Showalter Reynolds was from Maryland, just like one of the trucking runs in my book.
|In one graphic scene, I have a female victim tied to a bed and allude to rape.||In 2002, Evonitz kidnapped a young woman, tied her to a bed and raped her. She managed to escape, though, and this resulted in police surrounding him. Evonitz committed suicide by gunshot to avoid capture.|
|In my original version of the book, I listed years. One was 1998.||The real-life cases seemed to have started in 1996—the ones they know about anyway.|
These are just a few things that I found out from poking around the internet. And, I appreciate that not everything lines up exact—but damn!—it’s so close, it gave me the shivers!
Is the guy known as Darrell Rice, a.k.a. Larry Breeden, still out there and actively kidnapping, raping, and murdering women? Is he the Route 29 Stalker? Did his father groom him into that person? Or is the Route 29 Stalker, in fact, known serial killer, Richard Evonitz? Regardless, how many women did the Route 29 Stalker murder?
I must admit that I also found it interesting that I was drawn to return to Prince William County in my fiction. I spent one night with my husband in Dumfries, Virginia, on the way to Williamsburg several years ago. (Would have been before I wrote Silent Graves.) We had a horrible night sleep at the hotel near the highway. Trucks were running all night and the hotel overcharged, in my opinion. Anyway, it would seem an impression was made!
I wrote Silent Graves in 2013, and when approached by my publisher Bookouture for a series idea, I went right back to Virginia. I really liked the young cop from the Dumfries Police Department that I had met while writing. He was the one who first caught on there was a real problem in the county. I also met another officer, Becky Tulson, and her interaction and conversation with FBI Special Agent Brandon Fisher felt natural from the start. So, in my return to Prince William County, I brought those characters into my new Detective Amanda Steele series. But I ask myself, What keeps me anchored to Prince William County?
And… When the first lines of my killer’s chant came to me years ago, were they given to me through psychic intuition and based more in reality than I imagined, or was it just coincidence?
“The graves lay silent. The graves lay untouched.”
And I really have to wonder…
Are there graves still lying silent and untouched on the banks of some creek or river in the state of Virginia—and possibly in Prince William County, specifically?
Here is some interesting reading on the Route 29 Stalker, and you might find more by conducting your own internet searches. Feel free to share your knowledge or links in the comments. Please forgive me if I am off on a point here or there; I did the best I could to research this piece but may have overlooked something. (I am human. I also wrote this in a state of almost disbelief at the similarities between fiction and real life!)