Police say an eighth grader found dying on a roadway was a hit-and-run victim, but his parents believe he was murdered.

Russell Evans

Russell was found lying in the street

CASE DETAILS

On June 4th, 1989, in Spokane, Washington, two friends on their way home were startled when their headlights revealed a body stretched out in the road. Thirteen year-old Russell Evans had apparently been struck by a car. He was barely alive, calling out for someone named Brian. Russell was admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital at 1:30 AM. Doctors struggled through the night to save his life as his parents stood by. The emergency team worked frantically, but by morning, Russell Evans was dead.

Was it a hit and run?

Russell was an active and popular 8th grader at Libby Middle School in Spokane. By the age of 13, he was already 6’3” tall. Aaron Abrhamson was one of his best friends:

“We did everything together. He was at my house every day and he was very well-liked. He had a good sense of humor. And he got along with pretty much everybody… he had no problems.” 

On the night of June 3rd, in the hours before Russell died, he was with Aaron and other friends hanging out at a local park. It was a typical summer evening, until they were approached by two other teenagers. It escalated into an argument over Aaron’s girlfriend. Aaron said he was threatened and that Russell came to his defense:

“One of the teenagers said, ‘You’d better watch out, because maybe I’ll send my homeboys on you.’ But I didn’t really think much of it. So I just turned around and we left, and he got in his car with his friend and took off.

His shoes and blood were far from body

After leaving the park, Russell spent the rest of the evening at a friend’s house. Then, at about 12:30 AM, he called his father to say that he was heading home.

Based on evidence found at the scene, police constructed a hit-and-run scenario. Spokane Police Lt. James Hill:

“On impact with the vehicle, he was separated from his shoes. He finally came to rest about seventy-five feet from where we think he was struck.” 

Forensic pathologist George Lindholm concluded that Russell was likely struck in the back by a bumper. However, his father, John Evans, had a different opinion:

“We looked at him after he died and I thought he had been in a fight. Later on, when the police started talking about hit-and-run, his mom and I just couldn’t buy that. The injuries weren’t there.” 

John and Sue Evans obtained copies of the official police report, complete with photographs. They noted that Russell’s shoes didn’t have their laces; they had been torn out. To Russell’s parents, it seemed like an important clue. The Evans’ returned to the scene of the accident with Sandy Ferris, the woman who had found Russell. Something didn’t feel right to Russell’s father:

“There was blood on the shoelace. Now tell me, how do you get blood on the shoelace if you’re struck and driven out of your shoes and thrown fifty feet down the hill?” 

John and Sue became convinced that their son had been struck by something other than a hit-and-run driver, and they hired their own pathologist to investigate. While he did conclude that Russell had been hit by a car, the pathologist also told John that he found evidence of a struggle:

“This pathologist came back to us with the findings that Russell had been in a physical altercation prior to his death. If a body flies through the air, when that body hits the pavement, there would be some massive scraping. Russell did not have this.” 

Based on their research, Russell’s father reconstructed his son’s final moments:

“I think it was a fight, going back up the hill. According to his hands, he got his licks in.  He had finger bruises on his face and the side of the nose. Finger bruising on his upper arms, as though he were being held.”

Due to the allegations, the boys involved in the altercation with Russell and Aaron were given polygraph tests. They all passed.

Sandy Ferris, the woman who found Russell at the scene, claimed Russell was calling out to someone for help that night:

“When I first got there, the first thing I asked him was what happened. And he started calling for Brian. He said it more like the person was in listening in the distance, that his friend should have been there. After the police had gotten there, and they had started to put Russell in the ambulance, we saw a boy in white shorts up in the bushes and he was running up the hill. I tried to tell the policeman this a couple of times, but he kept telling me to get on the sidewalk. I thought maybe that could have been Brian.”

John Evans knew a friend of Russell’s named Brian and asked him if he knew anything:

“I asked Brian what he was wearing that night, and he said ‘Well, I was wearing white shorts and white t-shirt. But I was nowhere around.’ Then, later down the line, when the police questioned him, he denied owning that kind of outfit.” 

Police speculate that the man Sandy saw running off was simply a curious citizen that heard the commotion and went out to take a look. But when Sue Evans arrived at the hospital that night, someone named Brian had just called the emergency ward to ask about Russell. She finds this more than suspicious:

“Who would have known about this? Unless somebody named Brian was at that scene, who he was calling for.”

Russell’s father John remains suspicious about the events of that night:

“There may be one or two people that know more than they’re telling, and the reason they’re probably not telling is that they are afraid for their lives.”

Evidence from the scene fully convinced Russell’s parents that he had been attacked and murdered, while police still believe Russell was the victim of a hit-and-run.  However, officially, the case remains unsolved.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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27 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Brian, what is your opinion of the case? Do you have a theory of your own?

    I understand that you were not living in Spokane at the time of the murder, and you weren’t available during the UM interview. Twenty plus years later, what do you think really happened?

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      Those of us that NEED to know what happened, know. Why the interest in what he thinks? Do you know what happened to him? He was supposed to talk to the police, and give the details of what really happened…..the details that we now know. However, when we actually need his testimony….the police chose to not respond in a timely fashion to an accident involving his sister….and she died. It took over 2 hours for help to reach her. After that, Brian kept quiet. Wouldn’t you?

      Reply

  2. BestfriendAaron

    I miss you every day old friend my life has never been the same since they took you from us I still dream about all the games of basketball we played together all the hrs spent on the ORIGINAL Nintendo I knw in my heart you were murdered what car bumper sits high enough to hit someone that tall in the back The people who did this are cowards I wish they were MAN enough to stand before me on this VERY day AND I wld deal my own form of justice COCOWARDS N PUNKS WANNA BE GANG BANG TRASH I love you Russ you will always be in my heart

    Reply

  3. Sharron

    Why has no one even mentioned what kind of parents allow 13 year old kids to walk around by themselves after midnight!? Sorry but the parents have a partial responsibility for this poor child’s death. The police should have charged them with child neglect. If they had done better to protect their son he would probably be alive today.

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      First of all, you know NOTHING! He was under the care of his father at the time, who was very much unfit at the time, and shortly after losing Russell, he passed away from his own demons. Who are you to judge though? He needed a father and was a teenager. His father was a drunk. His mother however, was the most amazing woman on the face of the planet. For her to have to lose a child in this way is something no parent should ever have to do, and I hope that you never have to know the feeling, with your quick to judge comments. Shame on you. The boy is dead. Nothing changes that.

      Reply

  4. Eldivino

    This I found today;

    https://spokane.craigslist.org/vnn/5847712176.html

    In 1989, Russell Evans was killed, by ex- Ferris high school students; one of them told me he did it and he graduated from Ferris in 1988. This is how I was told, for what happened, which killed Russell Evans: A four door car, full with four 18-20 year old young adults, sitting in the back seats of that car was a Darrel (not Darnel) and the killer Thomas J. GROH (TJ). Thomas J. GROH (TJ) told me they were driving down the hill and they saw a tall kid walking on the side of the road, and Thomas J. GROH said they just wanted to scare the kid; the car pulled up next to Russell Evans, like the “Dukes of Hazard”, and grabbed a hold of Russell Evans and took off down the hill, holding Russell Evans along the side of the car. When the car took off, down the hill, holding onto Russell Evans, Russell’s long legs, went back and under the rear wheel of the car, while Russell Evans was being held by THOMAS J. GROH (TJ)- through the back door window of the car, and Russell Evans feet were ran over by the rear wheel. That is how Russell Evans shoe was found at the top of the hill, and how the shoe had come off from Russell Evans. At the bottom of the hill, Thomas J. GROH (TJ) let Russell Evans go, and that is were Russell Evans had died. Remember that Russell Evans was a tall 12 year, that maybe was thought to be older, because of his height. Thomas J. GROH, a year after Russell Evans murder, had gone to Washington’s Walla Walla state prison, for around 7 years for an assault charge. TJ Groh, is the murderer, who told me he was involved, with what is said above; You can even ask TJ Grohs girlfriend, Holly, I’m sure he told her. Also, if anyone would like to debate me on what I was told, then why don’t you first do forensics on the two shoes, found on the hill, for tire rubber. Or do those shoes exist today, in Spokanes unsolved murder evidence department. Or could it be a cover up, because you don’t see the reward poster, that was in on the wall, inside Spokane south hills Round Table Pizza, on Regal Street. Thomas J. GROH (TJ) showed me that framed reward poster, at that pizza place, after he said what happened to Russell Evans.

    Reply

    • Tj Groh

      I was interviewed by investigators in 1997 and asked if I would provide a polygraph and swarn statement I agreed. My deepests condolences to his friends and family I had nothing to do with this. This is ludicrous I’m not a murderer!

      Reply

  5. Libby Guy

    I just wish we could put this to rest. Find the answers. I was new to the area, and Russ was not a close friend, he always treated me fairly. I just hope, someday, his murderer is brought to justice.

    Reply

  6. Canopy

    I’m just going to suggest this. The cops seemed very determined to make the evidence fit their theory, to the point that they basically ruled out anything that didn’t fit. Add in Brian’s silence, and I have to wonder if the at least one of the boys at the park was the son of a cop.

    Reply

  7. Alex

    i think that when they got in the fight with the boys at the park and the teenagers said they would send their boys after them had to do with it and i think at the crime scene they teenagers showed up because they followed him from his friends house to teach him a lesson because he defended his friend and they got into a fist fight because John tried protecting himself even tho the boys just wanted to mess him up to teach a lesson and that’s why he had defensive wounds and then the boys went to far and took his shoelaces out and hit him with there car to make him go flying but didnt think it would kill him but the force from the impact made the kid bleed out and i also think it was just a coincidence that Brian was wearing white shorts because if he had a white shirt then how did the ladt see shorts but not a shirt and i think he lied to the cops cuz he was just a scared kid.

    Reply

  8. joey

    It was murder

    Reply

  9. Mitchell

    Assaualted in the roadway by thugs and then accidentally impacted by an unconnected rando. Rando hit & ran. Brian hid in the bushes. A scared kid. These kids we’re 13years old, correct? Just babies.

    Brian, you may get a pass for not talking then but you’re an adult now. Do the right thing.

    Reply

  10. Christina cook

    I just watched the part of Russell Evens ,and how silly can you be ,Russell was walking all by himself and his ” friend ” is not the killer ,look at the evidence ,he got in to a fight ,gotten beaten up by those two boys ,they are the killers.

    Reply

  11. Jeff

    I don’t believe Brian is responsible for this crime….but I do believe Brian knows and saw what happened and is to scared…or was threatened into silence

    Reply

  12. Ally

    This case is puzzling. Even if it was a hit and run, the police have nothing. They don’t really have enough hard evidence to bring any murder charges. But hit/run should have gotten something.

    Reply

  13. Cindy

    It wasnt Brian. They were close. Brian saw EVERYTHING that happened, he was hiding and watching but was too scared to come out. He moved away shortly after because his life was threatened. Russ’s parents deserve to know who took their son away. The funeral was one of the worst moments ever. His mom was crushed like nothing I have ever seen. There were some Palmer Block Crips in town then and rumors about Blue and some of his young friends have gone around. Maybe Brian will finally feel like coming forward. He knew then and he knows now. Russ was one of the funniest and kindest boys I knew. He made me feel like I mattered at Libby. He deserves for someone to pay. I pray for him and his family a lot.

    Reply

    • Tony

      Cindy don’t lie there were no crips in Spokane in 89 who jo-jo and cas. Of the east???.I went 2 lobby with all these guys arron. Sam turner Michelle the girl they were fighting over!!! Russ was a good guy did not deserve this is look back at our yearbook photos him next to a skeleton. ….7th hr.yeah he was a friend Cindy I remember you use didn’t like black people nikki.brown cussed you out in gym her and Nikki ashe sorry hun….memories

      Reply

  14. McKayla

    It was Brian. He was seen in a white shirt and white shorts. When being questioned by officers the first time he said, he a white shirt and white shorts, but was no where around. Then when questioned again he denied own that kind of outfit. In many cases if a suspect changes his story, like Brian with the white shorts and white shirt, they know something and they are just hiding and/or covering it up. Last the call to the hospital, that is another sign either it was him or that he knows something. Until Brian is taken in and questioned with a polygraph the murder may never be solved and Russell’s family will never get the justice they deserve.

    Reply

    • tommy

      It wasn’t Brian. He wouldn’t be asking Brian to help him up. Brian left him there when they were attacked, he ran and left Russell there.

      Reply

  15. Rose

    I think he was murdered by Brian

    Reply

  16. Caitie

    I always thought that this case was creepy, and sad. Somebody has to know something about what happened to Russell, it seems like the “hit and run” angle was a rush to judgement, since even the coroner said that there were injuries consistent with a fight on his body.

    Reply

  17. brian

    I encourage the Evans family to talk to me. I feel sorry that they place blame on someone who lost a loved one as well

    Reply

    • Bri

      Why is everyone pretending that they’re part of the case or that they’re the missing link to the case. Its honestly ridiculous and giving some people false hope. Just cut it out.

      Reply

    • Anonymous

      The Evans family will not be reaching out to you. We know what happened & who is involved. All of you that think you are involved, or know something, or can help….you have no idea what you are talking about.

      Reply

  18. The Real Sky

    No Sky did it….

    Reply

  19. Sky

    Brian did it.

    Reply