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

Smiling Russel Evans

Russell Evans

A car stopped in front of Russels body in the middle of the street

Russell was found lying in the street


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.

A car driving up to Russel crossing the street

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.

A digital mapping of the crime scene that shows where the body was in relation to his shoes and blood

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.




  1. Anonymous

    This is like the Clinton cases. Police officers also have censorship authority. But that doesn’t make them guilt of murder. A police officer didn’t want his son under scrutiny. So he covered for him. Now technically there are some problems with that. Because a police officer’s family member was involved. The police detectives should have referred the case to another law enforcement agency. But they didn’t have to with the son not being a witness. However, it opens the door to corruption allegations which are well deserved. It is very difficult to overlook that detail. But if you do, you can see what happened. It was a hit and run. Which is a murder. But it was not involving his friends or enemies. It was not planned. And for the shoelaces you need someone educated in physics. I researched it. And just found physics explaining it. I didn’t understand any of it.


  2. Pip

    I feel bad for the family of Russell, but this honestly does not seem like a case of police trying to hide the truth. In this case it really does look like Russell had been hit by a car on his way home, and I sincerely doubt any of the kids he got into an argument with earlier in the night were responsible. The police theorized that he had been hit by a large vehicle like a pickup truck, which could absolutely hit a tall individual in the back and break their spine. Him being so far from his shoes is a common occurrence in car accidents – if the person is hit at high speeds their body goes flying and the impact sends their shoes flying off their body and can even rip the laces out. The pools of blood and other bruising and injuries to his body could easily have been caused by the impact sending him flying in a way where he “bounced” and/or skidded along the road until he finally landed, and was found by a witness (or two, since the guy in the white shorts was present and ran off) shortly after. He was walking home at around midnight, so it would have been dark and much easier for a driver to not see him if they were not properly using their lights or were inebriated (there is a reason we have kids wear reflective vests when they go Halloween trick or treating late at night these days). It doesn’t even really sound like Russell was the target of the argument earlier in the evening, it sounds like his friend had a tiff with someone over a girl, and Russell broke it up before they left. It’s hard for me to imagine that would be enough to have a whole “gang” of kids who were playing basketball follow them home, wait outside for them several hours, then follow Russell most of the way home before beating him so badly they broke his spine. It just doesn’t make any logical sense to do that and take the risk of murdering someone for so little and risk legal repercussion and prison. On top of that, Russell crying out Brian’s name just does not seem like a big clue to me, he was probably disoriented, in a lot of pain, and maybe even had a severe concussion. That guy in the white shorts who showed up first and found him probably was not his friend Brian, but Russell may have mistaken him for such when he was wearing similar clothing if he was under such a confused state. I have had a concussion before, and I had to seek treatment and it caused me to say some weird stuff because my brain was pretty much scrambled for a short while – and I had not been hit by a giant moving vehicle.

    What I think happened: Russell breaks up the argument between his friend and the basketball player(s) and they head to friend’s house to hang out. Around midnight Russell leaves and walks home, something he has done before without issue (and I do NOT judge his parents for this, kids were expected to be more responsible back then and people were not as aware of things like psychos). Except this night someone in a really big truck is not driving responsibly, maybe is even drunk or high, and probably speeding. They strike Russell from behind before they can react to seeing him, and because they were speeding Russell goes flying through the air, his shoes flying off from the impact. His body bounces along the pavement a few times before it finally lands, and the driver of the vehicle speeds away (possibly without even stopping. If it happened too quickly they may not have realized they were hitting him until he was flying and they panicked and did not want to go to jail for driving while intoxicated and/or speeding). The man in the white shorts wanders out to see what happened after hearing the thuds and some moaning, but when Russell sees him he starts calling out for Brian, because in his confused state he thinks the white shorts belong to his friend. When the passerby sees another car pulling over to see what’s going on, he runs off because he is afraid he will be accused or pulled into the situation, especially because this kid is calling him “Brian”. Russell is rushed to the hospital and dies, with a broken spine, internal injuries, and bruising and damage all over his body (a level of damage that would have been much harder to achieve with just a 2×4 or a wooden bat btw). Somebody named Brian may or may not have called to check in and see if he was okay, but I doubt it was Russell’s friend Brian. If anything I think it may have been someone who was listening to police radios at home (some people used to do that), or was possibly even the guy in the white shorts who ran off. He may have called the closest hospital knowing a kid had been hit, and told them his name was “Brian” because he did not want to be identified and that’s what Russell was calling him. I really think the police were right on this case, and I think the real perpetrator out there is not a gang of kids who beat him up, but a driver who hit him and sped off and got away with it. I think it’s sometimes easier to think your kid was murdered because then there is a reason, and you have this motivation to try and hunt down who is responsible and hold them accountable, and that anger and focus can beat back the pain underneath. But it’s harder to accept something like this, because it is meaningless, had no intent, and there was no “reason” behind it. I think any and all of the accounts of people confessing to murdering Russell are just people making stuff up, whether it be the people going to police with this hearsay, or the “gang” members wanting to look tough because “heh, I actually DID kill that kid so you better not cross me!”. The whole thing points to a hit and run and not a murder over some petty argument on a basketball court.


  3. Dianna

  4. Graham

    So basically everyone knows who did it and how but the person will never be arrested because no one cares anymore. What a complete shame and loss of life. RIP Russ.


  5. Jason

    Is there anyone monitoring this page??There’s clearly potentially new information and I dont see any responses. I moved to Spokane in ’92, so I dont know much about this case. But I can see a 13 yr old being a target to bored teenagers, even to “wannabe” gangsters (who were prevelant in my high school and jr high at the time). Someone mentioned “hate crime.” Was there any evidence Russell was in a same-sex relationship, or is this a red herring? I find this case frustrating b/c I grew up in “Spo-compton” and I see this as an easily-solvable case if there had been competent police work. Maybe the punks who did this had parents in law enforcement who wanted to cover it up?


  6. trish

    I just wonder if the anonymous person who has posted on here is related to the evans family as they seem to have a personal knowledge and connection. I have seen in the comments section post from several people who knew russell including arron and brian but i think anonymous needs to reveal who they are and how tthey can tell brian the family wont talk to him i thought they wanted answers if he witnessed he would have answers so who are you anonymous.


  7. Brittany Howard

    To the person who responded about how unsafe it is to let a 13 year-old outside after midnight. Let me say I currently live on the South Hill and have three young children and I allow them to play outside unattended until the street lights come on. The South Hill is a very safe Community everybody looks after everybody always has been and probably always will be


    • Debra

      The South Hill has always been a safe community? May I remind you of the South Hill Rapist? I have lived in the area since the 70s and it is was not that safe, and the late 80s it got even worse. Maybe you live further up the on the South Hill where all the rich people are. That area I can imagine is safe, but not lower down.


  8. johny

    This is sad


  9. Jennifer

    I just saw this on unsolved mysteries tonight. I don’t know the Evan’s family or anything about this case except what I saw on TV.
    My heart goes out to the Evans family, I could not imagine losing my child but then having to deal with the aggony of the murder not being solved. Russell’s parents have suffered horribly and those who did this have been so selfish in allowing them to suffer like that, just because they don’t want to lose their freedom, I assume!? Russell’s parents lost a child and there is no greater loss than that.
    And to Sharron who left the comment placing blame on Russell’s parents for his murder, how dare you?! Who the hell are you?!?! First all Sharron, it sounds like you’re 80, so understand that it was not uncommon for a child who was Russell’s age to be out that late! I did it when I was his age and I allowed my son to do it too . It’s about trusting your child and their location. Time is least important here, the importance is that this boy lost his life. Sharron, it’s actually silly that you think the police could even charge his parents for allowing him to be out past midnight! As a tax payer, I’d be pissed if the police were wasting time arresting parents for their kids being out past midnight!!! Do realize how many of us parents would be arrested? Everyone but you Sharron!! To even suggest that Russell’s death is partly the parents fault is wrong. Sharon, it was very tasteless of you and it shows you must not have had any real home training because obviously no one knows when death is coming and as parents you can’t coupe your kids up trying to prevent it. You just pray to God that it never happens. What happened to this boy was not his fault or his parents fault! I hope his family did not see your tasteless comment. I also hope that you can somehow learn not to be so judgemental and maybe before you judge, picture yourself in that situation and apply that to every situation you feel that you need to place judgement on, because for you to say that their child’s murder is partly their fault is harsh. Sharron, I also suggest you get out more and watch the world around you. The character you have presented here is that your a ridgid, old, negative woman who has no idea what she is talking about, just quick to place blame on the people who have suffered greatly. Sharron, what I’m trying to say is you need Jesus!


  10. Anonymous

    I wonder if Brian didn’t come forward because he was embarrassed about his relationship with Russell. Could this have been a hate crime?


  11. Unsolved Viewer

    Seems like a solvable case.


  12. 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?


    • 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?


      • DragonWolfe

        Anonymous, I see your point here. However as someone that is trained in emergency first Aid I can say that the Police would be guilty of “Failure To Act” and would be liable in a lawsuit.


  13. 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


  14. 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.


    • 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.


    • Liberty Middle School Family

      You must not be from Spokane? In ’89 it was way safer than today…In our town, at 13, we could do such. We were always allowed to go but we had to call to tell where we were or where we were going. Something kids don’t do these days or get as much freedom.Russ was a great person and such an awesome friend! His parents were the same. Please, we want to see justice for the people who did this, not put blame on the parents.


      • Debra

        Liberty Middle School Family,
        I am from Spokane. I was a teenager during this time, and I see it differently. I lived in this area and I do not believe it was that safe. I would not have back then, nor would I today, let a mere 13 year old out by himself at such a late hour. I was a few years old when this occurred, and even I would not have been out that late, whether my parents said I could or not. Maybe we have differing views on what is safe or not. Although I wouldn’t necessarily put any blame on the parents. Even if he was kept inside at this hour, if someone wanted to do away with him, they would have found a way anyway, during the daylight. They just had an easier opportunity to do it so late.


  15. Eldivino

    This I found today;


    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.


    • 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!


  16. 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.


  17. 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.


  18. 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.


  19. joey

    It was murder


  20. 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.


  21. 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.


  22. 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


  23. 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.


  24. 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.


    • 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


  25. 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.


    • 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.


  26. Rose

    I think he was murdered by Brian


  27. 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.


    • Anonymous

      The coroner said his injuries were consistent with a hit and run. It was a pathologist the family hired who said he had injuries consistent with a fight, then a hit and run. It’s amazing reading all these comments how many ppl are misremembering things said on the show. Like Brian may be a good witness, not the killer! Also, he didn’t tell police he owned white shorts, then changed his story, he told russels father he was wearing a white outfit, then told police he didn’t own such clothing. Just clarifying some points.


  28. 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


    • 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.


    • 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.


      • DragonWolfe

        Anonymous, if The Evans family knows what happened and who is responsible, then why is this case still unsolved?? Why don’t you set us all straight as to the real and actual facts that you claim everybody is getting wrong??


  29. The Real Sky

    No Sky did it….


  30. Sky

    Brian did it.


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