Wadesboro police are hoping state investigators can help solve a five year-old mystery.
The body of Sheri Lynn Evangelisti was found on Feb. 14, 2012, and her death has remained unsolved ever since. Her body was found in an abandoned house at 511 Klutz Street in Wadesboro. Her family had reported at the time that she had last been seen on Feb. 9.
A $5,000 reward for information that would solve the case was offered in July 2012, but investigators were still unable to solve it.
Now, more than five years later, the Wadesboro Police Department has turned details of the case over to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigators in the hopes that investigators there can determine what happened.
The SBI sent out a call for cold cases on April 21. In a press release, the SBI announced that it was asking local law enforcement agencies from across the state to send in information on the cold cases they think have the highest chance of being solved. The SBI will review the cases and select an unspecified amount to work on. Ten retired SBI investigators and several law school students will use the latest technology to try and solve the cases thanks to a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission.
The grant was awarded in 2015 and renewed this year.
“We are revisiting a number of these cases to determine if potential DNA or other evidence such as fingerprints may be present that was not analyzed due to technology constraints that no longer exist,” Angel Gray, attorney for the SBI, said. Gray is overseeing the project.
The Wadesboro Police Department said in a release announcing the decision that it and the SBI had spent “countless hours” trying to solve the Evangelisti case.
“Chief (Thedis) Spencer contemplated submitting at least two other cases for review, but ultimately decided that the Evangelisti case had the highest likelihood for a successful review,” the department said in the release.
Detective Sgt. Bradley Davidson declined to say which other cases the department had considered sending in “due to other investigative avenues being sought.”
The retired agents and law students will “determine if biological evidence or other evidence may have been seized during the investigation” and attempt to find DNA evidence and write orders or warrants to have it tested, according to the SBI release.
They will “review laboratory reports comparing DNA profiles from analyzed evidence to the DNA of potential suspects in the state’s DNA database and CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and to new DNA samples collected from potential suspects,” the release said. “If potential fingerprint evidence exists, (they) will assist in locating the evidence and submitting the evidence for comparison in the AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) database.”
The investigators will also conduct interviews and work to find other leads to follow, and work to clear prior suspects and narrow down the list of possibilities.
County cold cases
There are a handful of other cold cases that remain unsolved in Wadesboro, according to Spencer.
— Brenda Bailey was killed on May 6, 1985 at the then-Anson County Hospital.
— Janice Simon was killed on June 28, 1990 at the intersection of Wade and Greene Streets.
— James Bridges was killed on Jan. 23, 1994 on Cedar Street.
— James Pickett was killed on May 4, 2009 on Salisbury Street.
In 2014, an arrest was made for a 1988 Peachland cold case.
Eddie Clyde Helms, then 61, of Marshville, was arrested and charged with the November 10, 1988 murder of John T. Griffin III in Peachland and the 2012 murder of Charles Ronald Godwin in Marshville.
Former Anson County Sheriff Tommy Allen said at the time that the victims in both cases were ambushed and killed with a .12 gauge shotgun. Griffin died while installing a TV antenna on his roof and Godwin inside his house.
When the arrest was made, Allen had declined to go into much depth about the case.
“I can’t go into a lot of detail but to say the investigation into the Marshville murder led back to the old Anson County murder in Peachland,” he said at the time.
Helms was later accused to trying to hire fellow inmates to kill witnesses.
He is due to next appear in court for several charges, including first-degree murder, in Union County on May 22.
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Chief Matthew Norris with the Polkton Police Department said his town has no cold cases.
Chief Bobby Gallimore with the Lilesville Police Department said he has been there for six years and never heard of any cold cases from anyone previously with the department.
“I feel sure I’d know of any,” he said. “Thank God we don’t have any.”
Representatives with the Morven Police Department and the Anson County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached by deadline to comment on whether their departments have any cold cases they plan to submit for review and possible investigative help.
Anyone with information pertaining to any of the above cold cases can call the Wadesboro Police Department at 704-694-2167.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.