In the years since, the motel where Evans gunned down two employees has been replaced by a Howard Johnson. The star witness in the case, a woman who lost her husband and a sister that day, has died. And Evans, who in his own words has “rebuilt” his character, remains on Maryland’s death row, kept alive in a politically forged purgatory.
“In hindsight, it would have been better if he got life without parole,” David B. Irwin, the former prosecutor who handled the case, said recently. “But it wasn’t obvious to us as young prosecutors back then that this was the way it was going to turn out.”
As the state Senate prepares to vote this week on whether Maryland should abolish capital punishment, the Evans case illustrates what can happen when the death penalty exists but is not enforced.
Unlike Virginia, which has executed more than 100 people since 1976, including one man last month, Maryland has executed five people since it reinstituted the death penalty in 1978, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. No one has been executed in Maryland since 2005.
What is essentially a moratorium on capital punishment has been in place in Maryland since 2006, and since 2009, the state has required DNA evidence, a videotaped crime or a videotaped confession in capital cases.
Of the five men on Maryland’s death row, Evans and two others have been there for nearly three decades. In that time, Evans has survived a stabbing, come within hours of execution and outlived the widow he left haunted by a burst of gunfire that was meant for her but killed her sister. Even some of the people who most wanted to see Evans dead no longer do, although not because of any sympathy for him.
“If [Evans] got executed tomorrow, it wouldn’t bother me a bit,” Irwin said. But he won’t, and for Irwin, that’s the problem with the state’s death penalty.
“I’m not morally, religiously or legally against the death penalty,” he said. “It’s on grounds of practicality. It becomes ridiculous and ludicrous after 30 years. If they’re not going to impose the death penalty, why have it on the books?”
Evans was 33 and a drug addict in April 1983 when authorities say he agreed to kill two federal witnesses, Scott Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl. The two worked at the Warren House Motel in Pikesville, in Baltimore County,and were set to testify against a drug dealer named Anthony Grandison. Heroin and cocaine had been found in one of the motel’s rooms, and only the couple could tie Grandison to it.
It was Evans’s job to silence them, and authorities say that for $9,000 he tried to do so by walking into the motel lobby and firing a Mac-11 machine gun. Six bullets hit Piechowicz and four hit his sister-in-law, Susan Kennedy, who had agreed at the last minute to work for Cheryl.