"I guess I lost my way . . . Living to run And running to live
Never worried about paying Or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute For months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend . . .
Searching for shelter . . . running against the wind . . . -- From "Against the Wind," by Bob Seger
Copyright (c) 1980, Gear Publishing (ASCAP)
It was her favorite song while she was on the run with the killer, betting at the dog track, adopting aliases from a graveyard, pawning guns and trading cars when the money got low, eluding the FBI for 139 days.
She was a Tennessee lady gone astray, a criminal lawyer by trade, born to a proper family. Except that Mary Pentecost Evans, 26, fell for William Timothy Kirk, 36, a sugar-coated con man with a tattoo, and now there's hell to pay.
Evans stands accused of holding a gun on a psychologist and three prison guards to spring her former client from prison in Tennessee, then driving into the sunset with her desperado. She was in love.
"I'm happier than I've ever been in my life," she confessed in a phone call to a friend. Authorities say that call came from South Carolina about three weeks after the couple vanished together March 31, a brief pit stop for two star-crossed lovers on the lam.
On the phone, she apologized for hurting those close to her. "But I love him," she said.
They spent their last month together here in Room 160 at the Best Western motel, $14.98 a day, weekly rate. It has a king-size bed with a firm but squeaky mattress, a view of the dumpster, a palmetto thicket out back and mold around the bathtub. The bed shakes at night when jets scream overhead.
A room search later turned up a pawnshop receipt for a gun, a backgammon set, cards and the names of two fugitive survival guides scribbled on scraps of paper: the "Anarchists Cookbook," a pop terrorist manual on how to make everything from bombs to zip guns, and the name of a California publisher of pamphlets on making false IDs.
Kirk registered July 14 as Robert Allen Allred, the name of an 8-year-old boy who lies buried in a Sarasota cemetery. Evans passed as Lisa Jo-Ann Richard, a 2-year-old girl buried about 10 steps away in the weeds. Both died in 1962.
"He never bitched about towels or if the maids forgot," says the motel's night auditor, Robert Ramey, who remembers them as "easy customers." They paid cash in advance, they dialed more than a dozen long-distance phone calls from the room, and the clerks put a question mark beside the departure date.
In fact, they were so polite, a state corrections officer in the next room helped jump-start their car one morning when the battery died.
"All she talked about was how they'd come to play the dogs," says Marsha Godwin, who mixed drinks (margaritas for him, vin rose for her) in the motel lounge.
"They kept to themselves. You could tell they were uptight, but I just figured they wanted to be left alone."
And the jukebox played on, with Ronnie Milsap, Elvis, Waylon Jennings, wailing of love unrequited, gone astray, patched back up or never meant to be. Which was their kind, of course, destined to end badly, as it did Aug. 17 when federal agents burst into the Western Union office here, guns drawn, and shouted at the dishwater blond with the high, defiant cheekbones, "FREEZE, MARY, FBI!"
Kirk had 87 cents in his pocket when the couple were captured.
When cash was wired from a possible accomplice in Memphis whom police refuse to identify, the FBI was waiting. They came on a tip that the couple had picked up money there before. Evans was handcuffed beneath a poster touting singing telegrams: "Dazzle Your Friends and Relatives."
They had been regulars at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club. They blew their nest egg betting, Kirk told a used car dealer. Usher Carol Anderson says the couple hunkered down in the grandstand with the $2 dreamers at the dog track every night, and matinees, too, for three weeks until their arrest. They always rented the same 50-cent seats, 11 and 12, top row, with Kirk propping his feet on the orange plastic chairs, his arm around Evans.
They descended to bet on each race, she said. Evans favored the window of Charlie Snow, 54, a retired loan officer with thick silver hair and an uncanny likeness to her distinguished-looking father. She bet $2 to $6 a race and never smiled, he says. Kirk chose other windows.
"You could tell they weren't winning," says announcer Doug Montgomery.Only once did they see Evans brighten, throwing her arms around the man with the shoulder-length hair and bushy mustache. She had "pretty hands."
"It wasn't the hands of someone who did dishes at the International House of Pancakes," says Anderson. "Her nails were always clean and polished. I wondered what someone like her was doing with someone like him. He looked kind of scruffy." Police at the track never connected him to his wanted poster; he'd shaved his beard.
Evans arrived home in handcuffs and belly chains, haggard, without makeup. But her nails were perfect.
The day Evans vanished, family and friends feared she had been kidnaped. Many still insist she had to be coerced, like Patty Hearst. No one believed she would abandon her career, but neither Evans nor Kirk is saying.
No one fathomed how an alluring young woman might favor Kirk over the dashing divorce lawyer with movie star looks whom she had dated steadily for several months, John Lockridge, 48.
Like Lockridge, Evans was divorced herself, and Lockridge was considered a catch.
He quotes Shakespeare and Lao-tse, conjures a few words of French sans drawl, drives a BMW and rents an A-frame. He is tall and trim, a racquetball player. He has deep-set blue eyes and resembles actor Tom Selleck. He calls himself "a man of inconstant temperament."
After the escape, he scoffed at the notion Evans threw him over for a convict. "I am perplexed," he said then. "Je ne sais pas."
"She liked nice things . . . None of it fits," he says.
Her clothes were boxed up, ready to move along with her piano when she disappeared. She was excited about a new job in Kentucky, 100 miles away.
"She felt the cases would be her own," says Lockridge, "that she'd be in control. It was a way to prove herself."
They had had plans to keep seeing each other after she took the Kentucky job. It was a relationship Evans' father frowned on because Lockridge was not divorced when they began going out. "Her father was very moralistic," says a close friend, "and his disapproval hurt her."
But it failed to curtail the relationship. Evans often talked to Lockridge about her work at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. She mentioned Kirk. "I recall her saying Kirk was well-read. She said she thought he was intelligent," says Lockridge.
"But if you want to speculate on a love story, why didn't he just tape her up and she could go on to her job in Kentucky and they could later meet in some mystical point in space and live happily ever after?"
Lockridge has since become engaged to another young woman.
Evans had everything to lose, Kirk nothing, when they first met last year at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a yellow stucco fortress nestled in a horseshoe-shaped canyon in the rugged Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee.
Brushy is maximum security, with ramparts like a medieval castle, a smokestack belching black, a history of racial violence, inmate rapes, extortion, brutality. James Earl Ray, assassin of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was stabbed 22 times by black inmates there.
Through her interviews with Kirk, Evans soon discovered the horrors of prison life.
She was a fledgling attorney, two years out of the University of Tennessee Law School, aloof and idealistic, but eager for trial work instead of ferreting out case law in the library, friends say. She had a reputation for first-class research, rooting for underdogs and deep involvement in clients' cases. Kirk was her first death penalty case.
He was accused of being trigger man among seven white inmates charged with killing two members of a black gang called the "Memphis Mafia" at Brushy on Feb. 8, 1982.
White inmates, locked in a prison power struggle with the gang, had labeled them "The Cancer" because, as one put it, "they were certain death."
Kirk, serving 65 years for armed robbery, a jailhouse lawyer with a rose tattooed on his left arm, was transferred to Brushy for trying to escape a Nashville prison by hiding in a garbage truck that almost crushed him to death. Kirk's lawyers say he had been stabbed with a screwdriver at Brushy and put on the gang's hit list before he helped to overpower prison guards and, moving from cell to cell, shot alleged gang members in "self-defense." At least 13 shots were fired. He reloaded three times, prosecutors said. Two blacks died. Two were wounded. One escaped by wrapping himself in two mattresses.
"I wouldn't call [the white defendants] 'The Magnificent Seven,' " says attorney Jerrold Becker, a senior member of the defense team that included Mary Evans, "but they were hardly enjoying condo living at its best. A polar bear in the D.C. zoo has it better. Who sang the song 'No place to run, no place to hide, baby'?"
As junior member of Tipton and Bell, a downtown Knoxville law firm handling Kirk's case for the team, Evans paid 21 visits to Brushy to read files and take depositions, a prison spokesman said. Some days she huddled alone with Kirk in a tiny room for up to two hours.
There was a small window in the door, but guards say they never peeked. Nor was conversation between lawyer and client ever monitored. No sign of affection was detected. But there was gossip.
Bill McBee, an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), says he warned Evans' boss, James A.H. Bell, that she was getting too close to her client.
Evans' memos for the blue-chip defense team sizzled with tales of violence, including Kirk's fears of a hit list.
When Kirk requested Evans as his chief counsel, Bell, 34, a beefy six-footer, agreed to elevate her status. But it stung his pride, say colleagues. To argue Kirk's case, she postponed taking the $14,000-a-year job with the public defender in London, Ky. She was eager to get away from her boss, say friends.
The case put Evans under great stress, say colleagues. "Here was a young lawyer and her first major client says, 'I'm relying on you to save my life,' " says a defense team member.
"She was terribly frightened she would lose and Kirk would die in the electric chair," says a confidant, a Knoxville attorney. "But even if she won, there was no winning."
Indeed, even if she won acquittal, Kirk was back to Brushy as a marked man, friends say she feared. Fellow inmates say Kirk fueled the notion of futility.
One Knoxville attorney, a woman who knew Evans from court and who has clients at Brushy, believes Evans was conned by Kirk. "He saw a mark and worked her good," she says. Soon, Evans came to believe that nothing, not even the law, could save her client's life, say friends.
"She was aware he might die no matter what she did," said the confidant. "She knew Brushy was an absolute jungle and there was nothing the courts could do to protect him in the jungle."
Nonetheless, Evans set about preparing his defense. She got a court order for behavioral tests and paid a visit to Gary Salk, the tall, bearded Oak Ridge psychologist chosen to conduct them.
Salk's office is two rooms, including a reception area, on a hill in Oak Ridge, a bustling small town of nuclear scientists, small-time farmers and just plain country folks outside Knoxville. He says Evans asked if there was a secretary. There isn't. She asked if Kirk would be unshackled to take the tests. Salk said yes.
"I guess she was casing the joint," said Salk.
Kirk arrived, escorted by three guards, and began filling in the blanks. "My biggest problem is . . . prison," he wrote. To a question, "What do you do best," he scribbled, "Make dreams reality."
Suddenly, he pulled a gun from beneath his orange prison jump suit, Salk later testified at Kirk's murder trial. He said in court that Evans took a turn holding it, pulled tape from her purse, helped bind up the guards and snipped the phone cord with scissors.
"She was cool as ice," Salk told reporters.
Kirk took the guards' guns and changed into dark pants and a jacket, Salk said. He asked if everyone was comfortable, picked $25 from Salk's wallet, slipped past a wall poster that proclaimed, "This is the first day of the rest of your life," and vanished in Evans' red Toyota, later found abandoned nearby.
Later, an all-white jury found Kirk guilty of voluntary manslaughter in absentia for the two prison killings and sentenced him to more hard time. His lawyers are appealing. He beat the chair. By then, of course, Kirk and Evans were long gone.
Evans grew up far from Kirk's jungle. An ambitious young woman of the New South, she sought to escape the fate of becoming just another belle in born-again country. Church suppers were not her style.
She was the older of two children born to Robert H. Pentecost, 48, a University of Tennessee administrator, and his wife, Kara, both devout Baptists. They appear to be taking it hard.
At her bond hearing two weeks ago, Evans, too, appeared on the verge of tears when her father, ever loyal, pledged his home outside town as part of $800,000 in property he had to put up to meet a $450,000 cash bond and get his daughter out of jail.
The ranch-style house sits high on a hill, where Evans once galloped her horse across the family's 76 rolling acres.
At Doyle High School, class of 1974, she began nursing the spirit of a rebel. She wore Earth Shoes and no makeup and "her respect for authority was kind of low," recalls classmate Emily Dempster.
"She was very outspoken," says the Rev. Lewis Gourley, 57, her former pastor who now is at the East Side Baptist Church in Dover, Fla. "She could hurt you with her tongue. I'm not sure her parents could control her."
At 20, she married Thomas H. Evans Jr., the handsome son of a wealthy parking lot executive, and zipped through the University of Tennessee in three years.
Evans applied to law school, friends say, largely to please her father, an attorney. his forties. But once she enrolled in law school, she became dedicated to that path.
As a young wife, to help pay the bills, she took a job at the Hyatt Regency, where she balked at wearing an orange miniskirt uniform and at dealing with come-ons from traveling salesmen.
After four years, the Evanses divorced. Friends say the couple simply grew apart. Mary complained that "her husband didn't give her enough attention," recalls an artist friend. "She wanted to be closer to him than than he wanted to be to her ."
"She wasn't cruel," adds the friend, "she was good-hearted. She always had a feeling for a guy who had a hard time."
She met Lockridge in 1980 as a summer clerk at his firm, graduated in 1981, passed the bar and took a job with Bell. "Men couldn't take their eyes off her," says Ladye Hillis, a young attorney who recalls the bold, dark eye shadow Evans wore. It accented her high cheekbones and turned heads in court.
"Mary is a very complex person," says the confidant. "The key to understanding her is the relationships with the men in her life. Her husband was your basic high school football hero, gorgeously built . . . She was a high achiever. It was a complete mismatch.
"Her father was very domineering. He treated her like an oldest son, 'My son the doctor.' " Then there was Lockridge, worldly, established. "Women need to feel needed, especially if people around them are more powerful and established and don't need them ."
Kirk needed her badly.
Some female attorneys in Knoxville bristle at the fact that Evans is being unfairly portrayed in sexist archetypes as a flaky female in love, a stereotype that subtly taints them all.
Adds the confidant: "If you're a romantic, it's such a grand gesture. I'm just waiting for the day she wakes up."
Eleven days after she left, Evans woke up in a queen-size waterbed at the Econo Lodge in Sarasota, Room 17, beneath a painting of a flamenco dancer aswirl in ecstasy. As a rule, Evans carried no credit cards and little cash. Kirk told police he had $700.
For the record, they were Bob and Sharon Farmer, husband and wife. Kirk claimed to be with an auto wrecking company from Illinois. Kirk had relatives in the Sarasota area, say police.
The next day, April 12, they took a taxi to Poor Old Joe's car rental to lease some wheels. Kirk showed owner Joe Mason a driver's license in the name of Robert B. Farmer Jr., of Knoxville, an ex-convict who once passed through Brushy.
Kirk picked out a 1973 yellow Mercury coupe for $11 a day. A week later he swapped it for a 1975 Matador, paid $84 for the week, cash in advance, and records show they put on almost 100 miles a day over two months.
Several times payments were mailed in. One arrived in a Federal Express pouch from North Carolina. "He called me twice from North Carolina and said his mother was sick up there," said Mason. Once Evans arrived alone in a taxi, paid cash and left.
Meanwhile, the couple were busy building new identities. For $400 a month, they rented a gray frame bungalow on Siesta Key, a Sarasota resort favored by tourists from Canada and Ohio.
Right away, Realtor John Poppa was suspicious. "They didn't look like they could afford to take a month's vacation," he said. "She was a wreck, shaking and nervous."
Evans and Kirk drove to a nearby cemetery, say authorities, and picked four names off gravestones in "babyland," where infants are interred free of charge beneath swaying palms.
On April 20, armed with the names, Evans marched into the Sarasota County vital statistics office and asked for birth cards, which can be used to obtain passports and driver's licenses in Florida. Officials there didn't know the people were dead.
Evans posed as a college student doing a project for a genealogy class. But deputy registrar Ann Speaks doubted the story. She asked for the professor's name.
"I can't give you his name," she told Speaks. "It might jeopardize my grade."
She got four cards, including those of Richard and Allred, paid $12 and left.
On June 13, they left the key in the door of their bungalow and left Siesta Key. Investigators believe the couple, using Florida as a base, drove across the Southeast in search of cash and friends.
Four days later, Kirk swapped the Matador, which had a mechanical problem, for a '77 Caprice at Joe's. "He said he was a salesman and they'd be out of town a lot, but it was going well," said Mason. "We talked about the weather and cars. He said his mother was better. He was easy to talk to, but he stayed away from anything personal."
Then the payments stopped coming. Mason reported the car stolen. By then, Kirk had gone down the street to buy a silver 1977 Thunderbird from Tom Exline.
On July 2, Kirk counted out 23 stacks of $100 each on the counter, pulling wads of cash from both pockets. Kirk had "nothing smaller than a $20," Exline says. Exline guesses he had thousands on him: "The wads [of cash] were two inches thick."
Evans signed the bill of sale as "Lisa Jo-Ann Richard."
Two weeks later, a call came from a salesman at Azza Motors in Daytona Beach. "What's wrong with the T-Bird?"
"Nothing," said Exline.
"Well, why are they trading it two weeks after they bought it?"
Kirk swapped the Thunderbird for cash plus a 1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88, complaining about racing losses. Six days later, July 19, he returned and traded down again, for cash and a 1968 white Ford station wagon.
"They seemed like your typical boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife coming to look for a car," said manager Mike Azzarello.
At an Orlando pawnshop, Kirk hocked a .44 revolver and a gold chain for $140, recalled the manager He returned a month later, in mid-August, to redeem them. Kirk was nervous about leaving a required thumbprint at the shop, say authorities.
By now they were playing the dogs. Evans began phoning friends. On Aug. 9, motel records show a 49-minute call was made to one of the few friends Evans maintained from high school, Cynthia D'Andrea, in Knoxville. Was Evans getting road fever? Was she ready to come in from the cold? Was she still happy?
D'Andrea isn't saying, nor is Janet Vest, her colleague and ex-roommate, who confirmed motel records that show at least four calls made to her from the Best Western in Daytona. Bob Ritchie, Vest's boss and Evans' attorney, says the contact was proper "attorney-client privilege."
"After some phone calls, she seemed mad," recalls night clerk David Ferrebee, 26. "Afterwards, she'd always ask me, 'How much?' then go back to the room and get the money."
Junine Harmon, 36, heard about her ex-husband's latest escapade on the news back home in Palatine, Ill., a Chicago suburb. "I think he conned her," says Harmon, mother of Kirk's three sons, aged 13 to 17. "He's a good talker, an excellent talker. He conned me.
"If you saw a piece of paper and it was black, he could convince you it was white. He could make me do things I didn't want to do. I believe that girl Evans just fell into that."
Kirk was the only child born to a Mississippi sharecropper and his wife, a widow with four children of her own. His father abandoned the cotton fields for a factory job up north in 1951. "I don't know what went wrong with him," says William H. Kirk Sr., 71, a retired set-up man for a Chicago-based can company.
"I paddled him when he was small. He growed up in a good family. We went to church. His biggest trouble was running with a bad crowd. I done everything I could."
Even military school didn't work for long. Then at Chicago's Kalvin Park High School he wore tight pants and a black leather jacket. He popped pills and went out with Junine, a pretty blond with a beehive hairdo.
He rode a Triumph motorcycle. He was cocky, but he was cool.
He charmed her mother, Harriett Foy, and even after he stuffed a sweater inside Junine's coat and she was arrested for shoplifting at Goldblatt's, he was welcome at the house. She wasn't charged. She didn't squeal.
He dropped out of 10th grade, but showed up high at school to yank Junine out of class, she recalls.
Al Capone was his hero. "He had visions of grandeur," recalls Foy. She says he often told her "he wanted to be a big guy in the mob. But he wasn't a very smart criminal. He always got caught. He liked to brag too much."
Junine dropped out of school, and he bought her a $49 diamond ring. A year later they were married by a justice of the peace. There was no honeymoon.
She found work as a riveter. Tim, as friends call Kirk, refused to get a job, says Junine, preferring to spin records by day in their one-bedroom apartment, and cruise his haunts at night. He never told her where.
Junine says Kirk kept guns around the house, and his violent streak could erupt faster than a summer tornado across the Midwest flatlands. Once he nearly choked Junine to death when she refused him a cigarette, says Foy. She'd told him to get a job and buy his own smokes.
"He wanted to leave his mark in the world," sighs Junine. "We believed we were born for one another. He said it enough so I believed him."
Once, Foy says she caught him teasing her pet Chihuahua by rubbing its nose on the carpet to build up static, then shocking it.
"All I wanted was a decent family like everyone else," says Junine. "I got tired of wondering when the police were going to show up at the house."
She was divorced at 22; Tim was in jail.
His rap sheet is a long, winding road of assorted arrests and convictions for extortion, mail theft and armed robbery. In Memphis, Kirk ran with local "ruffians" and a woman sidekick who was "so ugly she would stop your watch," recalls Jim Wilson, a former assistant attorney general who sent Kirk up the river for armed robbery.
Jerry Lucas, Kirk's former Memphis jailer and ex-deputy sheriff, marveled at Kirk's ability to sweet-talk women from behind bars. "Here was a man who could get on the phone and talk different women into bringing him money two or three times a week. That's unusual for a man who's been in prison for 10 years."
One day two girlfriends bumped into each other outside his cell. One left in a huff.
"But he slicked it with her and she came back," laughed Lucas. "He always led them to believe he had a chance of getting out. He was a big macho, physical-type guy with a gentle way. But he was a con. He'd use you if he could."
It was a long trip home. Guards arrived in Orlando early Aug. 19 to drive the couple back to Tennessee. The prisoners were shackled and ordered into separate cars. Kirk caught Evans' eyes and, according to a guard, said, "Don't tell them anything."
At first Evans was insolent. Then, as the caravan rolled along the highway, she warmed up, apologized for no shower, her haggard appearance and her book, a gothic romance. "This is really the pits of literature," she said.
A guard offered her magazines and she began flipping through Glamour and Ladies' Home Journal. She said she was sick of Florida and never wanted to go back.
Indeed, her pallor belied a tourist's sojourn to sun and sand. The couple never basked by the pool, say motel clerks. Evans' bikini probably would not have fit anyway. She weighed 128, up about 20 pounds over normal.
"Are you happy to be going home?" she was asked by a guard.
"Not really," said Evans.
"If we'd had more money, we'd still be free," Kirk told a guard. He fretted thatEvans' "whole life would be changed from this."
"It was love at first sight," said a TBI agent who had interviewed Kirk. "They realized it couldn't work, even temporarily, but it grew to a point where neither could escape it . It was a mutual thing. Our proof will show that they just flat fell for each other and ran off so they could be together."
The caravan stopped at McDonald's for lunch. In cuffs, Evans ate a fish sandwich and fries. It was dusk when they pulled into Henderson, S.C., and the couple stood silhouetted in the dying sun, holding hands.
Even the guards got misty at the scene. "She was acting like a woman in love," said one. "You could see it in her eyes, every time she looked at Kirk . She seemed relieved to be caught, but scared that she was about to face the music."
At most every stop, she and Kirk talked softly together, stealing a kiss when they could. Suddenly, the land changed from flat to rolling and the Great Smoky Mountains of her childhood came into view. Mary Evans began to weep. She cried hard for 20 minutes. Then she was home.
No date for a trial has been set, but it promises to be a shootout between God and the devil. James Ramsay, 40, the Dartmouth-educated prosecutor--a hillbilly preppie who once interviewed Evans for a job--has no sympathy for her.
"She's a rather sneering type . . . a skinny bitch. She just doesn't give me good vibes. I wouldn't attribute any idealistic stuff to her at all." Can true love be considered temporary insanity? Can it be attempted as a defense? Her lawyers won't say.
So goes the Bible Belt conundrum. But some things remain steadfast, like home-style cooking, billboards proclaiming, "I Love You Jesus," and sinful urges that are prayed against at Wednesday night prayer meetings.
Evans spent three nights in a hot, windowless cell in the Anderson County Jail before going home. She regaled her cell neighbor with stories of prison assaults on Kirk. "I'll probably never get to see him again," she said. "Tim won't live long."
The odyssey of Evans and Kirk ended with a fleeting embrace in the jail's cramped hallway three floors above the mob on the way to the fingerprint room, say deputies. Then Tim was hustled toward the elevator. He craned his neck around the guards to get one last look at Mary.
"Bye," he said. Mary just stared at the floor.
"Bye," she whispered. And her desperado was off to Nashville State Penitentiary, a.k.a. "The Walls." Two days, later she was out on bond.