‘This isn’t over’: Spokane woman seeks justice for murdered brother, families of cold case victims
SPOKANE, Wash. — A Spokane woman hopes telling the story of her brother’s homicide will spur the City of Spokane to dedicate resources to solving the city’s cold case murders and sexual assaults.
On June 4, 1989, Diana Gulick lost her only sibling, her 13-year old brother Russ Evans.
“He was very loving,” Gulick remembers. “He was a great big brother and he protected me.”
Gulick wasn’t there when a driver along 13th and Ray found Russ lying in the road, crying for help. She was just five years old at the time. But, she does remember the next morning.
“My mom had me come sit on her lap and she told me very slowly,” Gulick said. “Which I thought was helpful, instead of dropping it on me. I remember crying and the funeral that followed. The funeral was actually on my mother’s birthday.”
She visits them both now in the plot they share at Holy Cross Cemetery; Gulick’s mom died a few years back and wanted to be buried with her son. On their grave marker, the date of his death and her birthday are heartbreakingly close together.
Much of what Gulick knows of that time comes from a journal she found after her mom passed away. She had kept the journal for her daughter during the worst time of their lives.
“I got a call from your school. You needed me so I came and got you. You cried and cried,” Gulick read from the journal, tears streaming down her face. “You talked about how sad you were that Russ was gone. You wanted to know if he was looking both ways when he crossed the street. You said many times, it wasn’t fair that Russell died.”
It wasn’t fair. A 13-year old child was gone. Hit by a car, left to die in the road. Russ Evans was a student at Libby Middle School. Tall for his age, he was a promising basketball player.
His death – and her young age – left an indelible mark on the little sister he left behind.
“It instilled a fear in me at a very young age that for any reason, someone could kill you. You wouldn’t know why, you wouldn’t know who did it.”
What happened to Russ Evans?
His death changed a family and sent into motion a mystery, still unsolved, all these years later.
So, what do we know about what happened to Russ Evans that June night in 1989? Weather reports show that night was unusually warm. School was going to let out in the next couple of weeks. Evans and a friend were at the park in Lincoln Heights. Witnesses say they got into some kind of altercation with some older boys, possibly over a girl. The groups went their separate ways. It was about three hours later when Evans was found about a mile down the hill, badly injured and crying out for help.
He was still alive
Evans was still alive when a passing driver found him. He was rushed to Sacred Heart.
His back broken, his internal organs badly damaged, Evans died at the hospital. He left behind a chaotic crime scene.
“There were pieces of evidence that did not get collected,” Gulick said. “There were three pools of blood, no samples were taken. It was cleaned up the next day. I think there was a lot of confusion.”
In the police report obtained by 4 News Now, one officer wrote, “There was a possibility that the incident was not an accidental hit and run-type incident. There was possibly other evidence to indicate this may have been an assault or even an intentional homicide.”
Police reports show several people came forward, claiming to know who ran over Evans that night. One girl told police months later that on of those teens said he “floored the vehicle and headed directly toward Evans.”
The names of three young men came up repeatedly in the days after Evans’ death. All three were given polygraph tests, which concluded they were telling the truth. The girl who said she heard one of them admit it? Her polygraph showed she was being truthful, too. Polygraph, back then, was the gold standard for some agencies. It has since been determined to be unreliable in criminal cases.
The case was sent to prosecutors, who declined to charge anyone in the case. It remains active; with the cause of death listed as “homicide”, there is no statute of limitations for prosecution.
The fight for justice
Despite Spokane Police suspending their investigation, Russ and Dianna’s parents were determined to find out who killed him. They hired their own private investigator and turned to the popular TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” hoping for leads. Some came in and others have continued over the years, but still not enough to file charges.
Gulick says her father’s obsession with the case drove him to substance abuse and an early grave. When she lost her mom, she also came to terms with her brother’s death. But, she’s determined now to pick up the fight.
While her memory of that time is still fresh, she knows it must be for other people, too.
“Because it’s been 30 years, maybe some of the people who have been scared to come forward might feel obligated and safe enough to do that,” she hopes.
“When you read the report, the evidence just stacks and stacks and stacks. There’s DNA in this case.”
That DNA hasn’t been tested. With no cold case detective in the Spokane Police Department, there just isn’t anyone who can pay full attention to old cases like this one. Gulick is trying to change that – for her family, and others.
She has written to every Spokane council member and also the mayor, hoping the city will dedicate resources to cold case homicides and sexual assaults.
“Even if something could come of this and we could get just one detective who’s assigned cold cases,” Gulick believes that could make a difference.
She’s started a Facebook page, too, for friends and family members of Spokane’s cold cases. She knows others might share the same horrifying suspicion that she has.
“From what I understand, they still live in Spokane. I’m sharing the city with someone who murdered my brother, who was a child.”
While she has long since made peace with her brother’s death, she’s brave enough now to come out of the shadows, hoping to bring his killer – or killers – to justice. The memory has haunted her long enough.
As our interview, concluded, Gulick asked if she could send a message whoever killed her brother.
“You know who you are. You know who you were with that night. It’s clear from the evidence I’ve read you don’t trust each other very much. If you are the last to come to the table, your options will be very limited. This isn’t over.”
If you have any information about the Russ Evans homicide, call Crime Check at 509-456-2233.
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