New deputy's crimefighting career began with a terrible ordeal

Published: Aug. 20, 2010 at 10:14 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2010 at 10:33 PM EDT
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By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Among Friday's graduates from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy was a young woman with an incredible story. Kara Robinson managed to escape from her kidnapper eight years ago, and in doing so, helped investigators solve three Virginia murder cases.

She stood out in her graduating class, the lone woman among several dozen men. Though as a crimefighter, 23-year-old Kara Robinson distinguished herself long before she ever put on a uniform.

The fact was recognized by the academy's director, who says Robinson had every reason not to choose a life in law enforcement. "But every now and then you see a person in our society who has uncommon dignity and courage," said Hubert Harrell.

Like her fellow graduates, Kara Robinson had to endure nine weeks of vigorous training at the criminal justice academy. But her journey began more than eight years ago with an experience only she could understand.

On June 27, 2002 in Sarasota Florida, convicted sex offender Richard Evonitz put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger as police closed in on him. Evonitz, a Columbia native, had been identified as a suspect in the kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old Lexington County girl and the murders of three young women in Virginia.

That rape victim, held by Evonitz in a plastic tub before she was assaulted, was Kara Robinson. "I kind of blocked it out at the time just because I had that survivor mentality and I knew that I was going to get out of there," she said. "So at the time, I wasn't really focusing on everything that was happening. I was focused on the end result, the finish line."

Investigators said they might never have stopped Evonitz if not for Robinson's ability to stay calm and remember details including the serial number on the plastic container. "Adults would be awed at the amount of composure that she's held through this," Richland County Deputy Johnathon Talkish said at the time.

For most of her time there, none of Robinson's classmates or instructors at the academy knew her background. Some only found out when the Evonitz case came up during a class session on what it's like to be a survivor. "At the end of class I went up to her and I said, 'I just wanted to let you know, that lesson you just taught -- that was me,'" said Robinson. "And obviously, no one at the academy at that point knew. The director knew because he used to work at the sheriff's department. But no one else knew."

Sheriff Leon Lott helped develop Robinson's interest in a law enforcement career and guided her toward Friday's ceremony, where she received her certification. During that event, Robinson picked up the academy's courage award and got a standing ovation.
Robinson's first assignment now that she's a full-time certified deputy will be as a school resource officer in Richland District Two.

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