by Charly Mann
Friday July 30th 1965 was a beautiful day to be alive in Chapel Hill. At 12:30 that afternoon the skies were clear, and it was 77; mild for mid-summer, and an attractive twenty-one year old coed named Suellen Evans was walking back to her room at Cobb dormitory. She was enrolled in summer school and had attended classes that morning in education and sociology. Like many other coeds she felt safe walking through the Arboretum in the middle of day to get to the nearby cluster of women dorms. Suellen had a beautiful voice and loved to sing. The most popular song among UNC students that week was the Four Tops song “I Can’t Help Myself” which she loved to sing along with.
As Suellen was about to complete her journey through the Arboretum a man suddenly grabbed her, and holding a five-inch knife in his hand tried to rape her near the exit on Raleigh Street across from McIver dormitory. Suellen screamed for help and fought off her assailant with all her might. As they struggled the man first stabbed her in the neck, and then in the chest right through her heart. The man then fled as two groups of women ran up to the scene after hearing Suellen’s cries for help. Suellen said to the women “he tried to rape me … I believe I’m going to faint”. Those were her last words.
Police search for clues at crime scene in Arboretum
Suellen Evans was loved by all her knew her. Her longtime friend and roommate at UNC that summer, Caroline Kay Seawell, described her as the most wonderful person she ever knew. More than 800 people attended her funeral in her hometown of Mooresville.
Suellen Evans was the first UNC student to be murdered in cold-blood, and the first reported even attempted rape victim, and it all happened in broad daylight in an area where hundreds of students walked, picnicked, sunbathed, or studied everyday.
The murder was commited in the Arboretum near the exit across from McIver Dormitory
Chapel Hill was shocked at the crime. More than 200 male UNC students walked shoulder to shoulder through every inch of the five acre Coker Arboretum looking for the long blade knife used in the slaying. Chapel Hill citizens colleted money for a reward fund that grew to $1285.
The University Police, The State Bureau of Investigation, and the Chapel Hill Police force combined to try to find the murderer. The Chapel Hill Board of Alderman even voted an extra $500 for the Police Department for use in their investigation. The first suspect was a black janitor who worked at Phillips Hall, and had been positively identified as coming out of the Arboretum around the time of the murder. After four hours of questioning he was released, primarily because he had no cuts or scratches, and the crime scene and lab tests indicated Suellen had forcibly tried to fight off her assailant.
The best lead was a red headed white man with freckles that two witnesses saw emerge from the Arboretum at the time of the slaying with blood on his hands, shirt, and neck, and get into a 1961 or 62 Rambler parked in front of the Chapel of The Cross in the Sundial parking area which adjoins the arboretum. The man was described as being about 50.
This is my mockup of the August 8, 1965 issue of my newspaper detailing the murder of Suellen Evans
Sadly the Suellen Evans case remains unsolved. I started doing a twice weekly Chapel Hill newspaper for my friends and family when I was fouteen in 1964 called The News of Chapel Hill. For several weeks in 1965 I focused much my coveage on the Evans case. I have always been cerain it was the blood splatteed red-headed man who was the murderer. Eerily his description and age at the time match the same person who I suspect killed Rachel Crook in another brutal crirme fouteen years earlier. See my article on the Crook murder case at: http://www.chapelhillmemories.com/cat/3/59
Could it be that the same man who killed Rachel Crook also killled Suellen Evans and both times escaped justice?Comment
What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.