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Suellen Evans 1965 Unsolved Coed Murder

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.

Suellen Evans, Murdered University of North Carolina Coed, Chapel Hill 1965
Suellen Evans

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?



Glenda Kearns      12:56 PM Mon 6/22/2015

My aunt and I grew up next door to Suellen. I was younger, but I tagged along with them. She was a very kind person, and loved her animals, especially her cats. I remember her playing the piano with her cats draped over the top. Loved going to her house, especially at Christmas. Her mother made the old fashioned pulled mints. Many happy memories of Suellen and her family. She had an older brother that was away in service at the time. It's been said that her dad died of a broken heart. All that's left of her immediate family is her sister-in-law. Those of us that keep Suellen's memory alive in our hearts are praying that this case will get solved.

Tom Reisinger      7:38 PM Thu 12/18/2014

18 Dec 14<br \>WAS there evidence found under the fingernails? If so, was it tested?

Carol Bourne      12:56 PM Mon 9/15/2014

I was on campus when this happened but I thought it was the fourth of July, a Friday, and people still had classes. We actually were walking in the Arboretum that day but I did not see anything. It was about noon, though, and it was a really big deal. I have written other places that several nuns were walking behind her, and they saw a black arm with a blue shirt sleeve, and there were men working on a road gang paving Franklin Street (I think it was Franklin) that summer. To my knowledge, none of those guys were questioned, and they moved on the next week or so. It was a very frightening time, especially since it was a summer session and there were lots and lots of visiting students. My roommate was from Germany and carried a loaded pistol with her...we kind of appreciated that after the murder. We all walked in groups of four or five to and from class. It is very disheartening that it was never solved. The &quot;perp&quot; would have to be in his late 50s or mid to late 60s by now, but he could still be around.<br \>

C. Snider      10:12 PM Thu 7/31/2014

I was a graduate student at Chapel Hill that summer and working as a TA. Less than a week from the murder I was walking across campus sometime in the evening, heading from the area of Wilson Library to Franklin Street. A dark-skinned man came diagonally across the quad from near what was then the Student Union and was clearly intending to intercept me as I speeded up. He said something to me in a very soft voice that sounded faintly foreign. I pretended not to notice him and continued walking without looking in his direction. The guy kept walking right behind me. Some guys were walking along Franklin Street, which by then was in yelling distance. The guy must have fallen back behind as I got to the street, crossed it, and went to the Dairy Queen and called the police. They were very interested in hearing a description, but unfortunately, I did not have a clear one at all, as I had only glanced at him out of the corner of my eye.

Neil Russell      8:24 AM Sat 6/19/2010

I remember hearing about this murder. Around 1969 or 1970, rumors were flying around that she was killed by one of the long time waiters at the Rat. I won&#39;t mention his name, as I have trouble believing he did it, as he was the friendliest, most likable of their wait staff.

M Brummitt      2:53 AM Wed 3/24/2010

I wonder if this case could have something to do with the Marry Shotwell Case.

Tom Livengood      8:59 PM Thu 2/25/2010

I was in summer school when this horrible murder happened. I was sitting on a rock wall about 2 blocks away that afternoon and heard the sirens but didn&#39;t think too much about it.<br \>I went home for the weekend and when I returned I volunteered to help search the Arb for any weapons or other items that may have been of interest to the supervising police. We (male students) spent several hours on our hands and knees searching every inch of the grounds. Nothing was found. <br \>After that incident, we would escort the female students at night from the library or classrooms to their dorms. It was a scary time.

vwlinney      3:56 PM Sat 1/16/2010

As a freshman woman I lived in Spencer Hall about 2 years before this murder. The Arboretum was our backyard. My mom, a native New Yorker, expressed suspicion of the shrubbery as a perfect hiding place for one bent on criminal intent. At 18 yo I pooh-poohed my mom&#39;s opinions. The Arb was gorgeous, I thought.<br \><br \>There was a colorful tall heavy set young black man who hung out on Franklin St carrying a camera. I heard Townies express deeply held hunches that he was te murderer.

S Billings      6:00 PM Sat 12/26/2009

I&#39;m a Carolina grad but was only 11 at the time of the murder. I remember so well the shock of hearing about it and thought of Suellen often when walking through the Arboretum during my years spent in Chapel Hill. My cousin was scheduled to start her freshman year at Carolina that fall but her parents had her make a last minute switch to ECU when the news of the murder came out. Sadly, this sort of thing is way too common today.<br \>

Charly Mann      4:15 PM Sun 8/23/2009

Ms. Swindell, I have also received several e-mails since this piece was published that make me think they were close to catching this killer. I plan to do an update on the case within a year.

A. Swindell      2:46 PM Sun 8/23/2009

I was working in the Admissions Office at the time of the murder, and had my name and phone number posted in several areas of campus to type theses. I received a call at my home from a male who sounded foreign. He asked if we could meet and he would give me the materials to type. He would not come to my office, but instead, wanted to meet in a couple of different places that were fairly secluded. I called the police, because at that time they were looking for a dark-skinned male in his 20&#39;s to 30&#39;s. They thought this could be the guy. I had given the guy my office number to call the next day and settle on a meeting place...which, by the way, the police wanted me to go along with the meeting! The police wanted someone in our office to call their special &quot;tracking&quot; number so that they could trace the call. The only problem was that I had to keep him on the line for several minutes, which seemed like several hours! I did as I was asked, but, unfortunately, the only person who could do the tracing was out to lunch at the time of the call! Needless to say, I did not meet the guy, and he never called back. The Police Dept. didn&#39;t have the equipment we have now.

Amy Booker      2:26 PM Mon 7/6/2009

I was only twelve at the time of this tragic event. Actually,<br \>I think it was the first murder we had experienced on<br \>campus. I am a native of CH, and grew up on East Franklin.<br \>I can remember my mom telling us to come inside until <br \>everything was cleared. This was pretty frightening to<br \>a twelve year old. Will never forget it.

Barbara Foushee      10:10 AM Tue 6/23/2009

I think this is more shocking than the Eve Carson killing, and I had never heard this happened when I was a student a UNC (from 1986 to 1990). This case needs to get more attention so that the authorities have the incentive to finally find the killer.

Randi Abbott      9:29 AM Mon 6/22/2009

You would think that current DNA testing could help solve this case. From your description of the struggle and the scratches on the main suspect, I would assume the some of the murder&#39;s DNA would be under her fingernails.

M Taylor      11:48 AM Sun 6/21/2009

What a sad story. I hope that someone in the Chapel Hill PD will read this piece and reopen the investigation.

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



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.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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