Who Killed Snookie Evans?

A chilling Rochester cold case
Norris Evans, photo provided

Norris Evans, known to her friends as Snookie, was a twenty-seven-year-old mother of four small children who lived at 5 Kron Street in Rochester’s Nineteenth Ward. Her home was at the southwest corner of Kron and Ellicott, one block north of Brooks Avenue. She and her husband, twenty-six-year-old Lewis, were having domestic issues, and she had just returned home from a short trial separation.

An anonymous man telephoned police at 11:24 p.m. May 23, 1975, reporting family trouble in the Evanses’ home. Rochester Police Department (RPD) dispatcher Barbara Cargess took the call, and Officer Paul R. Camping responded.

Camping reported minutes later, at about 11:30 p.m., that he’d gone to the apartment, knocked on the door for five minutes, and heard no sounds from inside. He shone his flashlight into a window to see if anything was wrong but saw nothing of note.

“The house appeared dark and quiet,” Camping wrote in his report, “and the front door and storm door were closed.”

At approximately 12:23 a.m., about an hour after the anonymous phone call, Lewis Evans came home from his job working the third shift (4 p.m. to midnight) at the Rochester Products division of General Motors factory at Lexington Avenue and Mt. Read Boulevard and found his wife’s body. She was face down on the living room floor, her throat cut so deeply that she’d practically been beheaded, and naked except for a housecoat.

Lewis couldn’t call for help from home because the phone had been yanked from the wall, so he ran over to his next-door neighbor’s apartment.

At 12:33 a.m., the RPD received a call from a Mrs. Nancy Taney, saying, “My next-door neighbor is out of his mind saying that his wife is hurt.”

“What is your address?” the dispatcher, again Cargess, inquired.

“Forty-one Ellicott Street.The woman is in 5 Kron Street, which is the other apartment in this building, but the entrance is around the corner.”

Officer Camping again got the call and returned to the address where he had been less than an hour earlier. This time he encountered Lewis Evans outside in an “incoherent condition.”

Mrs. Taney, the caller, was standing outside as well.

“She might be dead,” Mrs. Taney told Camping. That meant she was, and Mrs. Taney knew it.

The police officer found a clearly deceased Mrs. Evans and returned to Lewis, who was angry and apparently in shock. Force was needed to get him into the cop car so he could be questioned at HQ.

During questioning, a calmer Lewis said he recognized the murder weapon because it had a little chip in it and it came from his kitchen.This meant that the killer came to the scene without a weapon of his own, or if he had one he decided not to use it.

Captain Anthony Leonardo, head of the Rochester Police Department’s physical crimes unit, took charge of the investigation. At the crime scene, a log was kept of everyone who went inside the police tape. As a police officer came in the front door, facing east, the stairs to the second floor were directly ahead and the living room was to the left. In the living room, there was an L-shaped couch against the left and far walls. The body was in front of the couch with its head to the south. The victim’s arms were raised up above her head. The TV was in the northwest corner, turned on but tuned to a Buffalo channel, so the screen image was mostly snow.The murder weapon had been found on the floor only a few inches from the victim’s feet.

The couple’s four children, all home at the time of the murder, were removed from the apartment out a back way, heads covered, so as not to see the crime scene. They went to stay with their grandmother and aunt for a while. The two oldest boys had hidden in a closet during the murder. Another boy cowered with a frying pan over his head, and the baby girl was in her crib. None were harmed.

There was no sign of forced entry, and Mrs. Evans’ family said there was no way she would open the door for someone she didn’t know. Sexual assault was obvious. Several rooms were ransacked, and an undetermined amount of money was missing from the house.

Crime-scene technicians bagged portions of bloody carpet and carpet pad, a knife, a broken cast-iron fry pan, an afro pick, and samples of hair and blood for evidence. Personal papers went into evidence bags. Also taken were a cap from a jar of Heinz baby food, part of a hair curler, and a bloodstained baby blanket.

Fingerprints were lifted off a back-door jamb and various parts of the house. In all, fourteen latent prints were developed. After people with an excuse to be in the apartment were eliminated, there remained one fingerprint, the jamb print, that to this day has not produced a match. Trace evidence was also gathered: hair samples from the victim and the victim’s husband (for comparison purposes). Nail scrapings were taken both from the victim and from her husband.The victim’s glasses and the shirt her husband had been wearing when police arrived were also bagged and sent to the lab.

Mrs. Evans’s body reposed at the Samuel Langston Jr. Slumber Room at the Genesee Funeral Homes on Genesee Street, and services were held on Thursday, May 29, 1975, at Mount Oliphet Baptist Church on Adams Street in the city, with the Rev. Leardrew L. Johnson officiating.

In cases like these, in which a wife is killed and the husband is the one to discover the body, he automatically becomes top suspect. However, in this case Lewis Evans appeared to be off the hook.

There was initial confusion regarding the time of the murder. Captain Leonardo told the Democrat and Chronicle that Mrs. Evans had been dead for about four hours when the body was discovered—which would have made the time of death about 8:30 p.m.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office however determined that Ms. Evans had been killed between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., or between the anonymous phone call reporting family trouble and when Lewis Evans discovered the body at about 12:23 a. m., estimating fifteen minutes for him to drive home from work.

Investigators did thorough checking and learned that the victim’s husband was playing cards at his job at 11:30 p.m., and witnesses saw him clock out at 12:08 a.m., which gave him just enough time to come home, discover the body, and scream for help at his neighbor’s door.

Dr. George R. Abbott performed the autopsy. His report showed that Mrs. Evans’s throat was slit to the bone. She had two stab wounds in the lower stomach, one stab wound to the left side of her chest that penetrated her lung, and one superficial wound near the heart. There was also a stab wound in the middle of her back.

Investigators obtained a copy of the 11:24 p.m. “family trouble” call and played it for all the victim’s friends and family.Although several thought the voice sounded familiar, no one was able to positively identify it.

Everyone known to be within 100 yards of the crime scene denied making the call, and, for that matter, denied hearing anything coming out of 5 Kron that would make them consider calling.

Most of those potential witnesses came from a gathering of teenagers on a front porch across the street who said they saw no one go in or out of the home at 5 Kron on the night of the murder, but, being teenagers, it was questionable how much they were paying attention.

Today, the RPD is still actively searching for Norris “Snookie” Evans’s killer. If you have information that might help lead to an arrest, please contact the police, or if you prefer, you may email your information and contact info tekmatt@aol.com.

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