Associated Press, July 1, 2003
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A 21-year-old Charlotte man was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison in the strangling death of a Seattle teenager killed while soliciting donations to her church.
Eugene Evans pleased guilty in Mecklenburg Superior Court to second-degree murder and first-degree sex offense. He was sentenced Monday to serve consecutive sentences with a maximum of 49 1/2 years.
Prosecutors had said they would seek the death penalty against Evans, but apparently decided to accept the plea after victim Jin-Joo Byrne’s parents, who oppose the death penalty, raised concerns.
“Their feelings played a key role in our decision,” prosecutor Marsha Goodenow said.
Byrne, 18, was reported missing Aug. 28, hours after she began going door-to-door at the Roseland Apartments. She was soliciting money for the Unification Church.
Her unclothed body was found the next day in a vacant apartment at the complex.
“We visited with the district attorney in October and pleaded for (Evans’) life,” the victim’s father, Martyn Byrne, said Monday from Seattle in a telephone interview with The Charlotte Observer. “We appreciate the district attorney’s willingness to take our feelings into consideration.”
Legs shackled and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Evans was given a chance to address the court before he was sentenced. He apologized to his family, then said, “I hope that I get out and do something different with the rest of my life. Ain’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret what happened.”
Evans was on probation for property crimes at the time of Byrne’s slaying. Jail records show he had been arrested at least 11 times since October 2001. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said he told investigators he was high on crack cocaine when he killed Byrne.
Police said Byrne was lured into the vacant apartment, then choked until she was unconscious, sexually assaulted and robbed of money and the costume jewelry she was offering in exchange for donations.
Byrne had graduated from high school in Seattle in June 2002 and was among a group of church members who traveled to Charlotte to investigate their faith or prepare for missionary work.
She had teamed with another member in soliciting donations, but they decided to split up and work independently. She was reported missing after she failed to meet with her group.
The Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, was founded in 1954 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and claims 50,000 members in the United States.