Lee Anthony Evans, Cleared As Suspect by Polygraph, Arrested for 1978 Murders

WCBS TV reports that Lee Evans, an early suspect in the 1978 disappearance of five Newark, New Jersey teenagers, has been arrested for their murder along with another as-yet-unidentified man. The Associated Press reports that Evans had earlier been eliminated as a suspect after passing a polygraph test:

The boys, Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor, who were both 17, and Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson, and Michael McDowell, who were all 16, were last seen on a busy street near a park where they had played basketball on Aug. 20, 1978. They were with a carpenter, Lee Evans, who routinely hired teens to help him with odd jobs, police have said.

Evans told police at the time that he dropped off the boys on a street corner near an ice cream parlor. Later that night, Michael McDowell returned home and changed clothes, then returned to a waiting pickup truck with at least one other boy inside. That was the last confirmed sighting of any of the teens.

Evans was repeatedly interviewed in the months after the disappearances but passed a polygraph examination and was cleared as a suspect.

If Evans is indeed guilty of killing the “Clinton Avenue Five,” then this is yet another case where misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy led to investigatorial misdirection. Such cases include those of “Green River Killer” Gary Leon Ridgway, “Woodchipper Killer” Richard Crafts, “Angel of Death” Charles Cullen, and Dennis Donohue, the likely killer of Buffalo, New York teenager Crystallynn Girard. All passed polygraphs regarding their crimes.

Update: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the second man arrested was Lee Evans’s cousin, Philander Hampton, 53, of Jersey City.

Update (7 June 2022): In November 2011, the New York Times reported that a jury found Lee Anthony Evans not guilty on all charges.

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