Renowned State Official Dies Unexpectantly

By John Monk

June 25, 2009

One of South Carolina’s toughest prosecutors — a woman who sent con men, drug dealers and dog fight breeders to prison — has died at 41.

Jennifer Evans, head of the state attorney general’s criminal section and chief prosecutor for the state grand jury, died suddenly in North Carolina over the weekend, Attorney General Henry McMaster said Sunday.

“It was completely unexpected,” said McMaster, who confirmed her death to The State, saying it was a health issue, but didn’t confirm any details. He had talked to family members.

Jennifer Evans, 41, died over the weekend in North Carolina.

Describing himself as “crushed,” McMaster said she was an almost irreplaceable person in his 200-plus staff, which has 70 lawyers. She handled some of the state’s most notorious cases, he said.

“If you wanted a class on some area of criminal law, you would go to Jennifer,” McMaster said. “There was nothing too big, too hard for her. I never heard her say anything was too difficult or it would take a lot of work. That wasn’t in her vocabulary.”

Among other cases, Evans prosecuted white-collar swindlers in the Home Gold securities fraud scandal, and drug cases including a sprawling upstate Mexican methamphetamine ring. She was an expert on gang laws.

She also helped win a guilty plea that netted a 30-year jail sentence for North Charleston pit bull breeder and illegal dogfighter David Tant. After Tant’s 2004 guilty plea, the Humane Society of the United States hailed the prosecution as having sent a message to dogfighters nationwide.

Word of her death spread by cell phone and text message throughout the state’s law enforcement and legal communities Sunday.

“Everybody’s in shock right now,” said SLED director Reggie Lloyd, a former U.S. Attorney.

Evans, known for her energy and wit, was a courtroom warrior liked and respected by opposing lawyers, said attorneys who had fought against her.

“She was tough and hard-hitting without being mean-spirited or ever landing a blow that wasn’t fair,” said Joel Collins, a Columbia defense lawyer who represented Earle Morris, a former lieutenant governor and state comptroller general.

In 2004, Evans was part of a prosecution team that got Morris convicted of securities fraud for lying to investors. In 2007, as chief prosecutor, Evans successfully worked to make sure Morris — who had delayed imprisonment by appeals — was finally sent to prison over Collins’ objections.

Dick Harpootlian, a defense lawyer and former 5th Circuit solicitor, said Evans was expert at all facets of the law, from appeals to cross-examination.

“Anyone would have been lucky to have her on their team,” said Harpootlian. Evans was fast to respond creatively and accurately to changing courtroom situations, he said.

In 2004, Evans helped orchestrate a prosecution that landed Harpootlian’s client, Columbia con man Tracy McGee, in prison. McGee had fleeced Columbia-area doctors and others out of more than $1 million.

Columbia defense attorney Jim Griffin said, “I’ve worked with her, and I’ve worked against her, and believe me, it’s a much more pleasant experience to work with her.”

In 2007, Evans was the lead prosecutor on a team that got one of Griffin’s high-profile clients, Ronald Sheppard, 20 years in prison for his role in the Home Gold securities fraud case. Some 8,000 investors lost $277 million; Sheppard was Home Gold CEO.

Griffin, 47, said Evans’ great skill was with people. “She had a way of getting people to open up to her in a way that maybe they wouldn’t to others. There’s a whole lot more to being a lawyer than just looking at books and arguing the law.”

Griffin said he gave Evans a job in his defense law firm just before she graduated from USC law school in 1996.

After working with Griffin, she joined the solicitor’s office in York County as an assistant prosecutor, then came to the S.C. attorney general’s office.

Three years ago, when she was in her late 30s, McMaster promoted her to head his office’s criminal prosecution team.

“This certainly leaves a big hole — not only in office operations but in our hearts,” said McMaster.

Attorneys like Evans are few and far between. What should we do about all these "experts" who bastardize the judicial process?


Public Comments

June 25, 2009: This prosecutor brought down some pretty big fish in South Carolina,then at the age of 40 dies mysteriously over the weekend. All while the top elected state official goes off his rocker and high tails to Argentina. This seems more than odd. Hopping on an airplane flying across the world,not disclosing your location,while being a governor is not rational. The Alibi would seem to be the perfect example of "Controlling the Narrative" I do not think he is responsible, perhaps a man with a conscience.

June 25, 2009: I am so glad to see people asking about this. Jennifer Evans was likened to "the quarterback" in the SC Attorney General's office. She just recently was wrapping a case against the Lt. Gov.'s chief of staff and former Secretary of State Jim Miles --- on allegedly defrauding the elderly of all things (his boss, Andre-who-wants-to-be governor when he grows up, charaded as a champion of the elderly). In addition, she was going after some very questionable activity at a leading medical university in the state. She was fearless. She was focused. She was the best we had. Whether the timing of Sanford's sudden escape to Argentina is related, it certainly spotlights his avoidance of an extremely critical matter; a disaster in fact, through the loss of the only person in the state with the willingness, ability and intent to take down facilitators of one of the nation's most corrupt governments. God help us! (Henry McMaster, the state AG and also gov-wannabe, actually blocked some of her missions for his own political expedience.) The summer will just get hotter in SC, and it's about damned time!

June 25, 2009: The media normally references whether an autopsy will be performed on any person who dies of unknown causes. The forensics team at the Medidcal University of South Carolina (which Evans also was investigating) always make a big deal about an autopsy results. Yet, no such autopsy was reported and it doesn't seem apparent that one was performed, otherwise, why wouldn't it be public record? She was a leading state official who also was dogging corrupt state officials, gangs, frauds, etc. And the media was predictably drawn off course to dwell on one of its favorite subjects. Where are the mildly curious proponents of public accountability?

June 29, 2009: I find it a little disconcerting that a "B" list celebrity can have an autopsy,with preliminary results,in 24 hours. While a District Attorney dealing with criminal and corruption cases dies suddenly at the age of 40 with no autopsy or subsequent investigation.

July 1, 2009: She worked with and around many people who are saying she showed no signs of ill health or conditions.

July 1, 2009: WHY IS NO ONE MENTIONING ATTORNEY IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
The woman was known all over the state. Google for info on her death. All you get is one piece from The State and another about a memorial service. She successfully prosecuted criminals who stole millions of dollars from thousands of working class families. Google the damn upstate papers! There is not a word!!! The paper was full of this stuff with her cases when it was going on. What's wrong?

July 1, 2009: So far there's been little news about her death. She "died unexpectedly" says one article. Another article notes that she died in her cabin of "medical conditions". That's pretty vague. An induced heart attack might be considered a medical condition, I would think. Death is ALWAYS caused by a 'medical condition' right? Starvation, blood loss, heart attack, drowning, etc.... they count on people not really paying attention!

July 1, 2009:I believe there is a connection to Jennifer Evans death and Mark Sanford's strange disappearance.

July 1, 2009:The media is depressing, a major concern and the root of our social problems.

Liars! Propagandists!

Where are the facts. This prosecutor was highly newsworthy. Her cases stayed on the FRONT PAGES of newspapers all around the state for years! Where are the newsworthy facts?

July 1, 2009: Any veteran C/T knows that a person in Sanford"s position is not allowed to ascend without being black mailable...

Hell, all the major celebrities biography are written before they expire...

Any major politician has a "Jacket" just waiting to be pulled if they go against the "Status Quo"....

July 1, 2009: This is OBama's new whistleblower protection plan. Have them die so no crimes can be exposed. As for Sanford there is a WHOLE LOT UNEXPLAINED and his 'story' just doesn't add up.

July 1, 2009: We "know" Sanford is being blackmailed. We know his wife is helping with the cover story. We don't know why. We don't know what happened. A famous prosecutor is dead and no one is saying anything about it, other that one brief report and the memorial service. Go to the guest book for the memorial and see how many people around the state signed that book!

No one is reporting on the investigation into the Lt Governor's office. No one is reporting on the on-going investigation into MUSC

July 1, 2009: I hope the people with the ability to tighten screws, keep turning. I do not want to see this womans life work mean nothing...

July 1, 2009: From June 18 until June 24, 2009, the whereabouts of Governor Sanford were unknown to the public, including his wife and State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for him. Sounds like the people who tighten screws murdered Jennifer.

July 1, 2009:What if the Governor was having a secret meeting with Jennifer about a corruption investigation, and the private investigator of the people who were being investigated murdered her to put an end to the investigation? Isn't that how corrupt private investigators work these days?

July 5, 2009: There are a lot of us talking about the peculiar circumstances surrounding recent events and we really don't think that Sanford had an affair. The State newspaper publishing the stupid "love" e-mails give it away as being a false story and make it appear that Sanford is being threatened. The person who wrote those e-mails for publication is not the brightest bulb we have in SC. At least, I pray that's not the brightest.

July 26, 2009: I think MarK Sanford was after some pretty high up PTB. I truly believe he was given a choice to discredit himself like this, or to face "suicide" or worse yet...his family...

The fact that his wife was not standing beside him like wives usually are in these announcements, says either his story about the affair is true and she is just not going to play the "supporting spouse" role, or it's like what I said, and she and her children are being hidden for their own protection.

I watched him as he spoke, this did NOT look like a man giving a real "confession" to me. Something about the whole thing did not seem real.

August 13, 2009: S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster is once again passing the buck on investigating Gov. Mark Sanford – this time asking the toothless State Ethics Commission to look into whether or not Sanford violated ethics law in using state aircraft for personal purposes. Is he kidding us? That’s like asking a mall cop to investigate the friggin’ Kennedy assassination.

Previously, McMaster asked the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate whether or not Sanford broke any laws in traveling to see his Argentine lover Maria Belen Chapur.

October 20, 2009: We need to reform the failed criminal justice system, in the name of Jennifer Evans. The system is broken.

She was murdered because the people she had targeted proved to have more and better resources than she did and that is not acceptable.

AMERICA leads the world in incarcerations, both in terms of the total number of people it puts inside and in the proportion of its citizens that end up behind bars. We have a prison system that is even more regressive than that of the Chinese and the Russians, and we do not hesitate to condemn THEIR miscarriages of justice. What about our own?

Needless to say, when the system is broken, it needs to be fixed from the top to the bottom.

First and foremost, we should immediately cease to incarcerate non-violent offenders. We live in a world that is dominated by corruption and deception and it is not possible to fight it when scarce resources are squandered on relatively trivial matters.

Solution: Instead of trying to finance the effort to fight corruption on the backs of overburdened taxpayers, we must fight corruption by financing it on the backs of the criminals. We must seize their assetts and use their resources to "grow" the opportunity to fight corruption.

Clearly, if the toughest and the most competent prosecutors cannot overcome the forces of corruption, nobody can.

We all live under the bondage of corruption and it will never get any better unless we grow the ability to fight it.

Instead of incarcerating a billionaire for 6 years, fine them for 6 billion (depending on the seriousness of the crime) and use the money to further oppose rampant corruption.

Imagine the resources that somebody like Martha Stewart could have contributed to the task of fighting crime if her tax funded accomodations were denied and her resources were applied.

The current system which threatens to incarcerate corrupt people is a failure because some people will invariably do whatever is necessary to avoid becoming Conrad Black's neighbor, and they will use their resources to destroy somebody like Jennifer Evans.

Clearly, we need a two-pronged attack to fight this corruption:

A/ We take away the prison threat for non-violent offenders because taxpayers should not be thuswise burdened.

B/ We send a clear message to violent offenders that if they even think about murdering somebody like Jennifer Evans, the resources that are deployed to investigate murder are so absolutely overwhelming that they will never get away with it.

As things currently stand, the resources that are used to get away with murder dwarf the opportunity to expose murderers, and that is a situation that must be reversed.

The benefits of "growing" the ability to oppose corruption are clear and obvious.

The bottom line is that as long as competent people like Jennifer Evans are successfully targeted and destroyed, the battle to overcome the bondage of corruption will always fail.

The current, criminal justice system is really a joke. Today, national attention is fixated on the "Balloon Boy" story, an evident hoax that has gone awry, althought the father should be presumed innocent until conclusive evidence emerges.

Regardless, who cares? Did you really have an "aha" moment, or did you realize that even if everything that Wolf Blitzer and the authorities say about Richard Heenie is true, then this man needs a competent psychiatrist, not a jail cell.

Instead of having psychiatrists condemn this man on CNN, why don't they treat him, or are they just after the publicity?

GROW UP AMERICA. A leading prosecutor has been murdered and you want to DESTROY a typical, dysfunctional, American family?

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