NJ Man Acquitted in 1978 Murders

Defends self in mysterious disappearance of 5 boys
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2011 4:32 AM CST
Newark Man Lee Anthony Evans Acquitted in 1978 Murders of Five Teen Boys
Lee Evans listens to the judge during opening arguments at Essex County Superior Court in Newark, NJ.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans, file)

Some 33 years after five boys went missing, a man charged in their deaths has been acquitted. Lee Evans, who was arrested last year, was found not guilty on all counts, but there was “no jumping up and down or hooting and hollering. That type of feeling wasn’t there,” he says. The mysterious disappearance of the boys—who were never heard from again after all five were due to meet with Evans, who sometimes employed them—was followed by a bizarre trial, the New York Times reports.

Evans’ cousin, an inmate, said in 2008 he had watched Evans force the boys into a closet of an abandoned home, nail it shut, and burn the house down to punish the teens for stealing his pot. An emotional Evans, who didn’t trust anyone but himself for the majority of his defense, pointed out holes in the story. Meanwhile, the judge frequently accused prosecutors of unfair tactics. Ultimately, the jury didn’t think Evans could be called guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But, Evans points out, “when somebody buries you with dirt and mud and concrete, and somebody says, ‘No, you didn’t do it,’ they already threw the mud and dirt." (Read more Newark stories.)

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