Woman Who Unwittingly Married Serial Killer Connects With Surviving Victim On TikTok

In her first-ever post to TikTok, Bonnie Lou Gower revealed she’d been married at 17, divorced at 25, remarried, had two children — then discovered her first husband was a serial killer responsible for the deaths of at least three girls. 

People immediately had questions, which Gower has since been answering in a series of posts, “How I Was Married To A Serial Killer.” Her initial post has been viewed more than 32 million times since June 2, including by the only known surviving victim of Gower’s ex-husband, who has also been using TikTok to chronicle her ongoing struggle to heal from the trauma of being abducted at age 15. 

Kara Robinson Chamberlain, now 37, told HuffPost she reached out to Gower, who responded with kindness and compassion. And, she said, it’s perhaps unsurprising that people with ties to notorious true crime cases are using social media to tell their stories on their own terms and connect with each other.

Kara Robinson Chamberlain escaped after being abducted, sexually assaulted and held for 18 hours by a serial killer when she was 15 years old.
Kara Robinson Chamberlain escaped after being abducted, sexually assaulted and held for 18 hours by a serial killer when she was 15 years old. NBCUniversal

TikTok, Chamberlain said, has a “very intelligent algorithm” that pushes people’s stories to a supportive audience “as opposed to people who are simply there to troll.”

“People are becoming more aware of what it means to be a conscious and ethical consumer of these stories,” she said. “It’s just a really lovely kind of place to be sharing these stories.”

Chamberlain first opened up in 2020 on TikTok about her abduction by Gower’s ex-husband, Richard Evonitz, and her daring escape from him after Evonitz restrained and repeatedly sexually assaulted her over 18 hours. That post went viral, as have many of her follow-up posts, in which commenters have commended her courage, candor and vulnerability in speaking publicly.

“[Gower] said that she thought about me a lot over the years and [had] wanted to reach out,” Chamberlain said.

HuffPost reached out to Gower but did not receive an immediate response.

Evonitz abducted Chamberlain at gunpoint on June 24, 2002, when she was outside watering her friend’s flowers in Lexington County, South Carolina. He drove her to the Columbia apartment he shared with his second wife, who was away on a trip to Disney World, The Washington Post reported at the time.

During what she described as “18 hours of hell” in a series of TikToks chronicling her ordeal, Chamberlain tried to elicit personal information about her captor and memorized details about his home and his identity. When he fell asleep beside her, she managed to free herself from her leg and wrist restraints and ran into the street, where a car stopped and took her to a police station.

Her story was the subject of the 2021 documentary “Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story” and dramatized in the 2023 Lifetime movie “The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story.”

After Chamberlain escaped, Evonitz, then 38, fled to Sarasota, Florida. Before he fatally shot himself after a high-speed police chase on June 27, he called his sister and told her he had committed “more crimes than [he] can remember” — far more, authorities believe, than the three girls he had abducted and killed in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in the 1990s. The cases had gone cold until evidence collected in Evonitz’s car and apartment — located as a result of Chamberlain’s detailed descriptions to the police — connected him to the unsolved rapes and murders of 16-year-old Sofia Silva in September 1996 and sisters Kristin Lisk, 15, and Kati Lisk, 12, the following May.

“One of the most important things that I’ve ever done in my life is give the Lisk and Silva families some answers as to what happened to their children,” Chamberlain told HuffPost.

After a news conference announcing that police had identified Richard Marc Evonitz as the killer of Kristin and Kati Lisk, an unidentified FBI agent kneels by the sisters' graves on Aug. 13, 2002.
After a news conference announcing that police had identified Richard Marc Evonitz as the killer of Kristin and Kati Lisk, an unidentified FBI agent kneels by the sisters' graves on Aug. 13, 2002. AP Photo/The Free Lance-Star, Rhonda Weaver

Gower had married Evonitz in August 1988, when she was 17 and he was serving in the Navy, she said in her TikToks. When the couple divorced in 1996, they were living in Virginia’s Spotsylvania County, where he killed Sofia Silva and the Lisk sisters, according to Gower and public records.

In 2008, the FBI issued a ViCAP alert, seeking assistance in identifying other abductions, sexual assaults or murders Evonitz may have committed while living, working or traveling in specific states between 1980 and 2002.

Before he married Gower, Evonitz was sentenced to probation in Florida after exposing himself to a 15-year-old girl and her toddler sister in 1987. Investigators said Evonitz confessed that he had a problem “with masturbating in front of girls” and would drive around looking for them when he felt the “urge.”

Gower said in a TikTok Monday that she believed her then-husband when he told her that he had been “driving around naked” while “blacked-out drunk” and was arrested because “some girls had seen him.” She was just a teenager, she reminded viewers, and she accepted his lies.

Chamberlain, who is now a victims’ advocate, public speaker and co-host of the podcast “Survivor’s Guide to True Crime,” said it’s important to hear from people touched by all sides of a crime to understand the complexity of being a victim or survivor. She counts Gower as one of them.

When asked what advice she would give Gower or others interested in coming forward publicly, she quoted a saying popular among victims’ advocates: Share your story when it’s a scar, not a wound.

“It’s so important that you share your story when you’re in a space that you’re not going to get triggered, because people are going to ask the most outlandish, careless questions when you share your story in a public forum. And if you don’t have a level of healing, or thick skin or whatever, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s going to be triggering,” she said.

TikTok is “a great place to meet other survivors” who can commiserate with the unique reality of true crime fame, said Chamberlain, while emphasizing the importance of having a support system before coming forward.

“Things are going to come up that you’re not even going to be able to imagine,” she said.

Chamberlain said Gower shared her phone number and said she would be happy to speak with her on the phone as well.

“I just haven’t made that phone call yet because I don’t even know how to make that phone call,” she said.

“What do you even say? What do you even say to someone?  … I’m sure it’s awkward for her as well.”