PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A family in Oregon now feels it has answers in the 1983 death of 28-year-old Nancy McEvers after Washington County cold case investigators reopened her case nearly 40 years later.
For four decades, McEvers’ family thought she was killed in an accidental shooting after her death was first deemed a suicide. They didn’t imagine that late last summer, her case would be reopened by cold case detectives with a much different outcome.
Nancy McEvers died Jan. 2, 1983. Her husband, Randy McEvers, was home with Nancy and their 1-year-old son when he called 911 to say she had shot herself.
“We grieved for Nancy many, many years ago,” said Janet Eglitis, Nancy’s sister. “For so many people, they thought it was a suicide, but we knew it never was. We always thought it was a terrible accident, but we had no information to tell us anything different.”
At the time, her family was told there was no evidence of foul play or leads, so they had no idea her case remained open until detectives with the violent crimes unit in Washington County re-examined the evidence in August 2022.
“When I read the case initially, I learned it was a poorly investigated case in ’83. Unfortunately, the lead investigator from then has died so I couldn’t really speak to him,” said Detective Anel Ceric from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), one of the lead investigators for the case. “There were some questions in one of the last reports that the detective cast doubt into Randy’s story. Why those things weren’t followed up on, I don’t know.”
A timeline of original events provided by WCSO shows that Randy, on the day of his wife’s death, gave responding deputies two different versions of events that led up to the shooting.
A month later, detectives had phone calls with Nancy’s co-workers and Randy’s friends, and learned that Randy had possibly been planning to kill Nancy due to Nancy wanting a divorce.
Another two months later, detectives said Randy’s parents agreed to have him take a polygraph exam, but he never took it and no longer spoke to investigators.
In August of 1983, the case was suspended due to a lack of other leads.
But about 39 years after the case was suspended, detectives reviewed and started actively investigating the McEvers case once again. Over the last several months, they interviewed additional witnesses and found new evidence.
In January 2023, detectives interviewed Randy himself, who was living in Tigard, Oregon, at the time. They then referred the case to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office for review and possible grand jury indictment.
“We interviewed a significant amount of people, we looked at evidence again,” said Detective Ceric. “We were to the point where I believe an arrest was necessary.”
It’s likely the public, and Nancy’s family, may never know what that new evidence was. Before the case could be reviewed by the DA, Randy committed suicide on Feb. 8, 2023.
The 40-year-old cold case is now officially closed.
“We’ve been relieved of going and being drug through a trial,” said Diane Grill, Nancy’s sister. “It’s been hard. It’s been hard for 40 years.
Nancy’s family feels that Randy’s actions were essentially tantamount to an admission of guilt, and they’re grateful to finally have a bit of “closure.”
“I’m just thankful too that I’m still here to see the end of this. I wish my husband were here, but he would’ve been very sad,” said Lenore Pepper, Nancy’s mom. “I feel we got justice, but like I say, in a very strange way. But at my age I don’t know if I could’ve gone to a trial every day, so we have to accept. That’s all we can do.”
The family continues to remember Nancy as a quiet and beautiful person who loved being a mom. They also plan to hold another memorial service in light of recent events.
“There hasn’t been one day since she died that I haven’t thought of her,” said Pepper. “It’s been really hard, but we’ve weathered the storm.”