Double Life

Date Published 08.11.09
The prisoner sent up no red flags.  He was quiet.  He gave them no trouble.  When they’d come to arrest him he’d been sitting on his front porch.  They told him why they were there.  He invoked his Fifth Amendment and asked for an attorney.  No struggle.  No drama.

Which is why it must have been shocking the next afternoon to find him hanging in his cell.  He’d only had a 10-minute window of opportunity with which to do it; using his jail uniform as a noose, he took it.

In death, as in life, Christopher Revak was a closed book.  It’s impossible to know exactly what he was thinking when he killed himself on July 26 in the Douglas County Jail in Ava, Missouri, but his stoic, unflappable demeanor offers a clue.  When he died Revak, 36, was facing second-degree murder charges in the March 2007 slaying of Rene Williams, a bartender at the Eagles Lodge bar near Ava.  Revak was an unlikely murder suspect.  Despite some low-level troubles with the law in the early and mid ‘90s, he was outwardly a normal guy, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, reliable, unassuming, well liked.

But what Revak knew as he fastened the noose, and what Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase suspected after the suicide and is now confirming, was that the normal guy demeanor was just a facade, a carefully constructed mask that concealed years of secrets. Investigators now believe Revak didn’t get drunk once and take an after hours attack on a bartender too far.  They believe he was a serial killer. 

It isn’t surprising that Revak was able to appear calm while plotting his own death.  He’d been living a split life for a long time. 

Rene Williams was last seen around 1:30 a.m. on March 13, 2007, shortly after closing up Eagles Lodge.  The night’s receipts were in the safe and the bar was locked.  Williams’ car was still in the parking lot.  But Williams, a mother of three, was gone.

A recent tip led law enforcement to search a piece of rugged property for Williams’ remains.  They didn't find her, but a connection to the property led them to Revak.  Revak’s DNA matched evidence found outside Eagles Lodge.  Additionally, investigators discovered Williams’ blood and saliva on evidence seized from Revak’s home.

Sheriff Degase says after Revak's suicide investigators found evidence he'd led a double life, that he'd masterfully and calculatedly concealed a dark side from family and friends.  Sheriff Degase felt certain Revak, who was obviously clever and complicated, was responsible for more murders, and began digging. 

While remaining vague, Degase says they now believe Revak is connected to four women's deaths in at least two other states.  The M.O. and time frame fit, Degase says, and they can place Revak in one of the states at the time of one abduction and murder and there's strong evidence he's responsible for two more.

Information about the other cases is cryptic.  Degase will only say the states are north of Missouri and the cases go back as far as 14 years. They are small towns, but not as small as Ava.  He also says in some instances Revak was simply passing through the area.

A background check on Revak shows he was raised in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.  It appears he married a woman named Jennifer Beamish who was also from that area.  At some point, possibly in 2000, they moved to southwest Missouri.  They divorced in 2002. 

An obvious case Revak might be connected to is the disappearance and murder of Deidre Harm.  She was reported missing from Wisconsin Rapids on June 11, 2006 after she failed to return home.  Like Williams, she was last seen around closing time at a bar.  Her remains were found 6 months later in a rural area.

The background check shows Revak still has ties to the Wisconsin Rapids area; it’s likely he returns occasionally for visits.  Police released a sketch of a man seen talking to Harm at The Finish Line bar the night she disappeared.  Here is Revak’s mugshot on top; below is the suspect sketch.

One case that fits Revak's alleged M.O. perfectly is Crystal Arensdorf's.  She disappeared from Knicker's Saloon in Dubuque, Iowa on July 4, 2001 around closing time.  Her whereabouts are unknown.  Dubuque is in a state north of Missouri and would be considered a small town, but not as small as Ava, Missouri. It's striking how much Arensdorf looks like Williams:

Crystal Arensdorf     Rene Williams

But maybe the most tantalizing case that Revak could be linked to goes back 14 years, the exact time frame Sheriff Degase mentioned.  A check into Revak's known addresses lists only Wisconsin and Missouri, but looking into his wife's backgroud yields more interesting answers.  She has many Wisconsin and Missouri addresses, but also one in Iowa.  Mason City, Iowa to be exact, where 14 years ago someone abducted television news anchor Jodi Huisentruit in the early morning hours outside her apartment.  I wrote about Jodi's disappearance here.

An address for Revak's wife in Mason City shows at one time she lived a little over a mile from where Huisentruit was abducted.  While Huisentruit wasn't abducted inside or near a bar, she was at her vehicle; there's evidence Williams was also near her vehicle when she was attacked.

Christopher Revak may have thought when he killed himself he pulled the ultimate trick, disappearing before he could be linked to other murders across the country.  But the only thing he took with him is the secrets of what drove him.  The rest of the story can be uncovered in the trail of evidence he left behind.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.