By SARA MILLHOUSE

and KELLY GERLACH

special the Bellevue Herald-Leader

The man arrested for a knifepoint robbery of the Miles Mini-Mart Jan. 4 was convicted of murder almost 30 years ago.

Garry Evilsizer, 70, was convicted of murder and escaping from prison after his initial incarceration for armed robbery, according to newspaper clippings.

His sister-in-law, who lives in Spragueville, confirmed Monday that the man who allegedly robbed the Miles convenience store Jan. 4 and the man convicted of murder and escape are the same person.

Garry Evilsizer was initially sentenced to serve 25 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Davenport dairy store in 1974, according to Quad-City Times newspaper clips found on newspapers.com, an online newspaper archive subscription service that stores thousands of newspapers from across the United States.

Then, according to stories published in the Des Moines Register, the state of Iowa convicted Evilsizer in 1981 of second-degree murder after a fellow inmate was found stabbed 59 times in the laundry room of the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Evilsizer, then 31, was convicted in the 1979 death of Theodore Gauffer, 37, of Mason City.

The published reports said other inmates testified to seeing the killing and that Evilsizer had asked for help hiding a blood-spattered knife. Another inmate, according to the story, said he heard Evilsizer and another inmate talking about the murder.

The defense said evidence against Evilsizer amounted to a he-said, she-said scenario with little real evidence.

While giving depositions in the case, on Aug. 22, 1980, Evilsizer and another inmate overpowered guards, and then he escaped in the guard’s car, according to newspaper reports.

In 1981, Evilsizer was convicted of escape for that incident, the Des Moines Register reported.

In September 1981 a riot at the Fort Madison prison, where Evilsizer was incarcerated, led to multiple inmates being transferred out of state. Evilsizer and some other inmates fought the transfers, but lost.

At that point, Evilsizer was serving 55 years for the murder, robbery and escape convictions. He argued that he might not be able to bring his books and pursue his studies at the maximum-security prison in Marion, Illinois, according to newspaper reports.

At the time of the transfers, the Des Moines Register noted 118 reports of disciplinary violations by Evilsizer since entering Fort Madison in 1975. In coming years, Evilsizer would spent time in multiple penal facilities in different states.

Prison officials once linked Evilsizer to a cache of homemade weapons found in the Alcoholics Anonymous office in the prison, including two homemade shotguns, Mace, a syringe, a hacksaw blade, an officer’s badge, and some cash and shells, according to newspaper reports.

Two years later Evilsizer was the victim of a suspected prison assault in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He suffered a skull fracture and head wound, which he said happened due to a fall, according to newspaper.com clippings.

A turbulent history

Evilsizer’s life has been riddled with emotional instability, addiction, and mental injury, according to his sister-in-law Lori Evilsizer.

“He’s a very unique individual,” she said. “Anyone who has met Garry knows he is a very likable fellow, he has a crazy sense of humor, but — and not that this is even an excuse — he’s suffered multiple brain traumas … and was almost killed at least three times in various state penitentiaries. It’s amazing that he survived.”

Evilsizer’s life has been turbulent from an early age, she said.

He was born in 1947. He and his brother Jim, who is 13 months older, were adopted at a young age and their names were changed, his sister-in-law said.

At 17, Evilsizer became a U.S. Marine and fought in Vietnam, she said, adding that he returned a completely different person.

“He saw some awful things there,” Lori said, adding that Evilsizer asked to be discharged from the military because he “didn’t want to be involved in killing women and children there.”

She said Evilsizer became addicted to various illegal drugs and continues to fight addiction.

She said he was dishonorably discharged from the military and “tried to fit into society.”

Then, Evilsizer was convicted for the 1974 armed robbery that sent him to prison, where, according to his sister-in-law, he spent much of his time solitary confinement.

Evilsizer was serving out his sentence in an Oklahoma prison when he was granted parole in 1998,  his sister-in-law said. He moved to Saipan, an island commonwealth of the United States, in the Pacific Ocean. He lived there for 20 years and still has a wife there, she said.

She said Evilsizer moved back to the states in 2018.