By Alexis Stevens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Twenty-five years and five months after he murdered a young father seeking a spot on the Atlanta Braves roster, Neal Douglas Evans is about to be a free man.
Evans, now 55, was previously released from prison after serving 17 years for killing Dave Shotkoski. But Evans was free only a few weeks before he was returned to a Florida prison. And again he was released, only to be arrested again and returned to prison, Department of Corrections records show. He is scheduled to be released on Monday.
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“I want him to have to live with this rest of his life. I don’t want him to forget,” Felicia Shotkoski, Dave’s widow, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Here’s a person who was given the chance to not be incarcerated and re-offended, and now he’s being given another opportunity.”
On March 24, 1995, Evans shot and killed Dave Shotkoski in West Palm Beach during spring training. Shotkoski had already been a major league pitcher, but he was again trying to make a roster as a replacement player during a strike that ended the 1994 season. As Shotkoski returned to his hotel after dinner, Evans shot him in what investigators initially said was a robbery attempt. Shotkoski ran about 200 yards before he collapsed and died. He was 30.
A teammate, Terry Blocker, had just faced Shotkoski on the mound in a team scrimmage that day. He didn’t know Shotkoski well, but hearing of the death shook him, and Blocker set out to find the person responsible.
Blocker went to an area of town he knew wasn’t the safest, but he got the information he needed to lead police to arrest Evans. The next day, he was cut from the Braves team and his baseball career was over, but Blocker was at peace, he told The AJC in a March interview.
“I figured I had done what I was supposed to have done,” Blocker said. “It didn’t bother me at all. I had tears in my eyes because I felt sorry for his family.”
In September 1996, the first trial for Evans ended with a hung jury. Had he been convicted, Evans could have faced the death penalty, according to media reports. By then, Evans had already served five separate prison sentences for burglary, theft and drugs, records show.
Months later, Evans accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 27 years in prison, but would only serve 17 years. He was released in April 2012, but back in prison that December, according to the Florida DOC. After being released again briefly in 2018, Evans was back behind bars that July.
Last week, Felicia Shotkoski was notified that her husband’s killer would again be free. She and the couple’s daughter, now 26, have a close-knit bond, though every day is impacted by Shotkoski’s death. His death — and the numerous chances given to his killer — highlight the flaws of the criminal justice system.
“I just hope to bring change or start a discussion that something has to be done because it keeps happening to others,” Shotkoski said.