Convicted murderer Robert Evan Lee, 57, who was convicted 25 years ago for killing a 31-year-old woman, cutting her body into pieces and placing her remains in Hefty trash bags, will once again roam Bloomington streets Saturday.
Although Lee was originally to be released Thursday from the Branchville Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison near Evansville, the Indiana Department of Correction postponed his release in order to find a place for him to live.
Law requires Lee be returned to the county in which he resided before his incarceration.
Initially, the DOC indicated Lee would stay at Backstreet Mission on West Third Street, a non-denominational homeless shelter. But because of the violent nature of Lee’s crime, along with an additional conviction of attempted rape, Backstreet
Mission President, CEO and Co-Founder Linda Kelley said Lee will not stay at the shelter because of safety concerns.
Kelley said the DOC contacted her several weeks ago, asking a simple question: whether the facility accepted convicted murderers.
She also said she contacted the DOC after information about Lee surfaced. About 20 people currently reside in the shelter, Kelley said, and roughly 100 people take advantage of the facility’s soup kitchen each day.
“The law says we cannot take sex offenders and there was some allegations about that with him, as well as the violent nature of the offense,” Kelley said. “We just felt that the people coming here and staying here, with Mr. Lee here their safety would be compromised.”
Following his release, Lee will have served less than half his 60-year prison sentence. Amy Lanum, media liaison for the Indiana Department of Correction, said Lee’s sentence was reduced to 30 years due to his good behavior while incarcerated.
Additional prison time was removed because he completed several educational programs while in prison.
Lee completed the assembly technician and commercial housekeeping vocational programs and received associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in business management while behind bars, Kelley said.
“When he is released Saturday, Branchville staff will bring him to the Bloomington Parole District Office, where he will meet with his parole agent and be set up on GPS,” Lanum said in an email. “They will then transport him to the location where he will be staying.”
Lanum did not indicate a specific location for his placement.
After being convicted and incarcerated for attempted rape on March 4, 1974, in Erie County, N.Y., he moved to Spencer, Ind., in 1978, according to court documents.
On Aug. 3, 1981, he was convicted of attempted theft in Owen County after police caught him trying to siphon gasoline from a school bus.
After moving to Bloomington, he stabbed to death his victim, Ellen Marks, sometime between Sept. 16 and Sept. 19, 1986.
Marks’ remains were unearthed on Sept. 21 that year, and officers from the Bloomington Police Department arrested Lee on Sept. 24.
Police confiscated knives, a hatchet, a saw, pornographic magazines, 15 videotapes and Hefty trash bags.
Leading police to Lee was a handwritten document they obtained three years earlier, detailing a similar crime.
Police questioned Lee about the “grossly inflammatory writing which he admitted composing as a means of scaring off a free-loader” in 1983, according to court documents.
The writing contained detailed instructions about the abduction, rape and murder of a woman or girl and the dismemberment and disposal of her remains.
Judge Kenneth G. Todd of Monroe Superior Court II convicted Lee for Marks’ murder on Oct. 30, 1987, sentencing him to 60 years in prison, the maximum time allowed by state law at the time without pursuing the death penalty.
“I would note that Ellen Mark was, from all indications of the evidence, selected merely to fulfill the requisite need of a victim whereby the long-entertained notion of killing a woman, any woman, could be carried out,” Todd said during the sentencing. “The defendant took advantage of an emotionally infirm, particularly vulnerable, defenseless and disadvantaged victim.”
Todd said Marks’ body was dismembered and thus desecrated in an apparent attempt by Lee to avoid detection.
Portions of Marks’ body have yet to be recovered.
Because of the violent nature of Lee’s crime, Lanum said the parole board has granted permission to enforce additional parole stipulations typically given to sex offenders, including GPS monitoring.
“The defendant has no appreciable concern for human life or human dignity and he has lost contact with humanity,” Todd said at the time. “I would further note that a reduced sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime committed and be an affront to any civilized society.”