Details of Disappearance
Evelyn's teenage daughter last saw her on the morning of November 5, 1981. Evelyn made breakfast for her daughter, and Evelyn's new husband, Mearl McFarland Mackey Jr., took her to school.
That afternoon, Mearl went to pick up Evelyn's daughter alone. He told her and her brother that Evelyn had gone to Ohio to take care of her sick sister-in-law, but she did not arrive there and her sister-in-law wasn't expecting a visit from her. Just a few days after Evelyn was last seen, Mearl asked his stepdaughter, "What would you say if I told you your mom wasn’t coming home?"
He told the police different stories, saying Evelyn had gone to Tampa, Florida, that she had returned home and left with a boyfriend, and that she'd gone away to be a missionary. She has never been heard from again. Her family reported her missing in January 1982.
Photos of Mearl are posted with this case summary. Starting on the day Evelyn disappeared, he began emptying her bank account. He has been in and out of prison since 1976, mostly for theft- and fraud-related offenses.
In 2015, authorities tracked him down in Texas and told him they might have found Evelyn's remains in the wreckage of a crashed plane in South America and Mearl might get a financial settlement from the airline, but to be entitled to the settlement he had to go over his statements about Evelyn's disappearance.
When he went to the police station and investigators asked him to explain all the discrepancies in his prior interview transcripts, Mearl said he was "not going to confess." When police told him he could face a first-degree murder charge, Mearl said he and Evelyn had gone fishing in Inglis, Florida when she accidentally fell at the dock, struck her head and stopped breathing, and that he tied an anchor to her body and sunk it in the water.
Mearl was allowed to leave after giving this statement, but in September 2015 he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Evelyn's case. He could have faced the death penalty if convicted. In June 2018, Mearl pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in prison, under the sentencing guidelines that existed in 1981. His earliest expected release date is 2021.
Foul play is suspected in Evelyn's case due to the circumstances involved. Her body has never been found.