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Philadelphia man jailed for kidnapping teenager during Willow Grove Mall incident

Philadelphia man jailed for kidnapping teenager during Willow Grove Mall incident

Khalilh Jafar Evans is led out of a Montgomery County courtroom on July 10, 2024, after being sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for the deprivation of liberty of a teenager at Willow Grove Park Mall. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

NORRISTOWN — A judge suggested a Philadelphia man had “terrible intentions” when he targeted a teenager who became his prey when he saw her at the Willow Grove Park Mall in Abington Township, and sentenced him to up to 10 years in prison.

“After you target her, you lie in wait like a vicious animal awaiting its prey. There is no legitimate reason for your behavior other than that you had terrible intentions,” Montgomery County Judge Wendy G. Rothstein told Khalilh Jafar Evans as she sentenced him to 3½ to 10 years in a state correctional facility for interacting with a 14-year-old girl at a mall at 7 p.m. on July 12, 2023.

Evans, 45, of the 1500 block of Kinsdale Street, did not address the judge before learning his fate and showed no emotion as the sentence was imposed.

In April, a jury found Evans guilty of felony deprivation of a minor after deliberating for more than six hours. The jury reached the verdict after hearing two days of testimony and viewing surveillance camera footage of Evans’ interactions with the girl.

As punishment, Rothstein ordered Evans to have no contact with minors and to avoid the mall. Evans will be placed under sex offender supervision.

Evans must also report his address to state police for 15 years to comply with the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

A deputy escorts Khalilh Jafar Evans to his sentencing hearing in Montgomery County Court. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
A deputy sheriff escorts Khalilh Jafar Evans to his sentencing hearing in Montgomery County District Court. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

In prosecuting Evans, Assistant District Attorney Caroline Rose Goldstein argued that Evans had significantly restricted the girl’s freedom. Goldstein argued for a prison sentence against Evans.

“This defendant abused a child. He held her down as she tried to run away. This was not a normal social interaction. Fortunately, she was able to escape,” Goldstein argued.

“The only way we can protect society from him is to keep him incarcerated. This defendant must be kept away from society and away from children,” Goldstein added.

Caroline Goldstein, Assistant District Attorney of Montgomery County (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. – MediaNews Group)
Caroline Goldstein, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

In a letter to the judge, which Goldstein read in court, the victim’s mother said the ordeal had been difficult for her daughter and that she had “had to deal with many hardships after the encounter.”

The girl’s mother addressed Evans directly, writing, “I think when you saw her, you saw an easy target… someone who would be scared and walk quietly with you and not make a scene. Little did you know that you had picked one of the strongest, bravest, smartest, most stubborn little girls to ever walk this earth. I bet when you saw her, you didn’t think she would fight back, but she did.”

The girl’s mother wondered what Evans was up to.

“I don’t want to know the details, of course, but I am also 100 percent sure that your intentions were anything but pure,” the girl’s mother wrote.

Defense attorney Danton Lee Moyer argued for a sentence of 11.5 to 23 months in county jail for Evans, essentially time already served, with Evans getting credit for the year he spent in jail while awaiting trial.

“Mr. Evans does not pose a danger to the community,” Moyer argued, pointing to the girl’s testimony in court that Evans did not threaten her, did not inflict any injuries on her and never said anything sexual to her during the encounter.

Moyer argued in court that authorities had rushed to judge that the 45-second interaction was not long enough to constitute a false imprisonment and that “an awkward social interaction is not a crime.” Moyer said the interaction should not result in a prison sentence as recommended in the state’s sentencing guidelines and that such a sentence would be disproportionate to what happened.

Evans did not testify during the trial. After the verdict was announced, Evans told a reporter that the jury had convicted “an innocent man.”

Khalilh Jafar Evans is escorted out of a Montgomery County courtroom by sheriff's deputies after being sentenced to prison for the robbery of a teenager at Willow Grove Park Mall. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Khalilh Jafar Evans is escorted out of a Montgomery County courtroom by sheriff’s deputies after being sentenced to prison for the robbery of a teenager at Willow Grove Park Mall. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

During the trial, the girl testified that she observed Evans as she rode an escalator from the second to the first floor of the mall. The girl, who became emotional at one point and was allowed a dog to sit at her feet on the witness stand for comfort, testified that she was met at the bottom of the escalator by Evans, who introduced himself as “Alex,” told her he was 25 and asked her to walk with him, extending his arm to accompany her.

The girl testified that she told Evans she was 13.

“The suspect told the victim that he wanted to enter his phone number into her phone,” Abington Detectives Jeffrey Anderson and Lieutenant Steve Fink wrote in their arrest affidavit.

According to witnesses, the girl managed to secretly take a photo of Evans with her cell phone as he grabbed her arm, placed it under his and led her through the mall.

“At one point, the victim attempted to break free from the suspect’s grasp, but he tightened his grip and continued to lead her through the mall in a direction she did not want to go,” Anderson and Fink stated.

The girl testified that when Evans loosened his grip, she pulled her arm away from him, took a step back and then scurried away.

Goldstein argued, citing surveillance camera footage, that the girl was held against her will for an extended period of time.

Khalilh Evans is escorted out of a Montgomery County courtroom by a deputy sheriff in April 2024 after being convicted of kidnapping a minor. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Khalilh Evans is escorted out of a Montgomery County courtroom by a deputy sheriff in April 2024 after being convicted of kidnapping a minor. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

In court documents, investigators indicated that Evans appeared to be working with a second man with whom he entered the mall. The second man walked ahead of Evans and the girl, and after the girl broke away, Evans and the second man left the mall and entered a vehicle together, court documents say.

The second man was identified but was not charged with any crimes.

After the girl reported the incident, Abington police provided photos of the suspect to local media, asking for the public’s help in identifying him.

Mugshot of Khalilh Evans

Courtesy of Abington Township Police Department

Khalilh Evans at the time of his arrest in July 2023. (Courtesy of Abington Township Police Department)

Evans voluntarily turned himself in to authorities the morning after the incident.

Goldstein praised the detectives’ work.

“The Abington Police Department took this matter seriously from the minute it was reported. They worked on it so quickly and thoroughly, and without them this offender would not have been caught,” Goldstein said.