Charleston's top prosecutor confirms what many in the community have wanted to know. Did the family of a little girl kidnaped have ties to the suspect or were they randomly targeted?
"To be crystal clear: there is NO CONNECTION between the victims in this matter and the alleged defendant," said 9th solicitor Scarlett Wilson late Friday in a Facebook post. "They were randomly targeted."
The 4 year-old disappeared from her family's Johns Island home Tuesday , launching a massive search. She was found more than 24 hours later, some 400 miles away in Alabama. The man police say kidnaped her and brutally beat her mother was arrested that same night in Mississippi. Records show he had just been released from prison 2 weeks prior for violent crimes in South Carolina. A federal affidavit describes what authorities believe happened in between.
The complaint says the child's mother dropped off her two children at school Tuesday and was returning home around 8 a.m. with her three other kids when she was attacked from behind by a man with a knife. It says the suspect assaulted her, causing bleeding to the brain. Police got a welfare check call just before 6 p.m. They say the mother opened the door and had markings as if she had been tied up. That's when they noticed Heidi was gone. The mother says she was continually assaulted and told Heidi to run and hide. It does not mention the other two children inside at the time.
The affidavit goes on to say the suspect was found Wednesday night in Riverside, Alabama where the police chief responded to a call of suspicious vehicle parked near railroad tracks. The chief approached the blue Chevy Impala with Illinois tags and saw Heidi wearing adult sized clothing. He spoke with the driver who smelled intoxicated and got his identification showing he was Thomas Lawton Evans Jr. The man handed Heidi over to the chief, but took off in the car.
Mississippi jail records show Thomas Lawton Evans was booked just before 9 p.m. that same night at the Madison County Detention Center. The intake report lists the FBI as the arresting agency with federal charges of kidnaping and murder. A Charleston newspaper reported the murder charge was a mistake. Lawton will be brought back to Charleston where he will likely face state charges as well.
Neighbors in the Todd family's newly built subdivision were visibly shaken during the search for curly haired girl. A helicopter buzzed overhead as FBI agents knocked on doors. Charleston's mayor held multiple press conferences. He said Heidi's mother was hospitalized and undergoing surgery, but doing reasonably well. Her father, he said, was with her, returning from Coast Guard training out of town. Police asked for the public's help, even setting up a special hotline for calls.
News Heidi had been found safe several states away came during a community vigil where neighbors lit candles next to a pond search boats had combed just hours before. They were relieved, but still unable to believe this could happen during the day in their neighborhood, filled with retirees and stay at home moms.
"You would think that somebody would have heard or seen something," said Allie Hobbs. "So we're very confused. We can't seem to connect any dots."
Those dots may be even harder to connect and understand now that they're hearing what many quietly feared. The Todd family, according to the solicitor, did not know the man accused of slipping into their home , beating their mother and taking their child.