Last week, a 4-year-old Lowcountry girl was reported missing. Days later, she was found states away and returned safely home. But the owner of a car previously used by the alleged kidnapper has disappeared without a trace.
A 911 recording about the car was released Friday. In the recording, a woman tells the operator about a man who says he’s run out of gas near her Berkeley County home on Feb. 11.
“My husband tried to help him earlier this morning, and he said somebody was coming to help him. Now he’s out here just walking the property and told me he was looking for gas,” the woman says.
The man, it turns out, was Thomas Lawton Evans, 37, who would be arrested less than a week later for the kidnapping of Heidi Todd.
Berkeley County deputies reportedly investigated and talked to Evans after the 911 call but found no reason to detain him.
Evans was not arrested for driving with a suspended license because the law requires deputies see a person driving to make such an arrest, Berkeley County Chief Deputy Mike Cochran told Live 5 News. They also determined that he had no stolen items, the station reports.
The car was a black Honda Civic belonging to Sharon Nannette Hayden of Boiling Springs, according to her mother, Sharon Follin Jowers.
That same day, law enforcement went to Hayden’s residence to check on her, but she wasn’t home, The Post and Courier newspaper reported.
Jowers posted on Facebook that her daughter “is nowhere to be found.”
Photos of the inside of the Civic posted online by Live 5 News show a hammer on the passenger seat and a zipper bag of toiletries on the floor next to cigarette butts and what appears to be an empty cellphone case.
ABC News 4 reported that Evans asked two of Hayden’s neighbors to use their phones in early February.
Evans had been released from prison Feb. 1 on “community supervision” and was supposed to be in Spartanburg County as a part of his probation terms, according to Evans’ inmate record. According to SCDOC’s website, the “community supervision program” is for certain offenders who have served 85 percent of their sentence.
Evans’ criminal record includes drug and robbery charges that dates back to 1999, according to Charleston County court records. He’s pleaded guilty twice to robbery charges, in 2003 and in 2009.
In 2003, he was sentenced to 127 days in prison plus probation for strong armed robbery, according to online court records. In August, 2009, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed robbery, second-degree robbery and drug possession charges.
Evans had 14 disciplinary actions while in prison, including threatening prison employees and taking a hostage on Dec. 18, according to South Carolina Department of Corrections records.
The Post and Courier reported that Hayden has a minor arrest history in Charleston and Dorchester counties, and a 2016 misdemeanor prostitution conviction in Spartanburg County.
Johns Island kidnapping
Evans now faces federal kidnapping charges for the abduction Feb. 13 of 4-year-old Heidi Todd.
The child’s mother, Brittany Todd, was found “brutally beaten” in her Johns Island home after she failed to pick up two of her children at school, according to the Charleston Police Department.
Heidi Todd was found the next day in Riverside, Alabama.
After railroad workers reported a suspicious vehicle, Police Chief Rick Oliver said found Evans sleeping behind the wheel of a blue Chevy Impala with Illinois plates in a wooded area. The girl, who had been in the passenger seat wearing adult-sized clothing, was taken from the car before Evans fled.
Later that night, Evans was apprehended following a police chase in rural Lauderdale County, Mississippi, according to FBI documents.
Though Evans’ address listed on the Lauderdale County Detention Center log is 517 Mutual Drive in Charleston, Charles Francis, spokesman for the Charleston Police Department, said Evans was living Upstate before the kidnapping.
He last lived at the Charleston address in 2009, Francis said.
The Mutual Drive address is only 5 minutes away from the school where Brittany Todd dropped off her children the morning of Feb. 13.
FBI investigation documents filed in U.S. District Court allege Evans attacked the mother from behind with a knife as she was arriving home. She was beaten and left with severe facial fractures and a brain bleed, the documents say.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has characterized the attack as random and said there is no connection between Evans and the Todd family, according to Live 5 News.
Francis said additional charges are pending.
Where is Evans now?
Evans was last known to be held in the Madison County Detention Center in Mississippi.
He is no longer on the jail’s inmate log, and he is not on the inmate log for the Charleston County Detention Center in South Carolina.
Francis said Thursday that Evans is in federal custody.
Evans last appeared at a hearing in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, on Feb. 16.
FBI spokesman Don Wood said there was not a definite date for his next court appearance.