CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An Alabama police chief investigating reports of a suspicious car led to the rescue of a missing Johns Island child and the arrest of her suspected abductor.
Police Chief Rick Oliver says officers arrested Lawton Thomas Evans (Also goes by the alias Thomas Lawton Evans) in Mississippi for the abduction of Heidi Todd. Evans is currently locked up at a facility in Lauderdale, Mississippi.
Oliver was the law enforcement officer who rescued Todd from Evans during an investigation of a vehicle in the woods in Riverside, Alabama.
"This is a blessing, this has nothing do with luck," Oliver said during a press conference Wednesday night."The good lord put me in the place, as well as the fire chief, that we needed to be to take care of the little girl. His hand was on the little girl."
Oliver said it all started when emergency dispatch officials received a call from railroad workers of a suspicious car near some railroad tracks.
When he got there, Oliver said he saw a blue Chevy Impala with Illinois tags with a man, later identified as Evans, sleeping under the wheel and Todd wide awake in the passenger seat.
Todd was wearing an adult sized hoodie and pajamas which made Oliver more suspicious.
At this point, Oliver asked Evans out of the car then turned the vehicle off and put the keys on the dash.
"[Evans] was very nervous," Oliver said."His demeanor was very, very nervous and I smelled some alcohol."
According to Oliver, Evans told them they were coming from South Carolina.
Oliver said Evans provided him with his correct name and social security number which Oliver ran through the system.
As Oliver told Evans that they were going to travel over to his office, Oliver said Evans asked him if he could hold the child.
"I knew he was going to run, I just had that feeling," Oliver said."Once I got my hands on [Todd] then secondary was getting him into custody."
Police say when Oliver got Todd, Evans ran to his car and fled.
A BOLO was then sent out to area law enforcement departments on Evans' car.
According to Oliver, Evans crossed state lines into Mississippi during a long chase which ended in his apprehension.
"Most of the time when the child is missing for this length of time it doesn't end like this," Oliver said."I'm just thankful to be involved."
Oliver said Todd was doing fine following the ordeal, watching cartoons and drinking chocolate milk.
"I've got grandchildren," Oliver said."I've had children. Being able to get her back home is wonderful."
Todd's father is expected to fly out to Alabama to take care of his daughter.