Records: Man accused of kidnapping Johns Island child took hostage in prison 2 months earlier

A mugshot of Thomas Lawton Evans taken in 2016. (Source: SCDOC)
A mugshot of Thomas Lawton Evans taken in 2016. (Source: SCDOC)

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The man charged in the kidnapping a Johns Island girl and taking her to Alabama has a long criminal record of arrests and convictions, including a hostage-taking incident in December.

Lawton Thomas Evans is facing charges in the disappearance of Heidi Todd. The record for Evans (who also goes by the alias Thomas Lawton Evans) shows his trouble with the law began in February 2000 when he was arrested by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office and received probation for assault of a high and aggravated nature, according to a background report provided by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Evans was then convicted of a strong-armed robbery after he was arrested by Charleston police in June 2002, but only served 127 days in jail and was given two years probation.

He was arrested again on Aug. 31, 2009, in Charleston County and sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed robbery with a deadly weapon as well as second-degree burglary, the records state.

The incident report states that Evans robbed the BP gas station on Aug. 30, 2009. The clerk at the station said he was robbed that day at gunpoint and Evans took $50 in cash before fleeing, the report said. The burglary charge came from an incident at the Sunoco station in the 2000 block of Maybank Highway when the report stated Evans and another suspect took 75 lottery tickets and 50 cigarettes.

He was initially incarcerated in Lieber Correctional Facility according to prison records before moving around the state to others including Kirkland, Ridgeland, Allendale, Kershaw, Lee and Trenton.

He held a variety of jobs while in prison, including custodial worker, wardkeeper, plumber, recreation aide, senior groundskeeper, and food service aide. Prison records indicate he was fired as food service aide on July 20, 2010, after less than a month for "unsatisfactory job performance." He was terminated as a wardkeeper on Jan. 30, 2014, and as a plumber on May 23, 2013, because of disciplinary reasons, prison records state.

Most notably, Evans was disciplined for hostage taking and possession of a weapon in December 2017. He was also disciplined for possessing a weapon in May 2017 and threatened to harm an employee in October 2016. He also had two disciplinary actions in January 2014 and March 2016 for possessing or attempting to possess a cell phone, prison records stated.

Lawton was released to community supervision by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services after serving 85 percent of his sentence, South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Taillon said. As the law allows and is standard practice, he was processed and released on the first of the month, February 2018, that his sentence was set to expire, he said.

He was released on probation in Spartanburg County on Feb. 1, just 12 days before police in Charleston say he attacked the victim on Johns Island and took 4-year-old Heidi Todd.

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