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Questions persist after missing 4-year-old's rescue in Alabama - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Questions persist after missing 4-year-old's rescue in Alabama

Heidi Todd was in police custody Wednesday afternoon. (Source: WIAT) Heidi Todd was in police custody Wednesday afternoon. (Source: WIAT)
Thomas Lawton Evans was arrested in Mississippi Wednesday night. (Source: Lauderdale Co., Miss. Sheriff's Office) Thomas Lawton Evans was arrested in Mississippi Wednesday night. (Source: Lauderdale Co., Miss. Sheriff's Office)
Police say they are no longer searching for the person of interest mentioned during Wednesday press briefings. (Source: Charleston Police) Police say they are no longer searching for the person of interest mentioned during Wednesday press briefings. (Source: Charleston Police)
Mayor John Tecklenburg announced Heidi Todd had been rescued in Alabama. (Source: Live 5) Mayor John Tecklenburg announced Heidi Todd had been rescued in Alabama. (Source: Live 5)
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

After press briefings Wednesday leading up to the announcement a missing 4-year-old from Johns Island was recovered in Alabama, questions sometimes outnumbered answers.

One of the most common questions concerned the lack of an AMBER Alert for the child. She had been reported missing shortly before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, but even after 24 hours, no alert had been issued.

Another question concerned an FBI reward. The FBI, which had been involved in the case since early Wednesday, announced they would offer a $10,000 reward for information that led to the child's recovery. Later that same day, another $10,000 was added to the reward by a donor who wished to remain anonymous.

Police in Riverside, Alabama, said they found Todd with her suspected abductor at approximately 4 p.m.

Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver said it all started when emergency dispatch officials received a call from railroad workers about a suspicious car in the woods near some railroad tracks. 

Oliver said he saw a blue Chevy Impala with Illinois tags with a man, later identified as Thomas Lawton 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. 

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 Oliver 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. 

Shortly after 8 p.m. that an emotional Mayor John Tecklenburg said what everyone hoped to hear: "We give God the glory and our thanks that all our prayers have been answered, and in fact, Heidi Todd is safe in the hands of the FBI."

A crowd of friends and neighbors, who had gathered for a vigil, cheered the news.

After Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson named Evans as the suspect in Todd's abduction, questions focused on a sketch of a person of interest released earlier in the day that did not seem to match Evans's description. That caused concerns that remained Thursday for people living in the area about the person of interest mentioned earlier in the day.

Here are the latest answers: 

Why was there no AMBER Alert?

Despite extensive media coverage about Todd's disappearance and the search for her, no AMBER Alert was issued.

Tecklenburg said in a news conference Wednesday that Todd’s case did not meet the recommended criteria for an AMBER Alert because investigators did not have a solid description of suspect’s vehicle. Indeed, all investigators had to work with involving the abductor was "limited information" Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor said the child's mother was able to provide.

Tecklenburg said they did not know, at that time, whether Todd had been removed from the area in a vehicle.

Here is a summary of Department of Justice’s Recommended Criteria for an AMBER Alert:

  • There is a reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

What about the person of interest?

Charleston Police say they are no longer searching for the Hispanic man with facial tattoos whose sketch was released to the media Wednesday afternoon. 

From the beginning, police said the man had been seen days before the home invasion that sent Todd's mother to the hospital and ended with the child's abduction. He was not named as a suspect, police said, but merely someone who they hoped might have seen something or might know something that could have led police to Todd's whereabouts.

On Thursday, Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said police are no longer searching for that man.

Why was there a delay in announcing Todd had been rescued?

Some were asking why word that police had rescued the child from her alleged kidnapper came from Alabama authorities before Charleston authorities. Rumors began circulating in the Charleston area by 6 p.m. that Todd had been found and was safe two states away.

Charleston Police responded to an attempt to confirm those rumors at 6:36 p.m., saying only that Tecklenburg and Taylor would address those rumors at their 8 p.m. press briefing.

Officials have not, as yet, explained the delay. 

Who gets the $20,000 reward?

Police in Alabama said the tip from railroad workers about a suspicious vehicle led them to the car occupied by the child and her accused abductor.

But it is not clear whether the workers will receive the reward money.

"We'll definitely consider it in due course," FBI spokesman Don Wood said. He said it's too early in the investigation to reach any definitive conclusion on reward money.

He said he could only speak for the FBI's portion of the reward money for now, saying he was not sure whether the anonymous donor added any restrictions or conditions about distributing that portion of the reward.

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