Prosecutor: Johns Island family was ‘randomly targeted’ in kidnapping

Prosecutor: Johns Island family was ‘randomly targeted’ in kidnapping
Thomas Evans has a hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon. (Source: Madison County Detention Center)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The man prosecutors say kidnapped a four-year-old Johns Island girl after beating her mother Tuesday afternoon had no connection to the victims.

That word came from Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson Friday afternoon.

"To be crystal clear: there is NO CONNECTION between the victims in this matter and the alleged defendant," Wilson wrote in a Facebook post. "They were randomly targeted."

Wilson posted that message in addition to a statement on the case against Thomas Lawton Evans, the man who is facing both federal and state charges in the kidnapping of 4-year-old Heidi Todd:

My thoughts and prayers are with the Todd family. We know that this has been an unbelievably terrifying ordeal and we hope that they will heal very soon. The road to recovery can be difficult but this community is here for their support. Prosecutors and law enforcement will do all in our power to see that they have the resources they need for navigating the criminal justice process.

We have and will continue to work closely with our partners at the United States Attorney's Office. A federal complaint for kidnapping has been filed on Thomas Lawton Evans and we anticipate he will be brought to South Carolina where he will remain in federal custody for the near future. We will evaluate and coordinate with the federal authorities regarding the service of any warrants for state charges. We anticipate that additional charges will be filed. Our goal is to render maximum accountability in an expedient manner, regardless of whether that is in federal court or state court, or both.

This investigation spans a wide geographical area. Information and evidence continues to be gathered and analyzed. It is extremely important to me that I remain transparent with the public about the legal proceedings and the continuing investigation into this matter. As a lawyer and prosecutor, however, I am subject to special rules limiting my ability to make public comments about pending cases and defendants in criminal matters. For these reasons, my office cannot comment on the merits of the case. By law, the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.

Officials with the FBI said the incident started on Tuesday when Heidi's mother dropped off two of her children at school and returned to her home. The mother said when she returned to the house around 8 or 8:30 a.m. she had three of her children with her.

As she was entering her home, she was attacked from behind by a man who had a knife who pushed her into the home and tackled her to the ground, court records state.

The attacker then assaulted the mother causing "facial fractures and brain bleeding" among other significant injuries, court documents stated.

Court records state that later in the day police were notified when no one picked up the mother's two children that she had dropped off at school that morning.

At 5:50 p.m., officers with the Charleston Police Department responded to the home to investigate and saw "evidence consistent with a physical assault" such as blood.

Two of her other children were located, but Heidi Todd was nowhere to be found.

On Wednesday, investigators learned that an electronic device belonging to the mother was used at a Georgia gas station.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, railroad workers in Alabama reported a suspicious car near railroad tracks. Inside that car, an Alabama police chief found the child and Evans, who escaped before being captured that same night in Mississippi.

At a federal arraignment in Jackson, Mississippi, Evans, who some court records identify as Lawton Thomas Evans, waived an extradition hearing.

That means U.S. Marshals will soon return him to South Carolina where he will face the kidnapping charge filed by Wilson's office.

One more thing. To be crystal clear: there is NO CONNECTION between the victims in this matter and the alleged defendant. They were randomly targeted.

Posted by Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson on Friday, February 16, 2018

It is not clear when that extradition will occur.

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