The man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a four-year-old Johns Island, South Carolina girl last year has received three life sentences in connection with the federal charges he faced.
Frankly, we would have sentenced him quite differently …
According to a news release from the office of U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon, 38-year-old Thomas Lawton Evans of Boiling Springs, S.C. received the three life sentences from after pleading guilty to the kidnapping of a minor, the aggravated sexual abuse of a person under the age of twelve and the transportation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
Those charges are tied to the February 2018 abduction of then-four-year-old Heidi Todd, whose story dominated headlines across the southeast last February.
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Todd (above) was kidnapped from her family’s Johns Island, South Carolina residence during a brutal home invasion on February 13, 2018.
According to police, Evans tackled Todd’s 30-year-old mother from behind as she returned to her family’s home in Charleston’s Whitney Lake subdivision after taking two of her five children to school. She suffered facial fractures and other injuries in the assault – which occurred shortly after 8:00 a.m. EST.
After nearly beating Todd’s mother to death, Evans found the toddler hiding in a closet and kidnapped her – throwing her into the trunk of his car.
We cannot even begin to fathom what happened after that, but suffice it to say three life sentences is in no way, shape or form a punishment befitting this particular criminal.
Todd’s disappearance from her home prompted a statewide search. Miraculously, the next day the girl was found alive two states away in Riverside, Alabama – a town of roughly 2,200 people located in St. Clair County.
Local police were notified by railway workers of a “suspicious vehicle near a wooded area.” They found the girl inside the car – a stolen Chevrolet Impala – and local police chief Rick Oliver was able to retrieve her from the vehicle. Evans escaped, however, leading police on a high speed chase that ended in Lauderdale, Mississippi hours later when the stolen vehicle he was driving collided with a tree.
Lydon called Evans attack on Todd and her family “a random, evil act.” But she praised law enforcement and prosecutors for holding him “accountable” for the violence he wrought.
“Everyone came together with a sense of purpose to make sure this story ended well,” Lydon said. “Our office will forever be amazed by this family’s strength and resilience.”
We, too, are amazed by the resilience of this family – but that doesn’t change the fundamental injustice of giving Evans “three hots and a cot” for life in a federal penitentiary.
In addition to the federal charges, Evans – who was supposed to have been behind bars at the time of this savage assault – faces multiple charges at the state level including attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, armed robbery, burglary in the first degree and possession of a deadly weapon during a violent crime.
The office of S.C. ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson confirmed to us today that those charges are still pending.
Stay tuned for a follow-up piece on this case as it relates to the ongoing debate in South Carolina over “sentencing reform.”
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