CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — The FBI knew Thomas Lawton Evans. Jr. was no longer in South Carolina nine hours before an Alabama police chief located him Wednesday, and rescued the Charleston County girl he's accused of kidnapping.
Evans is the man suspected of kidnapping 4-year-old Heidi Todd and savagely beating her mother, Brittany, on Tuesday, February 13.
Information that a potential suspect in the case was across state lines was known to federal agents even as Charleston County law enforcement and public safety agencies continued Wednesday an extensive, hours-long search of the land and water near the Todds' Johns Island home.
Affidavits filed by the FBI Thursday in their federal kidnapping case against Evans show authorities were alerted at 7:30 a.m. February 14 to a man trying to use Brittany Todd’s debit card at a gas station in Greensboro, Georgia, nearly 230 miles away from Charleston.
The FBI says the man, later identified as Evans, took the debit card and kidnapped Heidi Todd after attacking the child’s mother as she walked inside her home around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Brittany Todd told investigators she had just returned home from dropping off two of her children at school, when she was attacked from behind by a man with a knife while walking in her front door. Mrs. Todd told investigators she told Heidi to run and hide when the man attacked her.
According to the FBI, Evans tied up Mrs. Todd, and repeatedly assaulted her, causing facial fractures, brain bleeding, and other significant injuries that have required surgery and extensive treatment.
Brittany Todd's condition and Heidi Todd's disappearance were not discovered until nearly 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, after police learned that her children had not been picked up from school that evening.
The FBI says Evans is not related to the Todd family in any way and does not have any legal custody rights to Heidi Todd.
(Read the FBI's full complaint against Evans below. Having trouble viewing the document on your phone? CLICK HERE)
Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, following authorities getting the hit on Mrs. Todd’s debit card in Georgia, Riverside, Alabama Police Chief Rick Oliver encountered Evans and Heidi Todd in his city, after railroad workers reported a suspicious vehicle parked in the woods along the tracks.
Oliver says when he approached the car, a stolen blue Chevrolet Impala with Illinois plates, he observed Evans, wearing a blue shirt, asleep behind the wheel with a young child sitting awake on the front passenger seat beside him, wearing adult clothes. Evans matched the description of the man authorities say used Brittany Todd's debit card.
After rousing Evans, Oliver said the man was under the influence of “intoxicants,” and was very nervous. Oliver says he asked Evans to step out of the car with the child to answer some questions. After Evans identified himself, Oliver says he told Evans they would need to go to the police station.
According to Oliver, Evans asked him if he could carry the child while they walked, and when Evans handed Todd to him, he bolted back to the car and drove away. Evans was arrested late Wednesday night in Dekalb, Mississippi after a miles-long police chase.
Sources with an affiliate station in Mississippi say the FBI is now in custody of Evans and is being moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Evans is charged by Mississippi authorities with multiple traffic crimes and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Todd was reunited with her family Thursday, after being placed in the custody of the Alabama Dept. of Human Resources Wednesday night, according to Charleston Police.
The Todd family released the following statement Thursday:
"Thank you to everyone for their support through this difficult time. Words cannot express the range of emotions and suffering that my family has endured these past few days. I cannot thank enough all the first responders, and especially the individual in Alabama who personally rescued Heidi and helped bring her back to us. In the coming days, we will be counting on your continued prayers and support and ask that you give us the privacy and room to reunite and heal as a family."
An AMBER alert was never issued for Heidi Todd, authorities say, because they did not have sufficient information needed to meet criteria necessary to issue the alert. One of those criteria is a clear description of a suspect vehicle and a license number.
The FBI in its complaint against Evans says when it was alerted to activity involving Brittany Todd's debit card in Georgia, survelliance video from the gas station did not provide a clear view of the car Evans was driving, or its tag.
Charleston Police said Thursday they are no longer interested in speaking to a Hispanic man with distinctive flame and lightning tattoos on his face. Police said Wednesday the man was a "person of interest" in the case.
Background information provided by law enforcement shows Evans has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1999, and had only been released from prison from prison on Feb. 1 — less than two weeks before the alleged attack and kidnapping.
S.C. Dept. of Corrections officials say Evans was released to community supervision after serving a state mandated 85 percent of a 10 year prison sentence for a 2009 armed robbery and burglary conviction.
Evans had most recently been an inmate at Kershaw Correctional Institution, and was supposed to have stayed in Spartanburg County as part of his release terms, DOC spokesman Jeff Taillon says.
Prison records show a long list of infractions by and disciplinary actions against Evans during his time as an inmate in the DOC system.
In 2017, Evans was punished in prison with loss of privileges for taking a hostage, destroying property, twice having drugs and twice having a weapon. In 2016, records show Evans was punished for threatening harm a prison worker and for drugs. He also was twice punished for having a cell phone.
Prior to his 2009 conviction on the burglary and armed robbery charges, criminal background records show he spent 10 days in jail for assault in 2004. In 2002, he was sentenced to three years in prison for strong armed robbery, but only served 127 days.
In 2000, Evans was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, but that charge was later reduced to assault and battery. He was convicted of that charge, and sentenced to 1 year in prison, suspended to a year of probation.
In 1999, Evans was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation for breaking into vehicles.
(ABC News 4's April Salvador and Angela Brown contributed information to this report).