Missing S.C. girl, 4, found in car in Alabama dressed in adult clothing; driver …

Heidi Todd 

A missing South Carolina child abducted after her mother was brutally beaten in Charleston Tuesday was found in Alabama late Wednesday afternoon.

Heidi Renae Todd, 4, was recovered in Riverside. The girl – missing for more than 24 hours – was found about 4 p.m. in a wooded area off Highway 78 near Depot Street.

Her accused abductor – Thomas Lawton Evans – was captured just over the Mississippi line after a brief car chase.

It all began when two Norfolk Southern employees ,who just happened to be working on the railroad tracks at Riverside, spotted a truck parked too close to the railroad tracks. To access this location, the truck would have used a private road that leads to the railroad’s tracks, said railway spokeswoman Susan Terpay.

The employees were suspicious when they got closer to the truck and  saw a man asleep in the driver’s seat and a young girl, who was awake, sitting in the passenger seat. The employees, Mark Burke and Chris Jackson, and a contractor, Donnie Pepper, concerned about the safety of the child, reported the information to the Riverside Fire Department.

Burke, a 30-year Norfolk Southern employee who lives on Oxford, and a father himself, says he was concerned about the safety of the child.

Once alerted by the railroad workers, Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver Riverside Fire Chief Tim Kurzejeski went to investigate. They found the vehicle – a blue Chevrolet Impala – with a white male asleep behind the wheel. A little girl – later determined to be Heidi – was awake in the passenger’s seat. Oliver said he knocked on the window to wake up the man. He told him to get out of the car and escorted him away from the vehicle, he said. The man – later identified as Evans – was very nervous, he said.

Heidi was then taken from the car by Evans. She was wearing an adult hoodie and adult pajamas, which raised Oliver’s curiosity and concern.”That just piqued my interest,” he said.

The chief still didn’t know, however, that it was the missing South Carolina girl and the suspect.

Oliver ran the man  through a national crime database after obtaining his name and social security number. He then told him he was going to take him in. The suspect, he said, asked him to hold Heidi. He said he smelled alcohol on the man’s breath.

“I knew he was going run,” Oliver said. “I just had that feeling.”

Evans jumped back into the vehicle fled on Highway 78 toward Pell City. Pell City police got on Interstate 20 and Highway 78 but couldn’t not find the fleeing suspect, said Pell City Police Chief Paul Irwin. He was driving the blue sedan with an Illinois tag.

Oliver said ALEA, as well as FBI agents from Birmingham and Gadsden ,quickly responded to the scene. “We obtained information on the vehicle and tracked it to the Mississippi line,” he said.

He said Evans told him he had just been released from prison on Feb. 1 for a robbery conviction. According to the Post-Courier, Evans’ criminal history shows…

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