When police officers came upon a missing girl in the middle of the forest, they were stunned. When they noticed what was right beside her, they were even more shocked.
Stock image for the purpose of visual representation. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)
The South Carolina community of Johns Island immediately knew something was wrong when a devoted mother did not pick her children up from school. The police were called and officers rushed to the mother’s home, where they found a horrifying scene inside.
Officers entered the mother’s home to find that she had been badly beaten. To make matters even worse, her youngest daughter Heidi Renae Todd, 4, was missing. A massive manhunt was immediately launched to find the little girl. Meanwhile, the Todd family feared the worst as they prayed their youngest member would be found safely.
Heidi Renae Todd, 4 (Photo Credit: Charleston Police Department via The Post and Courier)
One day later and four hundred miles away in Riverside, Alabama, railroad workers came upon a sight that they thought was very odd. The men spied a blue Chevrolet Impala parked away from the road off Highway 78 near Depot Street. The workers called the police to come investigate.
When Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver and Riverside Fire Chief Tim Kurzejeski arrived at the scene, they found a white male suspect asleep in the front seat with a little girl sitting next to him wide awake. The little girl was Heidi Renae Todd. The man was eventually identified as 37-year-old Thomas Lawton Evans, a felon who had recently been released from prison. He had broken into the Todd home and brutally beaten Heidi’s mother before taking the child and fleeing to Alabama.
Thomas Lawton Evans (Photo Credit: Charleston Police Department via The Post and Courier)
“It all began when two Norfolk Southern employees, who just happened to be working on the railroad tracks at Riverside, spotted a vehicle parked too close to the railroad tracks. To access this location, the vehicle would have used a private road that leads to the railroad’s tracks, said railway spokeswoman Susan Terpay,” AL.com reported.
“The employees were suspicious when they got closer to the car and saw a man asleep in the driver’s seat and a young girl, who was awake, sitting in the passenger seat,” the report continued. “The employees, Mark Burk and Chris Jackson, and a contractor, Donnie Pepper, were concerned about the safety of the child, and reported the information to the Riverside Fire Department.”
Evans was captured just over the Mississippi line after a brief car chase and arrested. Kurzejeski took Heidi, who appeared to be unharmed, to the fire station to wait for her family to arrive. There, the little girl watched the Disney channel and requested cookies and chocolate milk.
“I told my wife I got a little head start on what it’s like to be a grandparent because that little girl was going to get whatever she wanted,” Kurzejeski said with a laugh. “She was just a super trooper.”
By the time little Heidi was found, more than 24 hours had passed from when she first went missing. Usually, if a child is not found within the first day of their disappearance, the chances of them being rescued alive are slim. The chances of them being rescued unharmed are even smaller. Indeed, Heidi Renae Todd’s rescue was a miracle that her family will forever be grateful for.