After a nightmarish 24 hours of searching for a kidnapped South Carolina child, 4-year-old Heidi Renae Todd was discovered alive and safe in Alabama.
The community of Johns Island, South Carolina, is still reeling with emotion over the horrific circumstances surrounding the little girl’s disappearance on Feb. 13.
Heidi is one of five children, living with her parents in the quaint community of Johns Island. Her mother stays at home to care for Heidi and her siblings, and her father is a member of the Coast Guard and was out of town for training at the time.
On Feb. 13, the unthinkable happened to the Todd family when a strange man entered the Todd home, beat Heidi’s mother, and kidnapped Heidi.
According to police, the first sense that something was amiss came when Heidi’s mom never arrived to pick her two older children up from school.
Police went to the Todd residence and discovered Heidi’s “brutally beaten” mother, two siblings younger than Heidi, unharmed, and Heidi nowhere in sight.
Heidi’s mother was immediately rushed to the hospital and had to have surgery for her injuries.
Shocked and horrified, the community joined police in the search for the missing 4-year-old. But it was a railroad crew in Riverside, Alabama, 400 miles away from Heidi’s home, that led police to the child after noticing a car parked deep in the nearby woods.
Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver approached a vehicle and saw a man sleeping inside next to a little girl. When confronted, the man handed the girl to Oliver and sped away in the vehicle.
Police later arrested 37-year-old Thomas Lawton Evans, a felon who had just been released from prison earlier in February.
Police are still trying to determine if there was a connection between Evans and the Todd family, or if the attack and kidnapping were at random.
According to Oliver, the little girl appeared to be physically unharmed. She was happily eating snacks and watching cartoons while waiting to be reunited with her father, who quickly boarded a flight from Charleston after hearing the news.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced Heidi’s safe return amid cheers and applause from concerned community members. He asked for continued prayers over Heidi’s mom, who is still in the hospital recovering from her injuries.
“What could have been a day of real tragedy has turned out to be a day of great joy,” Tecklenburg stated.
Oliver agreed, saying Heidi’s safe return was one of the brightest days of his 20-year law enforcement career.
“This is a blessing,” Oliver stated. “It is nothing to do with luck. The good Lord put me in that place.”
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