See updated version of the Heidi Todd kidnapping story here.
Heidi Renae Todd, a 4-year-old who was reported missing Tuesday on Johns Island, was found safe on Wednesday evening in Alabama, and the suspect in the abduction was later arrested in Mississippi, according to reports.
The girl was reported missing in the area of 2985 Sweetleaf Lane at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, and the search for her continued throughout Wednesday, according to the Charleston Police Department.
“Heidi Todd is safe in the hands of the FBI,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced to applause from bystanders at a news conference on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
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Heidi was found in Riverside, Alabama, by Police Chief Rick Oliver, Tecklenburg said.
In a later news conference in Alabama, Oliver said his suspicions were raised because he saw a driver sleeping in a blue Chevrolet Impala in an area well off the interstate. There was a child in the passenger seat wearing an adult-sized hoodie and adult-sized pajamas, he said.
“There was no reason for him to be that far off in a wooded area,” Oliver said.
After handing Todd over to the police chief, the driver sped away.
Thomas Lawton Evans, 37, of Charleston County, was identified as the driver by Solicitor Scarlett Wilson at the Wednesday night news conference. He faces kidnapping charges and other charges could be added, she said.
Evans was arrested after a chase in Mississippi, Oliver said.
The FBI had been offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the child’s recovery.
A private, anonymous citizen donated an additional $10,000 to the reward, according to the police department around 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Tecklenburg said the child’s mother was found “brutally beaten” by officers who went to the Whitney Lake neighborhood home after two of the woman’s children were not picked up from school on Tuesday afternoon.
At the noon news conference, Charleston’s Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor would not say whether there was a forced entry into the home. It was also unknown whether the mother knew her attacker, Taylor said.
He called the attacker an “unwanted guest.”
“At this point in time ... we are trying to determine exactly what occurred,” Taylor said.
The woman was taken to a Charleston area hospital, according to the Charleston Police Department.
“(The mother) is in reasonably fair condition at this point,” Tecklenburg said in a media briefing Wednesday afternoon. He said the mother is expected to undergo surgery sometime Wednesday.
Two younger children were found in the home unharmed, Tecklenburg said.
He said the children’s father is a member of the Coast Guard and was out of town for training. Heidi’s father was with her mother at the hospital Wednesday afternoon, authorities confirmed.
An AMBER Alert was not issued in Heidi’s case, Tecklenburg explained, because there are still too many unknowns in the case.
“You have to have enough information to tell people what to look for,” he said.
Divers spent much of the day on Wednesday searching a lake near the family’s home.
Anyone with information about this case may call 843-619-6123.
Staff writer Joan McDonough contributed to this report.