Thomas Evans pleads guilty to kidnapping 4-year-old Johns Island girl
Thomas Lawton Evans, Jr. has pleaded guilty to three federal charges, including kidnapping and sexual abuse, for the abduction of a 4-year-old Johns Island girl from her home in February 2018.
Evans appeared before a federal judge Tuesday morning in Charleston County, where he pleaded guilty to kidnapping, transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity and aggravated sexual abuse of a minor.
Evans had previously pleaded not guilty. He now will be sentenced at a later date, and faces 30 years to life in prison for his crimes.
Evans also faces charges in state court for his crimes against the child's mother, including sexual assault, attempted murder, and kidnapping. That trial will take place at a later date.
Evans on the morning of Feb. 13, 2018, followed a woman home from a store in Charleston County to her Johns Island home, where he attacked the woman at knife point, then savagely beat her, before robbing her and kidnapping the woman's 4-year-old daughter.
The woman's husband was out of town for work at the time.
Evans' crime was not discovered until hours later, when the mother didn't show up to pick up two of her other children from school. The mother was hospitalized for weeks with severe head injuries.
The mother and father of the child were at the hearing Tuesday. The mother plans to speak at Evans' sentencing, prosecutors say.
Evans was located the following day in Riverside, Alabama, near Birmingham, after a railroad crew reported to the local police chief seeing a suspicious vehicle in a wooded area along the tracks outside of town.
The police chief took custody of the girl after approaching the vehicle, where Evans was found sleeping and possibly intoxicated. Evans drove off after handing the girl over to the police chief. He was captured several hours later in Mississippi after a high-speed chase.
New information that came out in Tuesday's hearing is that Evans has also reportedly confessed to possibly killing his one-time girlfriend, Sharon Hayden.
Evans, who had been released from prison not even two weeks before kidnapping the Johns Island girl and attacking her mother, stayed with Hayden after his Feb. 1 jail release.
The two stayed together briefly afterward in Spartanburg County, but the relationship apparently soured, as Evans claims he ended up stabbing Hayden.
Evans has told investigators Hayden after the stabbing wandered off from the home into some woods, possibly with a collapsed lung, and he never saw her again.
Hayden's body has not been found. Evans was spotted in Berkeley County with Hayden's car two days before the kidnapping, after he apparently ran out of gas on Mendel Rivers Road.
Police say Evans was still driving Hayden's black Honda Civic when he kidnapped the Johns Island child tow days later. The car was later abandoned at a farm outside Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 14, where Evans stole another vehicle that unbeknownst to him was outfitted with GPS tracking by the agricultural company that owned it.
That GPS tracking helped officers locate Evans later the night of the 14th, ultimately leading to his arrest.
This is a developing story and additional details will be added.