[image-3] Four year old Heidi Renae Todd, who went missing on Tues. Feb. 13 from her home in the Whitney Lake neighborhood of Johns Island, was found safe yesterday afternoon outside of Birmingham, Ala.
According to Al.com, Todd was found by two Norfolk Southern employees who happened to be working on the railroad tracks and spotted a vehicle parked too close to the train tracks around 4 p.m. in a wooded area off Highway 78. The workers called authorities, and Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver and Riverside Fire Chief Tim Kurzejeski went to investigate.
They found the vehicle with a white male asleep in the driver seat and a little girl, dressed in an adult hoodie and pajamas which, Oliver said, “piqued my interest.” Oliver was able to get Heidi out of the car, but the male, later identified as Thomas Lawton Evans, fled the scene. Evans was later captured in Lauderdale County, Miss. by Lauderdale and Kemper county deputies. According to the Post & Courier, Evans, 37, is a felon who was released from prison in the past two weeks.
Heidi was taken by Kurzejeski back to the fire station where she “watched the Disney channel and requested cookies and chocolate milk.” As of 9 a.m. this morning, Al.com reported that law enforcement officials and Heidi’s father were en route to pick her up.
Heidi was officially reported missing 5:50 p.m. Tues. night. It all started Tuesday afternoon when Heidi’s mother failed to pick up her two older children from school. According to the Post & Courier, the school called police and when officers reached the Todd home they found the mother badly beaten, and two other children unharmed in the house. But no Heidi. For 24 hours, residents of the Whitney Lake neighborhood and authorities searched the area around the Todd house, including the surrounding forests and lake.
A sketch of a person of interest was released Wednesday afternoon of a Hispanic man with two facial tattoos, one of a flame and one of a lightning bolt. According to ABC News 4, the sketch was based off the description a neighbor provided for a person seen in the Whitney Lake neighborhood.
At a vigil held at the Whitney Lake dock last night at 7 p.m., around 100 people held candles and prayed for the safe return of Heidi. Families with small children held them tight, and police cars lined the street, keeping sentry. About an hour after the vigil, the news came out that Heidi had been found.
“We are so thankful that she is safe,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said Wednesday night, during a press conference. “What could have been a day of great tragedy has turned out to be a day of great joy.”