Johns Island kidnapping suspect will plead guilty

posted by Rob Way, Reporter/MMJ - 

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Federal prosecutors told a judge Wednesday that the man accused of kidnapping a 4-year-old Johns Island girl in mid-February plans to plead guilty.

Thomas Lawton Evans, 37, appeared in federal court for a pretrial conference. It is not clear whether he plans to plead guilty to all or some federal charges against him. The judge has not yet set a date for a sentencing hearing when Evans would formally enter a plea. 

Jury selection is tentatively set in the federal case for early October. 

Evans pleaded not guilty back in March to the federal charges of kidnapping involving a person under the age of 18, transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity and aggravated sexual abuse of a person under the age of 12, according to U.S. Attorney Beth Drake.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Evans randomly targeted the family, attacking the little girl’s mom when she returned home with three of her children n Feb. 13. Investigators say Evans kidnapped the 4-year-old after brutally beating and sexually assaulting her mom.

The girl was rescued the following day in Alabama. Evans was arrested that same evening in Mississippi.

Two days before the kidnapping Evans showed up in St. Stephen in his girlfriend’s car. The owner of the vehicle, 39-year old Sharon Hayden, could not be located at her Spartanburg County home and hasn’t been seen since.

Both Hayden's mother and daughter have gone public with pleas to try and find her. 

If convicted on all three federal charges, Evans faces a minimum of 60 years in prison. 

Evans also faces seven state charges of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a violent crime, according to Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis.

According to jail records, Evans has had only two visitors at the jail since March 6 when he was first sent there.

A clergyman named Daniel Ladson has seen Evans 17 times. His attorney Teresa Norris has visited him twice.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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