Johns Island kidnapping suspect pleads guilty


The man accused of taking a 4-year-old Johns Island girl from her home and driving her across state lines to Alabama where both were eventually found pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday morning. 

Thomas Lawton Evans, 37, faces 30 years to life in prison when he is sentenced by a federal judge at a later date. New information came to light in court Tuesday which included investigators saying Evans told them he targeted the family because they seemed "perfect" and one he would like to have. Evans also said his initial intent was to rob them. 

Evans also told investigators he had a fight with his girlfriend Sharon Nanette Hayden and told investigators he stabbed her.  Evans chased her into the woods near her Spartanburg home where he believed she died and left her there. However he could not tell investigators where Hayden's body is located. Both Hayden's mother and daughter have gone public with pleas to try and find her, but Evans has told investigators he doesn't know where the woman's body is. 

During a hearing at the end of August, federal prosecutors told a judge that Evans plans to plead guilty.  It wasn't clear at that time whether he planned to plead guilty to all or some federal charges against him.  

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  Feb. 13. Investigators say Evans kidnapped the 4-year-old after brutally beating 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.

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.

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