CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry family has filed a lawsuit against several local and state law enforcement agencies almost two years after a mother was beaten inside her Johns Island home and her 4-year-old daughter was kidnapped.
Thomas Lawton Evans, a convicted felon out on parole with a documented violent past and severe drug addiction, broke into the home of Brittany Todd in February of 2018 where he then assaulted her and kidnapped the family’s 4-year-old daughter and transported her across state lines.
News of the assault and kidnapping sparked a manhunt in the Lowcountry. Evans was later apprehended following a police chase in Lauderdale County, Mississippi soon after he was found sleeping in a car with the 4-year-old in Riverside, Alabama.
The Todd family is now suing law enforcement, saying they could have done more to stop Evans before he committed the crimes.
“Defendants had multiple opportunities to prevent or to stop Evans’s rampage before it reached Plaintiffs’ doorstep, and Defendants negligently failed at every turn to perform their legal duties to protect Plaintiffs and Evans’s other victims,” the lawsuit stated.
The defendants include the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department, and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
According to court records, Evans had been released from another prison in the state only 13 days before the assault and kidnapping occurred.
In March of 2010, Evans was convicted of burglary and armed robbery while armed with a deadly weapon and was incarcerated by the South Carolina Department of Corrections at Kershaw State Penitentiary. During his time there, he requested to see a mental health professional multiple times and had multiple disciplinary infractions including possession of drugs while incarcerated, and an infraction for taking his roommate hostage with a knife less than one month prior to his release, the lawsuit stated.
Still, he was released on February 1st, 2018 and ordered to report to the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
The lawsuit states the department had not entered him into its public database, nor had he reported to the department within 24 hours of his release, which was required by the terms of his parole.
On February 4, 2018, the lawsuit states a gas station clerk on James Island called 911 to report Evans behaving suspiciously at the gas station, going back and forth between his vehicle and the gas station and attempting to use credit cards which were declined.
CCSO deputies responded to the call and questioned Evans, but did not contact the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services or check the DPPP public database to identify whether Evans was on parole.
The lawsuit says Evans was visibly highly intoxicated when he was questioned by CSCO, which was a violation of the terms of his parole.
A concerned person placed a 911 call in Berkeley County regarding a suspicious vehicle and a man, later determined to be Evans, who was walking a neighborhood with a gas can, asking for money on February 11th.
BCSD’s deputies asked Evans what he was doing and ran his identification through their systems. The lawsuit states Evans’s license had been suspended, and that the vehicle he was using was registered to another person who had been reported missing. It was later revealed BCSD did not promptly contact the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services so that Evans’s parole could be violated.
Evans would later plead guilty in both federal (in March 2019) and state court (in October 2019), was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in federal prison and an additional life term on the state charges.
As a result of the kidnapping and assault, members of the Todd family suffered extensive and continuing emotional and physical trauma.
The Todd family is seeking thousands of dollars in damages from the departments that would go toward paying medical bills incurred by the assaults.