Man pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexual abuse of girl, 4

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A man who pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to kidnapping a 4-year-old girl from her South Carolina home and sexually assaulting her before she was rescued in Alabama also told investigators he killed his girlfriend days earlier, prosecutors said.

Thomas Lawton Evans, 37, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity and aggravated sexual abuse in federal court. He faces 30 years to life in prison at sentencing, media outlets reported. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

A twist came in court when prosecutors said Evans acknowledged killing his 39-year-old girlfriend days before the kidnapping. Evans told FBI agents he stabbed Sharon Nannette Hayden in a fight in her Spartanburg County home, prosecutors said. Evans said he chased his girlfriend as she ran into the woods where she collapsed and he thinks she died, according to prosecutors.

Her body has never been recovered and Evans hasn’t been charged in her death. Spartanburg County deputies referred all questions to the FBI. Supervisory Special Agent Donald Wood said his agency does not discuss its investigations.

Hayden’s car was found at the Johns Island home near Charleston where the child’s kidnapping took place, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Evans chose his next victims at random, following a mother and her 4-year-old daughter back to their home near Charleston on Feb. 13 and beating the mother so severely she had to be hospitalized for facial fractures. The attack was not discovered until police checked on the mother after her other children weren’t picked up from school, prosecutors said.

Evans, meanwhile, drove west with the girl. Railroad workers called police after finding them sleeping in a car in Riverside, Alabama, and Evans handed an officer the girl then sped off, according to authorities. He was arrested later after a police chase in Mississippi, authorities said.

Evans still faces several state charges, including attempted murder, for the attack on the mother and daughter.

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