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Missing 4-year-old Lowcountry girl found 2 states away after mom ‘brutally beaten’

Missing 4-year-old Lowcountry girl found 2 states away after mom ‘brutally beaten’

The missing 4-year-old girl, Heidi Renae Todd, who was reported missing Tuesday on John’s Island, was found Wednesday in Alabama.

The 4-year-old girl who was reported missing Tuesday on Johns Island in the Charleston area was reportedly found late Wednesday afternoon in Alabama.

Heidi Renae Todd was reported missing in the area of 2985 Sweetleaf Lane at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, and the search for her continued throughout Wednesday, according to the Charleston Police Department.

Heidi was found in Riverside, Alabama, Pell City Police Chief Paul Irwin told She was found by a law enforcement officer around 4 p.m. in a business parking lot on Highway 78. The officer was checking on the car when he saw a man asleep inside and a little girl who wanted to get out. The officer got the girl out of the car and the sleeping man woke up and immediately drove off.

The man was driving a blue sedan with an Illinois tag when he got away.

Charleston police are searching for a Hispanic man between the ages of 30 and 40 with a flame tattoo on his left cheek and a lightning bolt tattoo on his right cheek and a stocky build, Charleston police said in a 4 p.m. press conference. He is not a suspect in the case, but was seen in the neighborhood days before Heidi went missing and police want to speak with him, authorities said Wednesday.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the child’s recovery.

A private, anonymous citizen donated an additional $10,000 to the reward, according to the police department around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the child’s mother was found “brutally beaten” by officers who went to the Whitney Lake neighborhood home after two of the woman’s children were not picked up from school. Police said the mother was attacked while entering her home.

At the noon news conference, Charleston’s Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor would not say whether there was a forced entry into the home. It was also unknown whether the mother knew her attacker, Taylor said.

He called the attacker an “unwanted guest.”

“At this point in time … we are trying to determine exactly what occurred,” Taylor said.

The woman was taken to a Charleston area hospital, according to the Charleston Police Department.

“(The mother) is in reasonably fair condition at this point,” Tecklenburg said in a media briefing Wednesday afternoon. He said the mother is expected to undergo surgery sometime Wednesday.

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Two younger children were found in the home unharmed, Tecklenburg said.

He said the children’s father is a member of the Coast Guard and was out of town for training. Heidi’s father was with her mother at the hospital Wednesday afternoon, authorities confirmed.

“Be on the lookout for Heidi,” the mayor said. “Help us find her.”

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a national bulletin asking for help looking for the child.

An AMBER Alert was not issued, Tecklenburg explained, because there are still too many unknowns in the case.

“You have to have enough information to tell people what to look for,” he said.

The SLED website offers criteria for when an AMBER Alert will be issued. It includes a stipulation that law enforcement must believe that the child has been abducted and in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death. It also states that an AMBER Alert is issued after all other possibilities for the disappearance have been reasonably excluded.

Tecklenburg said investigators were unsure whether the child was taken away from the home in a vehicle.

Crews were seen searching a nearby lake and walking through the neighborhood until about 3 a.m. Tuesday, WTOC television station reported.

Helicopters were seen over the neighborhood, ABC News 4 television station reported.

Divers resumed their search of the lake on Wednesday morning, according to video posted online by multiple media organizations.

The investigation involves local, county, state and federal officials, including the FBI and the Coast Guard, Tecklenburg said.

Charleston police said the girl was last seen wearing pink pants and a blue shirt.

She may be with a Hispanic male, who is reported to be “skinny, 25-30 years old with short hair & dressed in all grey,” according to the Police Department’s Twitter account.

At the news conference, Taylor would say only that the mother was able to offer a vague description of a Hispanic man.

Brodie Hart, a reporter with ABC News 4, posted video on Twitter that shows a silver SUV was with Alaska license plates being towed from a home believed to be the child’s residence.

Anyone with information about this case may call 843-619-6123.

This story will be updated.

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