Trial for man in bunker captivity case set to begin

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COLUMBIA - For more than a week, authorities say, a 14-year-old South Carolina girl was held captive and sexually assaulted in a booby-trapped bunker dug eight feet into the side of a hill.

Vinson Filyaw is accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl and keeping her in an underground bunker for more than a week one year ago.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Vinson Filyaw is accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl and keeping her in an underground bunker for more than a week one year ago.

The cavity, covered with plywood and leaves, was home to a hand-dug privy, a camp stove and crude shelves fashioned from branches and canvas. It was in this dark, dingy hole that authorities say the teen waited until Vinson Filyaw, 37, fell asleep, then used his cell phone to text message her mother a vague description of where she was being held.

"Hi mom," the message read. "I'm in a hole across from Charm Hill where the big trucks go in and out. There's a bomb. Call police."

On Monday, exactly one year after his capture, Mr. Filyaw's trial on 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct is to begin.

After the text message, investigators scrambled to find the girl. Using cell towers to determine the general location of the phone, coupled with the girl's description of the heavy machinery - the brick company's quarry was nearby - authorities found the bunker in a thick, wooded area of Kershaw County, less than a mile from the girl's home.

Early on Sept. 16, 2006, the teen's cries helped deputies locate the bunker. At about 4:30 the next morning, authorities found Mr. Filyaw about five miles from his house, walking along Interstate 20. He was armed with a pellet gun, a Taser and a hunting knife but surrendered when confronted by officers.

The Associated Press does not normally identify people alleging sexual assault.

Family members have said the teen has worked toward having a normal life. A month after her rescue, she told her grandmother she was ready to go back to the same school bus stop where authorities say Mr. Filyaw, dressed as a police officer, led her away.

Mr. Filyaw, who has been held without bail, faces as much as 30 years in prison for each of the sexual assault charges. He also been charged with kidnapping, impersonating an officer and possession of an incendiary device.

A pretrial hearing was canceled this week, and defense attorney Jack Duncan didn't want to speak with a reporter about the case. The publicity surrounding it has been widespread.

Behind closed doors this week, attorneys discussed a number of issues with Judge G. Thomas Cooper, including a subpoena asking that Columbia television station WLTX turn over any and all materials it might have received from the defendant.

The pretrial matters are to be discussed in Beaufort County on Monday before jury selection begins.

The trial is being held in Beaufort, a coastal town at South Carolina's southern tip, nearly 200 miles from Mr. Filyaw's alleged underground lair. Judge Cooper opted for that location because of intense media attention generated by the case.

Authorities have said a previous sexual assault allegation led Mr. Filyaw to build an elaborate series of tunnels and hideouts.

Before his arrest last year, deputies had been searching for the unemployed construction worker for months, going back to a November 2005 charge of criminal sexual conduct on a 12-year-old girl who had been living in his home.

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justus4 09/16/07 - 12:40 pm
Authorities had been looking

Authorities had been looking for him?? How?! First mistake, then the judge moved the trial 200 miles. This is where the deception begun. This guy will get ten yrs and probation. What a joke!

Chuchi 09/16/07 - 02:36 pm
Unfortunately, you are

Unfortunately, you are probably correct about the sentencing. When he gets out he will do it again to some other poor girl.

moma051381 09/16/07 - 09:57 pm
thats all they do,give thes

thats all they do,give thes people sometime then put them back on the street to do it again.1 out of 3 girls are raped from 1 years and up and 1 out of 6 boys!when will it stop?they need to put alls these people in one spot and leave them!all they say is these people have rights,but what the kids,do they have rights????

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