- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

LUGOFF, S.C. (AP) — Authorities early yesterday arrested a man they suspect kidnapped a 14-year-old girl who was able to send a cell-phone text message to her mother, leading to her rescue from a booby-trapped bunker where she had been held for as long as 10 days.

Investigators arrested 37-year-old Vinson Filyaw on Interstate 20 in Richland County about 24 hours after rescuing Elizabeth Shoaf, said Sheriff Steve McCaskill in neighboring Kershaw County.

Mr. Filyaw will be charged with kidnapping, possession of an incendiary device and impersonating an officer, Sheriff McCaskill said.

He said more charges were likely after investigators interview Elizabeth. Police are letting her rest but probably will talk to her today about the Sept. 6 abduction.

“The big relief was when we found Elizabeth Shoaf alive and well,” Sheriff McCaskill said. “But it is a great relief when you get a criminal of this type out of society and behind bars.”

Deputies found Elizabeth about a mile from her home in a 15-foot-deep hole in the side of a hill that was covered with plywood. The bunker had a hand-dug privy with toilet paper, a camp stove and shelves made with cut branches and canvas.

Sheriff McCaskill said the girl appeared to be unharmed but was taken to Kershaw County Medical Center for evaluation.

The sheriff said the girl sent her mother the text message Friday from Mr. Filyaw’s cell phone. Investigators used cell towers to determine a general location of the phone.

Sheriff McCaskill said the girl cried out as searchers approached the bunker.

“She was standing at the mouth of the bunker with the door open,” sheriff’s Capt. David Thomley told the CBS affiliate in South Carolina. He said Elizabeth was not tied up and was coherent.

Police were tipped off to Mr. Filyaw’s location after getting a call from a woman who said he tried to carjack her about 2 a.m. outside a pizza restaurant, authorities said.

Mr. Filyaw was being held at the Kershaw County jail. It was not clear whether he had an attorney.

Investigators said that Mr. Filyaw posed as a police officer when he met Elizabeth and that the girl was walked around in the woods by her captor until she became disoriented. He used handmade grenades and a flare gun to threaten her while she was in the bunker, Sheriff McCaskill said.

Sheriff McCaskill told CNN that the bunker, which was protected by a booby trap, was about 20 feet long, with front and back doors.

Deputies had been searching for Mr. Filyaw, an unemployed construction worker, for months on an unrelated charge of criminal sexual conduct against a 12-year-old girl, Sheriff McCaskill said.

Officers tried to arrest him at his home earlier this week, but he escaped using a tunnel that led from his bedroom to a shed, the sheriff said.

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