Vinson Filyaw former construction worker convicted of kidnapping and raping a 14-year-old Lugoff, South Carolina girl, holding her captive in an underground bunker. This bunker had been constructed in order to elude police who were seeking to arrest Filyaw on an unrelated rape charge. Filyaw’s girlfriend was also arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the abduction.
17 months later Elizabeth Shoaf is talking about the horror she endured.
Vinson Filyaw handcuffed her, told her she was under arrest, and led her deep into the woods, where he stripped Elizabeth naked and chained her in a cramped and dank “bunker” he had dug into the ground next to his trailer home. Several times a day for 10 days, he raped her.
Tonight Elizabeth Shoaf will appear on Dateline to tell the story of her escape.
When Elizabeth did not return home from school on Sept. 6, 2006, her parents called police. Lacking any evidence that she had been abducted, her case was initially treated as a runaway despite her parents’ insistence that their daughter would never run away from home.
But even if police had treated her disappearance as an abduction and broadcast an immediate Amber Alert, it wouldn’t have helped. Deep in the woods in a well-hidden and booby-trapped underground pit, she was utterly on her own.
She said she kept up her spirits by thinking about her family and friends and through prayer. She also realized that she could not hope to be found and would have to discover a way out herself.
“I guess if I wanted him to trust me I’d have to have him think I kind of wanted to be there and be more comfortable letting me do things I wanted to do,” she told Vieira.
Filyaw was dumb and it worked. After few days, he trusted her enough to give her his cell phone so she could play games on it. But when he slept, she used the phone to send text messages to her parents and friends.
Police acted foolishly and released word that they had received messages from Elizabeth, this enraged Filyaw.
“I was scared I was gonna die,” she said of that moment. “He was mad. I didn’t know what to do.”
But as angry as Filyaw was, he asked the 14-year-old girl for advice about what to do.
“I told him he needed to leave because if they’d catch him, he would go to jail,” she said.
Filyaw took her advice, and the next morning, when she felt he was gone, she climbed out of the hole in the ground and wandered through the woods, calling for help.
“I was yelling for somebody, anybody to come and get me,” she said.
“Finally I heard somebody yell my name and they came and took me to the hospital. I just started crying. I was happy,” Elizabeth said.
Last September, Filyaw, who confessed to everything and pleaded guilty rather than go to trial, was sentenced to 421 years in prison with no chance of parole. Madeline and Don Shoaf don’t think the punishment is enough and wish there were a death penalty for what he did to their daughter.
“I don’t think he should be allowed to live that long and live off us,” said Madeline Shoaf. “I just think something else should have been done.”