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The South Carolina man who kidnapped 14-year-old Elizabeth Shoaf, hid her in a self-made bunker for 10 days and repeatedly raped her 15 years ago has died in prison.
Vinson Filyaw died at McCormick Correctional Institute while serving 421 years behind bars for the crime, according to local station WLTX. The 51-year-old’s cause of death has not been released.
Posing as a police officer, Filyaw abducted Elizabeth in 2006 on her way home from school in Lugoff, South Carolina. After placing the teen in handcuffs, the then-unemployed construction worker led her into the woods, took off her clothes and chained her inside a crudely-made bunker he'd built near his trailer home, “Today” reported in 2008.
For 10 days, Filyaw, who had been a suspect in an unrelated sexual assault case, held Elizabeth in the bunker, which was filled with guns, pornography, and a Taser. He raped her multiple times each day in the case portrayed in the 2018 Lifetime movie “Girl in the Bunker.”
Elizabeth’s family had reported her missing on Sept. 6, 2006, after she failed to return home for school; authorities believed she may have run away as she remained hidden deep inside the woods.
"While being down in the bunker I was repeatedly raped, threatened and tortured for 10 days straight. I never knew if I was going to live or die, and if I was going to see my family friends or boyfriend again,” she said while speaking at a ceremony at the State House in Columbia in 2008, according to local station WIS-TV.
Elizabeth eventually earned Filyaw’s trust and convinced him to let her play games on his phone, according to “Today.” She waited until he fell asleep then used the phone to text her mother, writing “Hey Mom, it’s Lizzie,” her mother, Madeline Shoaf, told CNN in 2006.
“I looked at the text and I ran straight to (my husband) and told him, ‘It’s Elizabeth. No one else has my cell phone,’” she recalled.
Elizabeth was able to tell her mother “exactly where she was, down the road” in a “hole” and Madeline quickly alerted law enforcement, who began an exhaustive search for the missing teen.
As news of the search reached the local media, Filyaw saw the coverage and heard helicopters flying overhead, he got angry, Elizabeth said.
“I was scared I was gonna die,” she told “Today” after her escape. “He was mad. I didn’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, Filyaw was also questioning his next move and asked the teenager for her advice.
“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 fled the bunker, leaving her behind. Once Eliazbeth was sure he was gone, she climbed out of the bunker and was discovered by investigators.
Sheriff Steve McCaskill, who once called the case “the most bizarre thing I think we’ve seen here in Kershaw County,” told CNN that Filyaw had managed to keep the teen from leaving the bunker during the harrowing ordeal by convincing her that the area was rigged with explosive booby traps.
“He was a very calculating man, a very thinking man — he did the best he could with what he had,” McCaskill said.
Investigators later uncovered homemade grenades in the bunker that had been made with gunpowder and pill bottles.
Filyaw was captured a short time later.
Two years after her abduction, Elizabeth said she remained haunted by the experience but told those at the ceremony at the State Capitol that she viewed herself as a survivor, rather than a victim.
“I have good days and I have bad days, sometimes I have nightmares about it,” she said. “I would have panic attacks and think about it all the time.”
Filyaw later agreed to plead guilty, forgoing a trial and was sentenced to 421 years behind bars with no possibility of parole.
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