Who was Vinson Filyaw? 'Girl in the Bunker' kidnapper who raped and tortured girl, 14, found dead in prison
After his arrest, Filyaw had told authorities that he had kidnapped Shoaf in 2006 to take revenge on Kershaw County Sheriff's Office for wrongfully accusing him of a sex crime in the past
MCCORMICK, SOUTH CAROLINA: 'The Girl in the Bunker' kidnapper who was serving a 421-year sentence at McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina died mysteriously in prison after having served just 14 years of his sentence. Identified as Vinson Filyaw, the convict was had been incarcerated for the kidnapping, torture, and rape of a 14-year-old girl he had kept hidden in an underground bunker that was rigged with explosives. An autopsy is yet to be performed.
Who was Vinson Filyaw?
Vinson had been reportedly found unresponsive in his jail cell before he was pronounced dead. The McCormick County coroner Faye Puckett had initially confirmed that a man had died but refused to name him due to state corrections policy that allows only coroners to name dead inmates. "He was a bad guy — as bad as you can get without killing anybody," former 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese, who had prosecuted Filyaw’s case, claimed in a Monday interview, adding "He got 421 years and deserved every day of it."
After his arrest, Filyaw had told authorities that he had kidnapped Shoaf to take revenge on Kershaw County Sheriff's Office for wrongfully accusing him of a sex crime in the past. His 421-year sentence had consecutively combined the sentences for kidnapping, rape and impersonating a law enforcement officer, among other offenses. Judge G Thomas Cooper, as he handed down the sentence, had called Filyaw's actions 'unforgivable'. He had said: "You have preyed upon helpless victims with violence and in a savage manner."
Filyaw kidnapped, raped, and tortured Shoaf
Filyaw's case eventually went on to become the subject of the 2018 Lifetime movie, 'The Girl in the Bunker'. Back in September 2006, Filyaw had kidnapped the then 14-year-old Elizabeth Shoaf after she got off her school bus in Elgin, Kershaw County. Filyaw was allegedly hiding in the bush and waiting for the girl to leave the bus stop before jumping out in front of her. He had then falsely told her that she was under arrest as her family was growing pot and handcuffed her. The case reports reveal that he then led the handcuffed girl into the woods where he raped her and tied a necklace around her neck that he claimed was full of explosives.
Filyaw had warned Shoaf that should she try to escape, he would detonate the necklace and also kill her younger brother. He had then taken Shoaf deeper into the woods, inside a self-constructed six-feet-deep underground bunker, which was allegedly booby-trapped with explosives and had a camouflaged door, reported The State. The bunker had a well, a bed, a stove, and also a TV and an escape hatch. It was one of four Filyaw had built around Kershaw County, authorities claimed.
How Shoaf got Filyaw arrested
Shoaf was initially presumed a runaway and therefore an Amber alert wasn't issued following her disappearance. The brave girl eventually convinced her captor to allow her to play games on his phone and managed to text message her mother one night when Filyaw was sleeping. Shoaf even stuck her hand out of the bunker to find cell reception for the message to go out. This helped authorities bust the lair where the girl was being held hostage for over a week.
The trial against Filyaw saw evidence including chains that he had tied around Shoaf's neck to keep her from escaping. He had also used a handmade badge to trick her. During the hearing, Shoaf's mother told the judge: "For 10 days we endured a hell we would not wish on any other family. Our innocent child was subjected to torment and abuse and placed in a world she did not deserve.” The evidence also included a knife, a pellet gun, and night-vision goggles.
Filyaw's projected release date would have been 2353. After the case was closed, the bunker was blown up by authorities who also called Shoaf 'very brave' and 'very strong'. Shoaf has since spoken in occasional interviews about the ordeal she endured. Currently a college graduate, she works as a dentist's assistant. Speaking of her nightmare, back in 2013 she said to WIS, "You can be a survivor just like I am. It simply takes faith, it takes talking to someone and encouragement that it's not the end of the world."