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‘Girl in the bunker’ kidnapper serving 421 years is found dead in his South Carolina cell 


A man serving a 421-year prison sentence for the kidnap, torture and rape of a 14-year-old girl he kept hidden in an underground bunker rigged with explosives for 10 days has died in jail.

Vinson Filyaw, 51, was found unresponsive in his cell at McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina on Monday having served 14 years of his sentence, sources said.

There were no immediate signs of foul play and an autopsy will be performed, The State reported. 

McCormick County coroner Faye Puckett confirmed that a prisoner had died but would not name him due to state corrections policy which says only the coroner can formally name dead inmates.  

The case was the subject of a Lifetime movie entitled The Girl in the Bunker, which aired in 2018.

‘He was a bad guy — as bad as you can get without killing anybody,’ former 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese, who prosecuted Filyaw’s case, said in an interview Monday.

‘He got 421 years and deserved every day of it,’ Giese said.

A man who was serving a 421-year prison sentence for the kidnap, torture and rape of a 14-year-old girl whom he kept in bunker rigged with explosives has died. Vinson Filyaw, pictured handcuffed in 2006, 51, was found unresponsive in his cell at McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina, official sources with knowledge of his death said (File photo)

Filyaw held Elizabeth Shoaf hostage in a six-feet-deep underground bunker that he had built (pictured). The lair was booby-trapped with explosives and had a camouflaged door

Filyaw held Elizabeth Shoaf hostage in a six-feet-deep underground bunker that he had built (pictured). The lair was booby-trapped with explosives and had a camouflaged door

In September 2006, Filyaw kidnapped 14-year-old Elizabeth Shoaf after she got off a school bus in Elgin, Kershaw County.

Filyaw had hidden in a bush and waited for Shoaf to leave the bus stop before jumping out in front of her.

He falsely told her she was under arrest because her family was growing marijuana and handcuffed her. 

According to reported case evidence, Filyaw then handcuffed Shoaf and led her into the woods where he raped her and placed a necklace on her that he claimed was full of explosives.

He warned Shoaf that if she tried to escape, he would detonate the necklace and kill her younger brother.

Shoaf (pictured) secretly sent a text to her mother from her captor's phone, which eventually led to her rescue and Filyaw's arrest

Shoaf (pictured) secretly sent a text to her mother from her captor’s phone, which eventually led to her rescue and Filyaw’s arrest

Filyaw then took Shoaf deeper into the woods to a site where he had constructed a six-feet-deep underground bunker.

The lair was booby-trapped with explosives and had a camouflaged door, The State reported.

The bunker had a well, a bed and a stove, as well as a television and an escape hatch. Authorities said it was one of four Filyaw had built around Kershaw County. 

Authorities initially believed Shoaf to be a runaway and did not issue an amber alert following her disappearance.  

Gradually, Shoaf persuaded Filyaw to allow her to play games on his cell phone.

One night, while her captor was sleeping, she wrote a text to her mother on the phone, sticking her hand out of the bunker’s door to send the message. 

It eventually led authorities to the lair, where Shoaf had been held hostage for more than a week.

When he discovered he was being pursued, Filyaw fled, allowing Shoaf to escape and be rescued.

He was later arrested, and tried the following year. He pleaded guilty to a raft of charges including kidnapping, rape and impersonating a police officer. 

The trailer where Filyaw lived in Lugoff, South Carolina, is pictured in 2006

The trailer where Filyaw lived in Lugoff, South Carolina, is pictured in 2006

He claimed he abducted Shoaf and held her captive as revenge on the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, which had allegedly wrongfully accused him of a sex crime.  

Filyaw was given 421 years in prison in a sentence which consecutively combined the sentences for his crimes, which included kidnapping, rape and impersonating a law enforcement officer, among other offenses.    

Judge G. Thomas Cooper described Filyaw’s actions as ‘unforgivable’ as he handed down the sentence, saying: ‘You have preyed upon helpless victims with violence and in a savage manner.’

Evidence at the trial included chains Filyaw had put around Shoaf’s neck to prevent her from escaping and a handmade badge he used while posing as a police officer. 

At the guilty plea hearing, the girl’s mother told Judge Cooper, ‘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.”

A knife, a pellet gun and night-vision goggles were also presented. 

Pictured: Filyaw was arrested in 2006 and sentenced the following year

Pictured: Filyaw was arrested in 2006 and sentenced the following year

Prison records stated Filyaw’s projected release date as being in the year 2353. 

After the case was closed, Barney Giese, the prosecutor, said that authorities blew up Filyaw’s bunker. 

He also recalled that Shoaf, whose actions led authorities to the bunker, was ‘very strong’ and ‘very brave’.

Shoaf went on to speak about her ordeal in occasional interviews. 

The college graduate now works as a dental assistant.

In 2013, she told 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.’ 

Shoaf went on to speak about her ordeal in occasional interviews. The college graduate now works as a dental assistant. Pictured: Elizabeth Shoaf in 2013

Shoaf went on to speak about her ordeal in occasional interviews. The college graduate now works as a dental assistant. Pictured: Elizabeth Shoaf in 2013



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