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Vinson Filyaw, who was serving a 421-year prison sentence for kidnapping, torturing and raping a 14-year-old Kershaw County girl he was keeping in an underground bunker laden with explosives, died in prison on Monday state, according to informed official sources. his death.
Filyaw, 51, was found unresponsive in his cell at McCormick Penitentiary, a male-only facility in McCormick County, the sources said.
There were no immediate signs of foul play and an autopsy will be performed, the sources said.
McCormick County coroner Faye Puckett confirmed on Monday that an inmate had died but declined to name him. State corrections officials have said their practice is to ask the county coroner to identify inmates who die in prison.
A lifetime TV movie about the case, “The Girl in the Bunker,” aired in 2018.
“He was a bad guy – as bad as you can get without killing anyone,” former 5th Circuit lawyer Barney Giese, who pursued Filyaw’s case, said on Monday.
“He turned 421 and deserved every day,” Giese said.
Filyaw’s scheduled release date was 2353, according to prison records.
He was arrested in 2006 and pleaded guilty the following year. The judge sentenced him to 421 years in prison, combining consecutive sentences for kidnapping, rape, impersonation of a law enforcement officer and a host of other offenses.
“Unforgivable,” Judge G. Thomas Cooper intoned as he sentenced Filyaw to one of the longest sentences handed down by an accused state in modern times. “You attacked defenseless victims with violence and in a savage way.”
From school bus to bunker lined with explosives
In September 2006, a 14-year-old girl went missing after getting off a school bus in the community of Elgin, Kershaw County.
According to a detailed article in The State newspaper in 2007, evidence in the case showed Filyaw hid in a bush and waited for the girl to leave the bus stop, then jumped in front of her wearing a shirt. with a police emblem. above. He falsely told her that she was under arrest for her family growing marijuana and handcuffing her.
After leading her into the woods, he raped her, then placed a collar on her which he told her was full of explosives. If she tried to escape, he said, he would blow her up and then kill his little brother. Filyaw then led the girl to the bottom of a forest, where he had prepared an underground lair six feet deep, with a camouflaged door. He was trapped with explosives.
The bunker was one of four that Filyaw had built around Kershaw County, authorities said. There was a well, a bed, a stove, a television and an escape hatch. Over the days, Filyaw allowed his victim to play video games on his cell phone.
One night, while Filyaw was sleeping, she wrote a text message to her mother on the cell phone, lifted the camouflage door, reached out with the cell phone, and sent the message. This ultimately led the authorities to the hideout, where they found her.
The evidence included chains that Filyaw had placed around the young girl’s neck to keep her captive, a handmade badge that he used to impersonate a policeman and a knife, a pellet gun and night vision goggles he was wearing when he was arrested.
Filyaw told authorities the motive for the kidnapping was in revenge against the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, which allegedly wrongly accused him of a sex crime.
‘A world she didn’t deserve’
At the guilty plea hearing, the girl’s mother told Judge Cooper: “For 10 days we endured a hell that 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.
Also at the 2007 hearing, defense attorney Jack Duncan presented evidence that Filyaw endured a hectic childhood, dropped out of high school, and was an alcoholic and unemployed loner suffering from paranoia and delusions.
Duncan said Monday that Filyaw redeemed himself to some extent when he decided to plead guilty instead of having a trial – which saved the victim the ordeal of testifying.
A seasoned lawyer who has had thousands of clients in his 40-year career, Duncan said he has never had a client sentenced to 425 years.
“It’s the longest specific sentence, I think, in South Carolina history,” Duncan said.
Giese, the prosecutor, said he had a vivid memory of the kidnapped girl whose actions led authorities to the bunker.
“She was very strong, very brave,” he said.
After the case closed, authorities blew up the Filyaw bunker, Giese said.