S.C. Man Gets 421 Years in Bunker Case

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 19, 2007; 5:06 PM

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- A man who admitted to kidnapping a 14-year-old girl and holding her for more than a week in an underground bunker, raping her daily, was sentenced Wednesday to 421 years in prison for a crime the judge called "repulsive."

Vinson Filyaw pleaded guilty Tuesday, moments before his trial, to charges of kidnapping and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct, one for each day prosecutors said he held the girl captive a year ago in Kershaw County.

The teen was rescued after she got hold of Filyaw's cell phone and sent a text message to her mother.

"I have a strong belief you have forfeited your right to be a member of this society," Judge G. Thomas Cooper said before handing down the sentence. "I can think of no crimes short of murder more repulsive than these."

After the hearing, the girl, now 15, said she was happy with the sentence, the maximum allowed. She explained how she survived in the bunker: "Hope," she said, and constantly thinking about "my family; my friends."

She said she kept trying to send text messages, "hoping they would get out to somebody."

The teenager had planned to testify at the sentencing, but officials said she was too emotional to speak. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The teen's mother hugged her daughter as the girl's statement was read by a prosecutor in court. She said the ordeal "was every person's worst nightmare ... a nightmare no one should have to endure or survive."

The mother described the fear and sleepless nights the family endured during the search for her daughter. She asked the judge to give Filyaw a long sentence, one that would never allow him to leave prison.

"Our daughter will always be a hero to us," she said. "Her bravery and determination to return to us gave her the ability to outsmart her captor."

But the girl's father had hoped for a more severe sentence.

"To me it still ain't enough," he said. "It should be a death penalty. He got what he got, but it's not enough to me. They told me not to but I wanted to fly across (the courtroom) and choke him."

Filyaw detailed the crime in writings done from his jail cell, which prosecutors quoted Wednesday in asking the judge for a harsh sentence.

Filyaw said he posed as a police officer when he kidnapped the girl as she walked home from her bus stop. She was chained to a beam in the tiny bunker and raped daily, authorities said.

"Like a predator, I waited on one lonely stray to walk by," prosecutor Barney Giese read from Filyaw's manuscript. "My adrenaline was rushing. My plan was to try to arrest the girl quietly, rather than grabbing her and carrying her."

While she was held, the girl gained Filyaw's trust, and he said he gave her his cell phone to play games. She used the phone to send a text message to her mother that led rescuers to the bunker.

Filyaw apologized to the girl and her family during brief remarks to the judge.

"There are no words or statement I could possibly give to undo the pain I have caused her and her family," he said. He had said he expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

© 2007 The Associated Press