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Teen's Text Message Leads to Her Rescue

September 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

LUGOFF, S.C. — A text message sent by a missing 14-year-old to her mother led to her rescue Saturday, when police found her in a hand-dug, booby-trapped bunker.

Elizabeth Shoaf's message also led investigators to name a suspect in her abduction more than a week ago. Police were searching for 37-year-old Vinson Filyaw, said Kershaw County Sheriff Steve McCaskill.

Shoaf was found by deputies about a mile from her home in a 15-foot-deep hole in the side of a hill that was covered with plywood. The bunker had a hand-dug privy with toilet paper, a camp stove, and shelves made with cut branches and canvas.

McCaskill said the girl appeared to be unharmed but was taken to Kershaw County Medical Center for evaluation. Police have not interviewed her; they say they will leave her alone until she's ready to talk.

Investigators say Filyaw may have posed as a police officer when he met Shoaf. The unemployed construction worker also is wanted on an unrelated sexual assault charge.

The sheriff said the girl was walked around in the woods by her captor until she became disoriented. In the bunker, she was threatened with handmade grenades and a flare gun.

The sheriff said the text message the girl sent to her mother came from Filyaw's cellphone, and deputies began looking for him Friday night.

Investigators used cell towers to determine a general location of the phone used to send the message.

"That was the first break," McCaskill said.

The sheriff said the girl cried out as searchers approached the bunker where she was found.

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