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Judge denies bond for bunker kidnap suspect

Story Highlights

• Judge denies bond
• Vinson Filyaw faces felony charges, including kidnapping and sexual conduct
• Teen's text message to mom leads police to booby-trapped bunker
• Girl, 14, disappeared on September 6
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CAMDEN, South Carolina (CNN) -- A 14-year-old girl sat huddled with her mother in a South Carolina courtroom Monday evening as a judge denied bond for the man accused of kidnapping her and holding her in an underground bunker for 10 days.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Shoaf and her family looked on as Kershaw County Magistrate Roderick Todd told Vinson Filyaw, 36, he posed a "significant threat" to the community and that his "calculated evasiveness" made him a flight risk.

Filyaw, who was captured Sunday a few miles from the bunker, is charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct with a minor, impersonating a police officer, trespassing and two counts of maintaining or possessing a destructive or explosive device. Collectively, the charges could carry as much as 92 years in prison, Todd said.

Shoaf was rescued Saturday after U.S. marshals traced her to the booby-trapped bunker using a text message she sent her mother on Filyaw's cell phone Wednesday while he slept.

When the judge gave him a chance to speak, Filyaw -- handcuffed and wearing a bulletproof vest over his maroon jail uniform -- complained that investigators were trying to pressure him to cooperate by threatening to arrest members of his family.

"I just would like to say that nobody in my family was involved in this in any way," he said.

His common-law wife, Cynthia Hall Filyaw, has been charged with aiding and abetting the abduction by providing him with food and fuel for the bunker, Kershaw County Sheriff Steve McCaskill said.

Filyaw also faces another count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, relating to his 12-year-old stepdaughter, under a warrant issued in November. He had been eluding authorities in that case by hiding out in several underground bunkers he dug near his mobile home, including the one where Shoaf was found, McCaskill said.

Amber Alert debate

The case has touched off a debate in South Carolina about the conditions under which an Amber Alert can be issued for a missing child.

After Shoaf disappeared September 6, an Amber Alert was not issued because state law requires law enforcement to be certain a child has been abducted, McCaskill said. The alert system also requires descriptions of suspects and a vehicle, which can then be sent out to the public.

Shoaf's mother has said she believes an Amber Alert should have been issued for her daughter.

McCaskill said Monday that the law should be loosened to allow alerts to be issued in disappearances such as Shoaf's. However, he said in this case, he doubts an alert would have led police to the girl sooner.

Filyaw, an unemployed contractor, lived in the same neighborhood as Shoaf in the rural town of Lugoff, but he was not a suspect until the text message was traced to a cell phone he purchased, McCaskill said.

The sheriff said Filyaw, wearing a green shirt with patches he had drawn to make it appear he was a sheriff's deputy, was waiting at a bus stop near the girl's home after she returned from school. Shoaf walked into the woods with him because he told her he was taking her to her younger brother, McCaskill said.

The girl told deputies she was afraid to leave the eight-foot deep, eight-foot wide, and 20-foot long bunker because Filyaw told her he set booby traps outside the entrance. The sheriff said homemade grenades -- made from pill bottles and gun powder -- were found in the bunker, along with a flare. (Watch sheriff describe "ugly scene" in bunker prison -- 2:15 )

Police said Filyaw was trying to run when he was arrested at about 4:15 a.m. Sunday while walking along Interstate 20 near Columbia, South Carolina.

He had attempted to hijack a car and the driver's 911 call led police to their suspect, according to testimony at the bond hearing.

A detective testified that Filyaw left Shoaf alone in the bunker late Friday night or early Saturday, telling her she was free to go at daylight. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone about her days in captivity, the detective said.

On Friday, police, assisted by the U.S. Marshal Service, traced the signal to cell phone towers in the area. Police found the girl about 7 a.m. Saturday, during the first minutes of a grid search of timberland near a mine.

She had sent her mother a text message three days earlier, saying: "Hi, Mom, this is Lizzie," according to testimony. She said she was "in a hole" and could hear "big trucks" going by. (Watch how police say text message led them to girl -- 1:29)

On Sunday, the girl's parents described how she rescued herself from the booby-trapped hole. (Watch parents describe daughter's strength, smarts -- 4:00)

Sheriff: "Pornography wherever he was'

Filyaw had dug at least five underground bunkers in the backyard and beyond. The most elaborate, where Shoaf was kept, was hidden by woods and included a ventilated grill, a propane stove, a latrine, a ladder and a makeshift bunk, the sheriff said.

The bunker where Shoaf was found was well-built and stocked with food, as well as cigarettes and pornography.

"There was pornography wherever he was -- in his house, in his bunkers, wherever he was," McCaskill said.



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