Text Message Saves Kidnapped Teen

ByABC News via logo
September 18, 2006, 7:52 AM

Sept. 18, 2006 — -- The girl had been missing for 10 days.

The last time anyone had seen her, she was on her way home, getting off a school bus in her hometown of Lugoff, S.C.

Police searched the woods, with dogs and all-terrain vehicles, for days.

The whole time, she was under their noses, being held captive in a 15-foot bunker by an accused sex offender.

"She heard everybody walking over her. And if somebody had just picked up a twig and looked a little harder, they would have found her a lot sooner," said the mother of the kidnapped girl, whose name has not been released.

In the end, a text message brought police to the rescue.

The man who was keeping her there had a cell phone, and the teen was able to page her mother while he was sleeping.

Capt. David Thomley of the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office described the message.

"She said 'Hi mom.' She said, 'I'm in a hole near Charm Hill where the big trucks go in and out. There's a bomb. Call the police,'" Thomley said.

Police used cell phone towers to trace the signal and pinpoint the search to a dense area of brush deep in the woods.

The teen's mother said getting the text message was the "scariest thing in the world, because we didn't know what was going on."

"She's just amazed that we could get that since it's hard to get a signal around here. She was just surprised that she was able to get one of them out to me," Shoaf said.

At a news conference Sunday, the teen's father said he's happy his wife knew how to check text messages because he couldn't figure out the technology.

Vinson Filyaw, 37, was arrested Sunday morning after trying to leave town. Police say he's been on the run for months, already suspected of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

Police say he dug a number of underground bunkers or tunnels, and used one of them, from his bedroom, to run from police.

The teen's family wonders whether an Amber Alert would have made a difference or whether police should have done more, earlier.

"This is the reason why an Amber Alert should be put out because there are kids out there who do not run away and she was one of them," the victim's aunt said.

Authorities said that they did not have enough information -- no vehicle, no suspect, and no proof the girl was in danger.