In 2006, Elizabeth Shoaf was just a 14-year-old girl walking home from school in Lugoff, South Carolina, when a man claiming to be a police officer approached her.
He was dressed in combat fatigues and told her that she was under arrest. Being a young girl, she trusted what he said and allowed him to handcuff her. Then, he led her deep into the woods.
The man was Vinson Filyaw and he was not a police officer. Far from it.
At the time, Filyaw was a 36-year-old unemployed construction worker who lived not far from Elizabeth's home.
He led the young teen to an underground bunker he had dug deep in the woods. He locked her into the narrowly cramped space, naked and chained by the neck.
The terrified teen knew that she didn't stand a chance of being found, so she left as many clues behind as she could. On her way into the woods, she dropped her shoes.
Several times a day, for 10 days, her sick kidnapper raped Elizabeth. But the torment and darkness would not break her spirit. She thought about her family, her friends and planned her escape.
Elizabeth knew that the only way out would be to gain his trust and make him believe that she "wanted to be there."
Meanwhile an amber Alert had been broadcast almost immediately after her disappearance was reported. Police were taking no chances.
Within a few days, her plan began to work and Filyaw trusted her enough to let her outside the bunker. She left more clues by pulling out her hair and dropping clumps on the ground.
Then he allowed her to use his phone to play games.
Elizabeth's patience finally paid off when Filyaw fell asleep on the sixth day. As the monster slept, she sent her mom a text.
Police immediately triangulated the signal and soon after helicopters were flying over the bunker. It was a risky move, and Elizabeth knew it. Filyaw was livid, but he was more afraid of being caught.
Rather than harm her, he decided to run away.
Elizabeth waited until morning before cautiously climbing out of the hole in the ground and calling out for help. Help finally came and she burst into tears.
Police later captured Filyaw five miles from his house. In 2007, he plead guilty to all counts before his trial.
Circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper gave him the maximum pentalty under South Carolina law and on September 19, 2007, Vinson Filyaw was sentenced to 421 years in prison.
In an interview with the TODAY show, Elizabeth's mother, Madeline Shoaf, was asked about what she thought of the sentence:
“I don’t think he should be allowed to live that long and live off us,” said Madeline Shoaf. “I just think something else should have been done.”
What do you think? Is she right?