In 2006, Elizabeth Shoaf was kidnapped and held captive in an underground bunker for 10 days by an unemployed construction worker named Vinson Filyaw. The then 14-year-old was luckily able to escape — and now her story is a Lifetime Original movie, Girl in the Bunker. Recounting her capture and eventual escape, the made-for-TV movie brings her horrifying story to life and reminds viewers just how brave Elizabeth is.
A documentary, Elizabeth Shoaf: The Girl in a Bunker, featuring Elizabeth, her parents, and police officers followed the movie, providing even more details about the incident which took place nearly 12 years ago.
So, what happened to Elizabeth Shoaf?
While walking to school, Elizabeth encountered her kidnapper, Vinson, who was posing as a police officer. He handcuffed her and told her she was being arrested for marijuana possession then led her to the underground bunker he dug near his trailer. Once inside, Vinson chained Elizabeth up and raped her several times a day. Police also reported that he told Elizabeth that the place was rigged with explosives to deter her from running away.
"I just didn't know what to do. Just scared I was going to die," she told MS News Now in 2013. "Most people do. Day to day life was wake up, get assaulted. Couple hours later, if that. He sexually assaulted me many times throughout the day." Eventually, she was able to convince her captor to let her use his cellphone to play games. When he fell asleep, she texted her mother her location.
Vinson in court in 2007.
Her parents had called police following her disapperance, but her case was initially treated as a runaway. However, little could be done given her hidden location. After texting her mom, the news made it to local television stations, which broadcasted the messages. After watching the news in the bunker, Vinson fled and Elizabeth was able to escape and scream for help.
"I was yelling for somebody, anybody to come and get me," Elizabeth told The Today Show in 2008. "Finally I heard somebody yell my name and they came and took me to the hospital. I just started crying. I was happy."
Her captor was eventually caught and sentenced to 421 years behind bars for kidnapping, rape, and a slew of other charges.
Where is Elizabeth today?
Now 26 years old, very little is known about Elizabeth. However, in 2013, it was reported that she was working as a dental assistant and just trying to live a normal life. She also continues to share her inspiring story. "If you've been through anything, you can still make it," she told MS News Now. "You can be a survivor just like I am. It simply takes faith, it takes talking to someone and encouragement that it's not the end of the world."
Her parents are also impressed by the bravery their daughter showed. "I look at her all the time and think what she went through and how she did it," Don Shoaf told Today. "I'm still amazed."