Police records released Friday detail the frantic and heartbreaking moments a Blanchester officer found a missing woman held captive in a shallow pit in her neighbor’s backyard shed.
However, this may not be the first time the victim, Jennifer Elliott, was attacked by her neighbor.
The victim’s mother suspects the man charged with Elliott’s kidnapping, Dennis Dunn, assaulted her daughter once before and held her captive in a similar manner last year.
But that alleged incident was never reported to police before this week.
Elliott, 30, could not speak and appeared to be having a seizure when Officer Michael Keller found her in the pit by following sounds of her cries.
A police report claims Elliott shouted, “Don’t let him put me back in the hole” as paramedics rescued her around 4 a.m. Wednesday, nearly three hours after her mother reported her missing.
“I heard (two) knocks and then I heard what sounded like a female crying. I immediately began trying to gain entry into the main portion of the shed but could not because of the lock,” Officer Keller wrote in an incident report.
Elliott’s ex-husband, Spencer Elliott, came into the backyard and tried to help the officer.
“The crying was now louder. Spencer and I walked further into the shed. Spencer said he thought the crying was coming from underneath a wooden board that was covered with lawn care equipment and other items,” Officer Keller’s report reads.
After moving clutter around in the shed, Spencer Elliott and Keller discovered the woman inside a hole dug in the ground about 4 feet deep and 3 feet wide.
“I reached into the hole and identified myself to the woman and she looked up at me and I could identify her as [Jennifer] Elliott. I asked [her] to take my hand but she appeared too frightened to do so,” Keller wrote in his report.
The woman appeared to be having a seizure, he wrote, and he couldn’t get a hold of her while he held the heavy board up with one hand and reached into the hole with his other hand.
Spencer Elliott reached in and pulled the woman out. Before medical crews arrived, Jennifer Elliott appeared to be unconscious, the report states.
“The group of people, who were now in the backyard again and saw [Jennifer] Elliott being carried out of the shed began to become angry and one yelled ‘I am going to beat his a– right now!'” Officer Keller’s report states.
He left the backyard to control the group of people and ordered them to stay in the street. When the officer returned, Elliott was conscious again but “so traumatized that she was incoherent and violently flailing and trying to get away,” his report states.
“I approached Elliott and asked her who did this to her and she began to cry hysterically when she saw me,” Officer Keller wrote.
She fought with paramedics screaming, “Don’t let him put me back in the hole.”
She was found about three hours after the victim’s mother, Gayle Rowe, reported her daughter missing from their home in the 100 block of Central Avenue just after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Rowe told Officer Michael Keller she last spoke her daughter about 11 p.m. Tuesday. She said her daughter had just put her son to bed and then her daughter went to bed, too.
An hour later, Rowe returned home and said she couldn’t find her daughter.
Rowe said that about a year prior, her daughter was reported missing and found in the backyard having a seizure.
Officer Keller responded and said he remembered reading about it in an incident report at the time.
Rowe told him her daughter was epileptic and she had just checked the backyard but could not find her daughter.
Neither could Officer Keller when he looked around.
That’s when the worried mother told Officer Keller she thought Dunn had abducted her daughter – and it wasn’t the first time.
“I asked Rowe what made her think that and Rowe said that when Elliott went missing a year ago, Elliott couldn’t remember what happened because of the seizures she had,” Officer Keller wrote in his report.
“Rowe said that over the course of the year Elliott has begun to remember things from that incident. I asked Rowe to explain. Rowe said that Elliott started remembering that she was in the backyard of 107 Central Avenue smoking a cigarette and remembers being hit in the back of the head,” the report reads.
Elliott said she remembered being inside of a small building or shelter.
“Rowe said that a day after (her daughter) was found, Rowe found (her daughter’s) shoes and necklace in the backyard and that they were not there before as the officers had searched the backyard at the time and did not find those items,” documents state.
After the incident, doctors told Rowe it appeared her daughter had been “assaulted,” the report states.
“I asked Rowe if she ever reported any of that to police and Rowe said that after Elliott was found she did not report any further information.
Rowe claims Dunn stalks Elliott and “has a romantic infatuation with (her),” the officer wrote in his report.
Rowe told Officer Keller they couldn’t reach Elliott on her cell phone. Calls went into voicemail.
Rowe told police the house across the street is abandoned and she has seen lights on in the back of it the past few nights. She said she suspected Elliott might be there.
Rowe told the officer she had seen Dunn “out and about” around his house earlier in the afternoon.
Several hours later, Rowe heard knocking inside Dunn’s shed. That’s when police responded and rescued Elliott.
Police were familiar with Dunn, 45, and say he has a history of mental health issues.
They charged him earlier in this month with disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana. They say he repeatedly called them to his home because he heard voices or thought people were trying to get in
The incidents prompted Blanchester’s police chief to tell a newspaper the case highlights flaws in Ohio’s mental health system.
This was not the first alleged incident between Dunn and Elliott..
In October of 2016, the victim said she received harassing phone calls and texts from Dunn, but she declined to prosecute.
Two neighbors also reported witnessing altercations between pair over the past several months.
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