Man Allegedly Kidnaps Neighbor, Traps Her in 40-Inch Pit Under Shed

The woman was found when her mother heard her screams from next door.

Photos Courtesy Banchester Police Department

A Blanchester, Ohio man has been arrested after he allegedly kidnapped a woman and held her captive in a pit dug into the bottom of his shed.

Dennis Dunn, 45, was arrested early Wednesday morning, after a neighbor reported suspicious noises from Dunn’s back yard. When police arrived at Dunn’s home, they discovered a horrifying scene. Inside Dunn’s backyard shed was a pit, covered by floorboards weighed down by heavy objects. Underneath the boards and shouting for help was the daughter of the neighbor who had called the police.

The victim, a 30-year-old woman, had not been missing long. Her mother, who lived next door to Dunn had reported her missing early Wednesday morning, after she stopped answering messages. Then, while she waited for news on her daughter’s whereabouts, she began hearing cries from the shed on Dunn’s neighboring property. When police arrived on the scene, they discovered that the noises were not coming from inside the shed, but underneath it.

Dunn had apparently pried up the floorboards and dug a pit underneath the shed. He allegedly forced the woman into the pit, and placed the floorboards down over her head, covering them with heavy objects, which police said made the pit impossible to escape from the inside.

Police described the pit to a local NBC affiliate WLWT as “tight quarters,” approximately 40 inches deep and two feet wide. Dunn’s alleged victim was taken to the hospital, where she was later released.

But Dunn appeared unaware that his victim had been freed from the makeshift cell. Reportedly awaiting a warrant, police staked out in front of Dunn’s house, guns drawn, until Dunn walked out around 8 a.m.

“We were awaiting the arrival of the tactical entry team from Warren County from the sheriff’s office and Dunn came to the front door and walked out like he was going for a stroll and we arrested him,” Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt told WLWT.

Dunn has a history of mental health issues, police said. Earlier this month, the small-town police department has cited Dunn as an example of the failings in Ohio’s mental health system, after he called police to his home four times on April 1.

During each of the calls, Dunn claimed “that people were trying to break into his house and that he could hear their voices,” Reinbolt told Wilmington, Ohio’s News Journal after the incident. “Each time an officer checked the home and surrounding area and found no one about.”

On the fourth call, police smelled marijuana, which Dunn freely admitted that he grew, telling officers that it calmed him, and that he thought Ohio residents were allowed to grow the plant for personal use. Officers informed him that marijuana farming was, in fact, illegal, and seized several marijuana plants from his home.

The following day, Dunn called police twice, both times alleging that someone was trying to break into his home. During the second call, Dunn was armed with a rifle, which he only relinquished after a tense confrontation, police described. He was hospitalized, released, and began placing the same calls to police two days later. This time police charged him with disorderly conduct and marijuana cultivation.

At the time, officers described Dunn as falling through the cracks of Ohio’s mental health system, which has seen many treatment centers close over the decades.

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“This is a case that illustrates the failure of the mental health system in Ohio,” Reinbolt told the News Journal after Dunn’s chronic 911 calls. “It would appear to me that Mr. Dunn is in need of some sort of psychiatric treatment. He was taken to a mental health provider in order to receive that treatment. Within 24 hours he was released, but continues to exhibit the same symptoms.”Dunn’s criminal record shows a pattern of driving and drug arrests, but does not appear to show any previous violent crimes. He has been charged with kidnapping for the Wednesday incident.