WILMINGTON — A Blanchester man, who kidnapped his neighbor and kept her in a pit beneath his shed, was found guilty of kidnapping and received a seven-year prison sentence on Friday.
Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck imposed the sentence (along with granting 724 days credited jail time) to Dennis Dunn, 47, for first-degree felony kidnapping, which was merged with two counts of third-degree felony abduction.
Dunn was originally charged with two counts of first-degree felony kidnapping and three third-degree felony abduction charges for the April 26, 2017 kidnapping of his neighbor, Jennifer Elliott. The case drew attention, in part because Elliott was found in a pit dug out of a shed in Dunn’s backyard.
Rudduck attributed the case lasting nearly two years to what he said were “frivolous” motions made to the Common Pleas Court and to the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals. All that those filings did was “delay things,” said Rudduck.
The judge acknowledged Dunn’s mental health issues — including paranoia — but believed that Dunn’s “voluntary ingesting” of drugs exacerbated his mental health.
“Not everyone who has the mental health, mental disease that you suffer from commits a crime,” said Rudduck. “It’s exacerbated because of the heavy methamphetamines usage.”
He went on to compare it to someone driving while intoxicated.
“If a person driving drunk or impaired doesn’t harm anybody we treat that person differently. But when somebody uses illegal drugs and then that triggers potentially criminal activity that seriously harms other people, that is a different element,” the judge said.
Before the sentencing was pronounced, prosecution and defense counsel presented final statements. There also were statements from individuals related to the case including Elliott, Dunn and his parents.
Elliott gave a victim impact statement, emotionally, on the psychological effect the event played on her and her son.
Dunn’s mother spoke, saying her son was “well-liked” and believed her son’s story about what happened.
Rudduck praised Elliott for speaking and appearing at the court hearing, and said he hoped she can move on from the incident.
The judge acknowledged Dunn’s parents and said he hopes they will help him once he’s released.
After Dunn’s state prison term, he will have to take part in five years of post-release supervision.
To recap the crime: Elliott was reported missing by her mother, Gayle Rowe, at 1:30 a.m. April 26, 2017 after arriving home from work and she couldn’t find Elliott. Elliott and her son were living with Rowe at the time.
Around 4 a.m., Elliott was found in the pit dug out of a shed in Dunn’s backyard after Rowe reported she heard crying in the shed.
Elliott appeared to be having a seizure upon being removed and was transported to Clinton Memorial Hospital. Dunn was arrested that morning at his residence.
Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt described the pit as being three-and-a-half feet deep and two feet in diameter, and was covered with wood and heavy objects to the wood.
Dunn pled not guilty by reason of insanity and testified in court that it was Elliott’s idea to put her in the pit as a way to rescue her from a Satanic cult and prostitution ring.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574.