BLANCHESTER, OH (FOX19) - The man convicted of holding his neighbor and possible girlfriend hostage in a pit inside a shed in his backyard will spend the next seven years of his life in prison.
A judge handed down the sentence Friday morning.
Blanchester police charged Dennis Dunn with kidnapping April 26, 2017.
In 2017, officers responded to the Central Avenue neighborhood around 1:30 a.m. after a woman reported her daughter, Jennifer Elliott, missing from her home, Police Chief Scott Reinbolt said.
Police say a neighbor called to report hearing cries coming from a backyard around 4 a.m.
Officers found Elliott trapped in a pit dug in the bottom of the shed.
The pit was three-and-a-half feet deep and two-feet wide with a wooden board covering the top, police say. Heavy objects were placed on top of the board to hold it down.
Police said it would have been impossible for Elliott to escape.
She was unable to speak and appeared to be suffering from a seizure when she was rescued, but Reinbolt said she showed no signs of physical trauma.
This was not Elliott’s first run in with Dunn, police said.
Elliott reported harassing phone calls and messages from Dunn in October 2016, Reinbolt said.
Police say Dunn has a history of mental health issues.
He repeatedly called police to say he heard voices and thought people were trying to get in one month before the kidnapping, police said.
Dunn had previously been charged with possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct.
Friday morning, Dunn’s attorneys said Elliott and Dunn were boyfriend and girlfriend at the time and he believed he was protecting her.
“He had no intention to harm her,” his attorney said.
However, Elliott disagreed and said Dunn’s actions were intentional.
She said he knew what he was doing and was trying to kill her because of an obsession with her. Elliott told the judge she was being watched and getting angry texts and calls from Dunn and having nightmares.
Dunn’s mother blamed Elliott for what happened in April 2017.
“Her reactions are going to ruin his life,” Carol Dunn told the judge.
She called her son a ‘great’ man, saying he’s won awards and been in athletics. She claimed he did not expect to cause any harm to Elliott and also claimed Elliott asked Dunn to put her in the pit.
Dunn’s mother says her son put Elliott in the pit because he would do anything for her.
She begged the judge not to put her son in prison saying, “It wouldn’t help him. I don’t see where that would do any good.”
“I’ve done everything to try and help her,” Dunn said when he spoke Friday. “We were in love.”
He claims Elliott led him to believe he was helping her and she took advantage of him.
“Nonetheless, I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused,” he said.
The judge said that after considering all of the factors, community control sanction would not adequately punish Dunn.
“The pain on both sides of the aisle is probably here,” the judge said. “I am not judging you as a person, I am judging the facts.”
Dunn is sentenced to seven years in prison, plus a mandatory period of five years under monitored post-release control.
However, the judge did give Dunn credit for the 724 days he already served in jail. That knocks just under two years off of his sentence.