New trial ordered for southern Ohio man convicted of kidnapping neighbor, putting her in backyard pit

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 7:23 AM EDT
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CLINTON COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A southern Ohio man convicted of kidnapping his neighbor and placing her in a pit in his backyard four years ago was released from prison and will get a new trial.

Dennis Dunn, 49, was sentenced in 2019 to seven years in prison after being found guilty of kidnapping Jennifer Elliott.

Dunn maintains his rights were violated due to “ineffective assistance of trial counsel” according to documents filed with the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas.

In the documents, Dunn raises questions as to whether his defense attorney failed to use evidence to demonstrate Elliot’s lack of credibility and her denial of involvement in planning the incident.

Dunn previously stated he and Elliott were in a relationship and they planned it together.

Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John Rudduck wrote, “There may be explanations to the apparent contradictions in Ms. Elliot’s trial testimony. To protect the defendant’s equally important constitutional rights, this court believes they need to be explained in a new trial.”

Elliott was reported missing by her mother, Gayle Rowe, in the early morning hours of April 26, 2017.

Blanchester police found Jennifer Elliott trapped in a pit dug in the bottom of the shed in...
Blanchester police found Jennifer Elliott trapped in a pit dug in the bottom of the shed in Dennis Dunn's backyard in April 2017.

Elliott was found in a pit under a shed in the back yard of Dunn’s home in Blanchester after Rowe reported she heard crying in the shed.

The pit, which was three-and-a-half feet deep and two feet wide, was covered by a wooden board that was held down by heavy objects.

Dunn said he believed he was rescuing Elliott from her family.

He said he believed she was forced to take part in prostitution and that her family was part of a satanic cult.

Judge Rudduck on Tuesday gave Dunn a $10,000 signature recognizance bond.

A new trial date for Dunn has not been set yet, Clinton County court officials said Thursday.

He was released from a state prison April 30 and taken to the Clinton County Jail, where jail officials say he was held until his release Tuesday.

The judge ordered Dunn to wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet and stay at home, court documents show. He can only leave after receiving permission from the court.

Joe Medici, Deputy Director of Trial Services for Ohio Public Defender, says Dunn is living with his parents.

Medici did not say where exactly that is but did confirm it is not in the immediate Blanchester area.

Dunn also must stay away from drugs, alcohol, and the victim.

FOX19 NOW called the Clinton County Prosecutor’s Office for comment Thursday but did not hear back.

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