Ohio Woman Found Captive in Shallow Pit Beneath Shed in Neighbor's Backyard: Police

Police say a Blanchester, Ohio, man with a history of mental illness is accused of kidnapping a female neighbor this week and hiding her in a shallow pit in his backyard

Dennis Dunn kidnapperCredit: Blanchester Police Department
Photo: Blanchester Police Department

Police say an Ohio man with a history of mental illness is accused of kidnapping a female neighbor this week and hiding her in a shallow pit beneath his backyard shed.

According to police in Blanchester, Ohio, 45-year-old Dennis Dunn allegedly abducted the neighbor sometime before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, when her mother reported her missing from their home.

The woman was discovered hours later after her mother called police again to say she heard crying from a neighbor’s shed. In a news release, Blanchester police said the woman was found “in a pit dug into the earthen floor of the shed.”

The pit was about three-and-a-half feet deep and two feet wide and it had been apparently covered by wood and “heavy objects,” police said in the release.

The woman was removed and hospitalized, though she showed no physical trauma, according to police. She was later released, according to a local report.

Dunn was taken into custody about 8 a.m. Wednesday and charged with kidnapping, police said.

According to court officials and records, he remains in the county jail on $1 million bond and has entered a not guilty plea. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

He will next appear in court on May 3.

Dennis Dunn kidnapperCredit: Blanchester Police Department
Blanchester Police Department

Dunn’s arrest caps off a series of sometimes volatile interactions with both police and the neighbor he allegedly abducted, whom he has “known for some time,” according to authorities:

In October, the woman reported “harassing phone calls and text messages from Dunn” but declined to participate in any prosecution, police said.

Dunn also called police five times over two days in early April claiming he could hear voices and that people had broken into or were attempting to break into his home, where he lived alone. But officers found no one else inside.

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Dunn was involuntarily admitted to the local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation following one such call, when police returned to his home because neighbors said he was in his yard with a gun.

He was subsequently disarmed without injury in that incident, police said. However, he was released from the hospital within 24 hours.

Chief Blasts State’s Mental Health Care

In an unusually public step for law enforcement, the Blanchester police chief tied Dunn’s alleged actions to what he called a “failure” of Ohio’s mental health care system.

“It would appear to me that Mr. Dunn is in need of some sort of psychiatric treatment,” Chief Scott Reinbolt said in a news release earlier in April, following Dunn’s repeated police calls but before the alleged abduction.

“Over the past several decades the State of Ohio has closed most of [its] inpatient mental health facilities, leaving few beds available for individuals who need inpatient care,” Reinbolt said. “Unfortunately, I am convinced that doing so has left individuals like Mr. Dunn without the care and treatment they need and deserve.”

After Dunn’s arrest Wednesday, the chief added in a second news release, “I was heartbroken when Dunn’s elderly father showed up at the scene this morning to apologize to us for having to deal with this son. I am angry at a state government that places dangerous, mentally ill people into our neighborhoods.”

Referring to the victim, Reinbolt said he was “aghast at the threat this situation poses” to other people like her in the world.

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