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She was held captive in a pit — but the man thought he was protecting her, Ohio documents say

Dennis Dunn, 46, is charged with kidnapping.
Dennis Dunn, 46, is charged with kidnapping. Clinton County Jail

Jennifer Elliot told prosecutors she thought she was going to die in the hole, WCPO reported.

She hadn’t been able to speak when police pulled her from the three-and-a-half-foot dirt pit under a shed in the backyard of a home in Blanchester, Ohio (roughly 40 miles east of Cincinnati) last April, the news station said. Heavy objects and wood had covered the pit to keep her from getting free, authorities allege.

Police found Elliot that morning after a neighbor reported hearing a woman’s cries, FOX 19 reported. Though she showed no signs of physical trauma, she appeared to be having a seizure when authorities got to her, according to the news station.

What seemed to be a nightmare for Elliot, 31, was a rescue mission for her alleged kidnapper, Dennis Dunn, 46, court documents said, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday.

Court documents detailing Dunn’s mental state say the man was hearing voices in his head — and was so far removed from reality that he thought he was saving Elliot from being abducted by a prostitution ring that didn’t exist, the Enquirer reported. “In the defendant’s reality, nothing wrong was occurring,” a doctor said in a forensic evaluation,” the newspaper said.

Police said at the time that Dunn had called them five times over two days that April, saying he could hear voices and that people were trying to break into his home, PEOPLE reported. But police never found anyone there, the publication said.

Another incident brought police to his home after neighbors reported that he was in his yard with a gun, authorities said, reported PEOPLE. Dunn was hospitalized and released two days later, WCPO reported.

Defense attorney James Hartke said the April 2017 ordeal could have been prevented had Dunn gotten adequate mental health treatment, the publication said. Police agreed that Dunn didn’t receive the help he needed, WCPO said.

"I am angry at a state government that places dangerous, mentally ill people into our neighborhoods," said Blanchester police Chief Scott Reinbolt, reported the news station.

Shortly after she was found, Elliot testified that Dunn said “I love you” after closing the shed door, the Enquirer reported. He also allegedly said, “you’re mine now.”

"I remember banging on the dirt and screaming,” she said, reported the Enquirer.

Dunn has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to a kidnapping charge. He was found competent to stand trial in April, but Hartke is appealing that ruling, the newspaper reported.

Stacey Jackson, attorney for accused kidnapper Markel Ervin, said his client did not lead his former girlfriend against her will last month. Jackson said evidence and testimony shows that the victim ran away from home.

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