DARLINGTON, S.C. – A convicted sex offender bragged to the court Tuesday about building a dungeon-like space beneath his home, where prosecutors said he bound two teen girls with duct tape, raped them and left the pair to die.
Authorities have said the girls managed to escape in March 2006 and tell police about their ordeal in the room that was just 4 1/2 feet deep and roughly the length and width of a midsize car.
Defense attorney Rick Hoefer said in opening statements that the girls lied.
"These women, they're not the victims in this case. They're perpetrators," Hoefer said. "The issue is going to be, was the sex consensual between these parties?"
One of the teens told jurors later in the day that she didn't even know the bunker existed until Kenneth Glenn Hinson came into her bedroom while she was sleeping and bound her mouth and hands with duct tape before taking her to the underground room.
"He was saying how he could kill us and nobody would ever know about it," said the girl, who testified for more than two hours Tuesday. "He said he'd killed before. He was telling us he could grind us up and feed us to his dog."
Before the trial opened, Hoefer unsuccessfully argued to throw out statements Hinson made to police after hiding for four days. Hoefer said Hinson was too dehydrated and disoriented to understand his rights read by officers when he was arrested in March 2006.
Hinson told deputies the room was a fallout shelter and no one else knew about it except his accusers, who had been there before, former Darlington County Sheriff's investigator John McLeod testified.
"They used it for — I believe what he said was 'wild times.' They'd go and party there," McLeod said.
When the jury was not in the courtroom, Hinson testified about the bunker with a floor and walls lined with two-by-fours and illuminated by a single 75-watt bulb.
"I was very proud of it," said Hinson, 48.
Attorney General Henry McMaster said if the teens were not been able to wriggle free and escape "they might have died down there."
"The evidence is going to show that this thing was virtually airtight," said McMaster, who is prosecuting a case for the first time since he was elected in 2002.
Hinson is charged with criminal sexual assault, kidnapping and assault and battery with intent to kill. Prosecutors are seeking a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case attracted national attention when McMaster said during a four-day manhunt that Hinson — convicted in 1991 for the rape of a 12-year-old girl — could have been indefinitely committed to a state program for sexually violent predators after serving a nine-year prison sentence. Two review committees had recommended that Hinson be placed in the program, warning he could commit a future sex crime.
The trial was being held in Darlington County, where Hinson built the underground room. Because of the publicity the case generated, the jury was selected from Georgetown County, about 70 miles away.