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Convicted rapist charged in S.C. underground assaults captured

Saturday, March 18, 2006

HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- A convicted rapist charged with abducting two teenage girls and assaulting them in a hidden underground room behind his home was captured Friday about a mile away, authorities said.

Kenneth G. Hinson, 47, fled on foot after the girls escaped and called police. After a four-day manhunt, an exhausted and thirsty Hinson walked to a relative's home, and someone called 911.

Although he was carrying a handgun, Hinson was arrested without incident and assured authorities that his relatives had not tried to hide him.

"He looked like a man that was sort of relieved that it was over," said chief deputy Tom Gainey of the Darlington County Sheriff's Department.

The two 17-year-old girls were taken from their nearby home late Monday and assaulted in a room under a shed on Hinson's property, police said. The girls were left bound inside the room but managed to wriggle free and walk to safety.

Local, state and federal authorities, believing Hinson had not gone far, had been combing the woods near his rural home, about 50 miles northeast of Columbia, since Tuesday.

Hinson, who is charged with kidnapping and rape, was taken to the county jail, Gainey said. He will have a bond hearing today.

In 1991, Hinson was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl. He was released from prison in 2000 after serving nine years of a 20-year sentence, a decision state Attorney General Henry McMaster blasted Friday.

"This man was sentenced to 20 years. Had that 20 years meant 20 years, he'd still be in jail now, and this wouldn't have happened," McMaster told Fox News.

McMaster also chided a judge's decision to not place Hinson in a program for sexually violent predators.

Just before Hinson's release, a review committee recommended that he be committed indefinitely to a Department of Mental Health facility for treatment, but Circuit Judge Edward Cottingham rejected the recommendation, saying prosecutors failed to show Hinson would likely offend again.

"I can't control what comes before me as a judge," Cottingham said Friday. "And I deal with what's before me and make a ruling to the best of my judgment."

Cottingham said he did not remember Hinson's specific case but that state law requires prosecutors to show probable cause that the person will commit another sexual assault.

"Obviously I regret that these young children were raped by this man," the judge said.


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