WILMINGTON — A Blanchester man found guilty of kidnapping his neighbor and placing her in a pit in 2017 has been granted a release from prison pending a retrial.
Dennis Dunn, 49, was granted a $10,000 signature recognizance bond by Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck while awaiting a new trial date.
This comes after the court agreed to relieve Dunn’s previous attorney, James Hartke, of his duties and have evidence in the trial stricken from the record in February. A retrial date has not been scheduled as of now.
Court documents indicated Hartke did not provide property access of evidence to the prosecution.
“The state did not have access to the contents of a silver iPhone owned by Dennis Dunn which was in possession of the state of Ohio and password protected … The parties stipulated Exhibit 5, a black LG phone owned by Dennis Dunn, was never in possession of the state of Ohio and the state had no access to the contents on the phone,” court documents state.
The signature bond means Dunn will be closely supervised by authorities with a monitoring bracelet, is not allowed to leave his residence without permission from the court, must stay away from drugs and alcohol, and must “have no contact nor interfere … in any manner” with the victim — Jennifer Elliott.
Dunn was originally found guilty of kidnapping his neighbor, Jennifer Elliott, in April 2017. The case drew widespread attention, in part because Elliott was found in a pit dug out of a shed in Dunn’s back yard in Blanchester.
Elliott was reported missing by her mother, Gayle Rowe, at 1:30 a.m. April 26, 2017 after she arrived home from work and couldn’t find her. Elliott and her son were living with Rowe at the time of the incident.
Blanchester police say they found Elliott in a pit dug out of a shed in Dunn’s back yard around 4 a.m. after Rowe reported she heard crying in the shed. The pit was approximately three-and-a-half feet deep and two feet in diameter, and covered with wood and heavy objects to hold the wood down, according to Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt.
When Elliott was rescued, she appeared to be having a seizure and was transported to Clinton Memorial Hospital. Dunn was arrested and charged with kidnapping that day.
Dunn pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and stated he believed he was rescuing Elliott from her family. He believed she was forced to take part in prostitution and that her family was part of a satanic cult. He also stated he and Elliott were in a relationship and they planned it together.
Dunn was sentenced to seven years in prison in April 2019.
Terry on community control
Judge Rudduck approved a Motion for Judicial Release submitted for Christian Terry, 24, who will now be monitored by a three-year community control.
Defense attorney Scott Evans told Rudduck that Terry had a positive report from prison, had served a substantial amount of jail time (a total of 476 days) and also cited Terry’s lack of criminal record.
Terry told the court he hopes to take care of his children and take part in the STAR program to avoid future drug use.
Terry pled guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter in October 2020 in regards to the shooting death of 23-year-old Layne Hall in January 2020. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Terry had brought a gun and was an instigator of the failed robbery which led to Hall’s death by accused shooter Joshua Williams.
Kelly Snell, Hall’s mother, spoke disapprovingly of the release, expressing the anguish she and her family have felt since Hall’s death.
Snell told Terry how they haven’t been able to celebrate holidays and she recalled what her thoughts were the day she received the news that Hall died.
Judge Rudduck indicated that Terry’s release does not denigrate the seriousness of the crime and loss of life.
Terry was one of four suspects charged in relation to the crime. Two other suspects — Kevin Noe Jr. and Corey Ruffner — both also pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and were granted community control due to their compliance with law enforcement and their remorse.
Joshua Williams, the fourth suspect, faces charges in U.S. Federal Court, as he is suspected of firing the gun, causing Hall’s death.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574