A North Carolina woman has been found hiding out in the woods in below-freezing temperatures after escaping from a man who drugged her and held her captive in a South Carolina home for over a week, investigators said Monday.
Deputies found the woman in a backyard in the town of Elgin after the homeowner called 911, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. The woman told deputies she had escaped from a nearby home where she was drugged and kept prisoner.
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An investigation into the home revealed all the windows were covered or painted, and padlocks were on all the bedroom doors, the release said.
“She was not free to leave,” Sheriff Lee Boan told WLTX-TV. “She was kept inside of a room, they had the room locked up. The windows had dark blinds on it or either painted inside the house.”
Investigators determined the woman’s boyfriend had left her at the home over a week ago. He had owed money to 45-year-old Demetrius Raynard McIlwain, who resided at the home.
Two other victims were found inside the home, the sheriff’s office said. They told deputies McIlwain gave them drugs for performing sexual acts with other people. They both declined help from the deputies.
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McIlwain was arrested Friday and charged with kidnapping, the sheriff’s office said. Meanwhile, the woman has been taken to a safe house.
Deputies are investigating the incident as a possible case of human trafficking. Boan called McIlwain “the head of that snake” in their investigation.
McIlwain has a long criminal past, including convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill, criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and first-degree burglary, deputies said.
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“As long as Demetrius McIlwain is in custody, the citizens of Kershaw County have no reason to fear him,” the sheriff’s office said. “Your KCSO deputies did an outstanding job of investigating and quickly arresting this predator.”