By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press Writer
HARTSVILLE, South Carolina- A man sought by police in connection with the rape of two teenage girls in an underground room behind his home had been recommended for the state's sexually violent predator program, officials said.Just before his release from prison in 2000, prosecutors recommended Kenneth G. Hinson be indefinitely committed to the violent predator program, but the judge rejected it.
"Had the judge not dismissed the case, there is a chance that this individual would still be in the ... program and a chance that those girls would not have been victimized," said Trey Walker, a spokesman for state Attorney General Henry McMaster.
Authorities say that late Monday, Hinson, 47, took the two 17-year-old girls one at a time from a nearby mobile home while they were sleeping.
He bound the first girl's mouth with tape and took her to a shed on his property, where a trap door led to an underground room not much larger than a closet with a 4-foot (1.2-meter) ceiling, Darlington County Chief Deputy Tom Gainey said.
Hinson sexually assaulted the girl, then left her in the underground room bound with duct tape while he went back to the mobile home for the other girl. She was also sexually assaulted, Gainey said.
After Hinson left, the teens managed to wriggle free, open the trap door and kick down the door to the shed. They walked through some woods and flagged down a passing motorist, Gainey said.
Hinson is wanted on kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct charges. He had to register as a sex offender because of a 1991 conviction in South Carolina for second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In a 2000 decision, Circuit Judge Edward Cottingham said authorities failed to show the man was capable of committing a sexual offense in the future. The judge did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.