If the movies “Rear Window” or “The Burbs” taught us anything, it’s that you never really know what your neighbors are actually about. They may put on a nice, pleasant, and perfectly normal face in public, but be entirely different in private. We all would like to think that our neighbors are our friends, good and nice people that are going to help and protect us from the “real world” elements.
But when Gayle’s 30-year-old daughter went missing in the middle of the night, she had no idea that foul play was involved. She could never expected or thought that someone so close can be so evil. Nobody ever wants to think that the “devil” is living next door. She ultimately was not prepared for what would uncover as she pressed further in her investigation and tore back the curtains of evil…
Gayle who is the mother lives with her daughter and her grandson in their tony little house on a relatively quiet street. That evening Gayle went to sleep around 10 or 11pm in the evening. Gayle hadn’t seen Jennifer since they went to bed that night and started to become increasingly worried that something was the matter with her.
At about 1:30 am Gayle suddenly woke up out of a dead sleep. Gayle was hit with a strange feeling, call it a mothers intuition that something was the matter. She got up and checked on her daughter but she was not there. She then checked all the bedrooms, but Emily was nowhere to be found. Now Gayle was really starting to get worried.
Gayle searched the house frantically and began calling Jennifers phone in hope’s she would answer and say she was staying at a friends house. It was unlike Jennifer to do that but she was trying to be optimistic. She checked every room, every bathroom and turned the house upside down.
She just could not imagine where Jennifer was. She then went outside to check her garage and the backyard and front yard but still no sign of Jennifer anywhere. Gayle’s intuition was right, her daughter simply vanished in the middle of the night and was nowhere to be found.
The 911 Call
Gayle who at this point was becoming increasingly worried felt that she needed to call 911. She knew that once she made that call that it would kickoff a chain reaction, but she felt it was necessary. She hesitated thinking that maybe Jennifer would show up and she would look like a crazy mom by calling 911.
Gayle ended up making the right decisions and called 911, she told them that her daughter was missing. The 911 operator told her to calm down and that they would send the police over right away to her house. She hoped she was not wrong but her mothers intuition kicked in and she knew it was a race against time to find her.
The Police Arrive
Officers were on the scene almost immediately after the call. They quickly worked to calm Gayle down and asked her to explain the situation so that they can help her find her daughter. Several of them wrote it off as her daughter just not coming home that evening but with the mother as frantic as she was they kept an open mind.
Gayle explained that she had not seen her daughter since she went to sleep that night. She woke up in the middle of the night and her daughter was nowhere to be found. It was very unlike her daughter to just disappear and she had never done this before. She was not answering her phone or texts and she knows, she just knows something is wrong…
The Police Search
The Police checked the neighborhood first, coming the streets and nearby blocks for any sign of Emily. They were unable to find any sign of Emily and began thinking the worst. By lunchtime the next day, they had exhausted all possible leads and felt hopeless in finding Jennifer.
At this point the police felt the best thing to do was to declare Jennifer a missing person. Once the police did that they would have more resources to help them find her. This has no officially gone from a girl who did not come home one evening to a true missing person case.
A Mothers Search
Gayle decided she was not going to sit around and wait while the police waited for reinforcements and felt she would go out and search for Jennifer on her own. After all it was her daughter and nobody would care to find her as much as she.
Gayle Rowe began searching the neighborhood on her own. She couldn’t explain it, but she had a feeling that Emily was somewhere close. What Gayle didnt realize was how close she really was and what she was going to find out about her daughter’s sudden disappearance….
A Friends Help
Eventually, her friend Tracy accompanied her in the search to help and lend support. Tracy felt that her friend desperately needed her and that she would accompany her on her search for her daughter.
Tracy figured they would just walk around the neighborhood and wait for the police and all there equipment to show up and help. The last thing she believed was that she and Emily’s mom would be the one to break the case wide open. Tracy could not have prepared herself enough for what was to come…
Gayle and Tracy were exhausted after hours of searching and decided it was time to return home to rest up so they can have more energy to search later on that day. They began walking back to Gayle’s house in a very somber mood.
As they were walking and Tracy was consoling Gayle, Gayle said she heard a scream coming from the direction of where her house was. She quickly told Tracy to come over to where she was standing to see if she heard the scream as well.
Whats That Sound
As Tracy stood there with Gayle she did not a hear a thing and told Gayle she must be hearing things. Gayle insisted she heard something and told her to just hush and listen…They both stood there in silence listening for a sound…
Then as the wind blew and the birds chirped they heard a faint voice coming from a distance. Tracy could not believe what she had heard as she too now heard what sounded like a scream coming from an abandoned shed right next to Gayle’s home. They quickly both ran over to the shed in a fury…
As they approached Tracy told Gayle to be careful. They did not know what was inside or who was watching. The desperate mother ran to the shed and began pounding on the side shouting “Jennifer, if you’re in there peck again so we know you’re in there, we will get you out…”
They waited and listened. A few more bangs and Gayle began to call out “Jennifer is that you, are you in there Jennifer, Mommy is here to help”. After what felt like a lifetime they heard a faint crying whine saying, “‘eeeh, heeelp…” Even if wasn’t Jennifer, someone needed their help…
Gayle and Tracy immediately went to the door of the shed to get it open but it was locked very tight. They kept pounding on the shed and ran around it looking for any way possible to get in. The shed was old and beat up but was locked up as if a million dollars was inside.
They decided that they could not get into the shed alone and called the officers to come help them. They figured that this was a serious situation and it was best that an officer handle from here.
Police soon arrived on the scene and found the shed was bolted shut with a padlock. They found this extremely odd given the look of the shed to have been locked so well.
They broke out the bolt cutters and got to work but to work. At first the bolt cutters were not working but finally they were able to get the padlock off and get a look inside the shed.
A Look Inside
The doors finally swung open to the shed and to everyone’s surprise the shed was empty. There was nobody inside and no sign of Jennifer at all in the shed.
The police began to think that Gayle might have been hearing things. Gayle’s friend Tracy told the officers that she heard the screams to and there someone inside the shed somewhere.
Pull it Apart
The police began searching all over the inside the shed. They took everything that was inside the shed out of it in order to be able to show Gayle that there was nothing inside. Emily was nowhere to be seen.
One of the officers decided that they should try to rip up the floor boards just so that they can show Gayle there is nothing at all in this shed. This was not their property but they felt they should do it anyways.
Under the Floor
The officers tore up the floorboards, thinking that perhaps something was hidden under it and at worst they can calm Gayle down who by now was completely frantic over the situation.
After they ripped up a few boards they saw something very suspicious as if there was a hole in the ground. This did not look right and the officer called other officers to come have a look.
Hole In The Earth
They noticed a large hole dug into the earth and they saw something, which looked like a body crawled up inside the whole. The officers identified themselves and slowly reached down….
At that point the officers realized there was a person in this hole. They then pulled the 30-year old Jennifer from the pit. The officers couldn’t believe it – Gayle was right!
Pull Her to Safety
Though it was only about 3-and-a-half feet deep and 2 feet in diameter, it had been covered with boards and heavy objects. A slight woman like Emily would never have been able to shift those objects on her own.
Officers immediately began wondering why was she down there? Did someone put here there? What happened that this girl got locked in a shed? These questions would soon be answered…
Scared Beyond Words
The officers approached Jennifer to find out what happened. Jennifer was completely unable to speak when she was found, she was in shock, almost apoplectic.
Thankfully there were no obvious signs of any sort of physical injury, but whatever he had put her through must have been traumatic. Despite being rescued, Jennifer was not out of the woods yet…
History of Seizures
One of the officer observed that her silence and shock might actually be some form of seizure. As it turned out, he was right. As it turned out, he was right. Jennifer had battled seizures nearly all her life.
The officers immediately called for an ambulance to take Jennifer to the hospital. The entire way to the hospital, she was in and out of the seizures.
Once at the hospital the officers desperately wanted to find out what had happened to Jennifer so they can catch the culprit who did this to her and bring him to justice.
“Every time she would wake up from the seizure thing, she would try to run and she’s screaming, ‘No!’…She was terrified,” said Gayle’s friend Tracy. Unfortunately Jennifer was not in position to talk to officers yet.
Eventually Jen made a full recovery and the seizures stopped. At that point the officers really wanted to speak with her and asked Gayle if they could.
Once Jennifer was properly away she finally told the police who had put her in the pit and caused this all to happen. They police couldn’t believe who she fingered as the culprit.
Jennifer told them that her neighbor Dennis Dunn, was responsible for taking her. The police officers were able to find out that the shed Jen was kept in was owned by Dennis.
With this new information at hand the police headed out to arrest Dennis Dunn. They wanted to know the reason why he kidnapped her, what his plans were and how did this all happen.
Police officers at 8am headed out to arrest the the 45-year old Dennis Dunn. They had to be extra careful as they felt he may be armed and dangerous and must take precaution.
According to officers at the scene, he came to the door in a nonchalant manner, acting as if nothing at all was wrong. The officers felt this was very odd behavior.
Dennis Dunn’s criminal record wasn’t exactly squeaky clean. He was arrested for drug possession at three separate times in 2007, 2008 and 2009, not to mention a string of traffic-related charges.
Yet, these misdemeanors were nothing compared to the escalation he exhibited when taking Jennifer. How did this man go from a petty criminal into a monster?
History of Harassment
The local sheriff’s office reported a history of incidents involving Dennis Dunn and Jennifer Elliott. In October of 2016, Emily reported to police that her next-door neighbor had been harassing her with phone calls and text messages.
At the time, she thought Dennis was just creepy, but harmless and declined to press charges. That would end up being a fateful mistake made by Jennifer.
Love and Abuse
The abuse continued when he kidnapped her as well. According to Emily, Dunn would alternate between uncharacteristic pleasantries and downright abuse.
“When he closed the shed door, he said ‘I love you” explained Jennifer. “He would make threats and call me a ‘piece of s—,” Dunn’s history of mental illness would explain this behavior as well…
Several months before the incident, neighbors reported that Dunn was in his yard, screaming and brandishing a pistol. They called 911 and officers arrived on the scene.
He was disarmed and talked down without any violence occurring, but was subsequently admitted to Clermont Mercy Hospital for a psychological evaluation.
The System is to Blame
It was clear that Dunn was in real need of inpatient mental health, but was released from the hospital with a clean bill of mental health after only a short stay.
His paranoia worsened after he was released, when he called police four times in a month claiming intruders were trying to break in. Dennis needed help but was unable to get it.
His Best Friend
Emily Noe, who identified herself as Dunn’s best friend, spoke out about him afterwards. She was shocked and terrified that someone she had known for years was even capable of kidnapping and imprisoning another person.
Emily Said “”He was a good guy… It’s just really scary knowing that I’ve known somebody for five years and wouldn’t see something like that..”
Friends and neighbors couldn’t believe that anything like this could happen in their neighborhood. “Jennifer and her family are the sweetest people you’d ever want to know,” said neighbor Lisa Crawford.
Lista Continued “I get chills thinking about it. I’ve got three kids. I can’t imagine.” After his arrest, Dunn’s father weighed in as well…”
Dunn’s elderly father showed up at the scene later that morning to apologize to the police for having to deal with his son. He was very apologetic that the whole situation happened.
Meanwhile, Dunn was charged with kidnapping and will go before a grand jury. If he is found guilty he could face up to 30 years in prison.
“I’m just lucky we found her because if we wouldn’t have found her, she’d be dead,” Gayle Rowe said of her daughter when it was all said and done. Her determination to find her daughter not only saved Jennifer’s life, but her abductor as well.
Indeed, if she hadn’t found her so quickly, Jennifer’s seizures would have surely resulted in her accidental death and a life sentence or worse for Dennis Dunn.