Source AP ©

Man accused of raping two teen girls found not guilty

A South Carolina jury has found a convicted sex offender accused of raping two teen girls not guilty of kidnapping, sex crimes and assault with intent to kill.

Kenneth Glenn Hinson wiped his eyes and mouth and appeared to cry after the jury read its verdict, which followed about four hours of deliberations over two days.

Authorities had charged that Hinson snatched the then-17-year-old girls from their bedroom and dragged them one at a time to the underground room hidden beneath a tool shed, where he raped and bound them with duct tape. Prosecutors said Hinson expected the girls to die because the room had no air supply.

However, Hinson testified during the six-day trial that the girls had consensual sex with him. He said they made up the story so they would be able to take drugs from the underground room, which he used to store marijuana.

The two young women were not in the courtroom when Hinson was acquitted. Their mothers wept.

If convicted, Hinson had faced a mandatory life sentence without parole under the state's two-strikes law because he was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl in 1991.

The underground room was about the length and width of a mid-sized car with a ceiling about 4Ѕ feet (1.37 meters) high. Hinson testified Sunday that he had built the room over two years.

Defense attorney Rick Hoefer spent much of his nearly two-hour closing argument Sunday picking apart what he called inconsistencies in the teens' testimony, including how long it took them to call 911 after their alleged escape and whether they saw Hinson with a gun.

Prosecutors said any discrepancies in their stories might have been a result of the trauma the teens went through.

Hinson was not freed because prosecutors asked that he be held on pending burglary charges.