WOODRUFF, S.C. - The man arrested after authorities found a woman chained on his property in rural South Carolina killed at least seven people, and his confessions have solved a 13-year-old case, Sheriff Chuck Wright said Saturday.
Todd Kohlhepp confessed to shooting to death four people at a motorcycle shop in Spartanburg County in 2003, Wright said.
The community, he said, is no longer wondering who’s responsible for the “four people who were brutally murdered.”
Wright says Kohlhepp also showed law enforcement officers Saturday the gravesites of two more victims buried on his 95-acre property near Woodruff.
That’s in addition to the body found Friday at the site. Wright and Coroner Rusty Clevenger identified that victim as 32-year-old Charles Carver, the boyfriend of the woman found in a locked metal container Thursday.
The sheriff says it’s possible more bodies will be uncovered.
Rape charges at 15
When he was 15 and facing charges he raped a neighbor after forcing her into his home at gunpoint and tying her up, Todd Christopher Kohlhepp’s father told court officials the only emotion the teen was capable of showing was anger, and a neighbor called him a “devil on a chain.”
Fifteen years after he was released from prison for that crime, Spartanburg County deputies were brought to his property by the last known cellphone signals of two missing people. On Thursday, they found a woman chained in a container for two months. She told investigators that Kohlhepp shot and killed her boyfriend in front of her.
“They’re obviously heartbroken,” he said after talking to Carver’s family. “It’s terrible. I do think this helps with a little bit of closure. … We prayed for God to show us, and He did.”
Carver died of multiple gunshot wounds. An anthropologist is helping determine how long Carver was buried, said Clevenger, the coroner. He declined to say how many times Carver had been shot.
Kohlhepp is charged with kidnapping the woman. Authorities say more charges are coming.
Apparent success after prison
It was an abrupt, but perhaps not unexpected turn for a man who spent his 20s in prison. After his release, he managed to get a private pilot license, build a real estate firm with more than a dozen agents and buy nearly 100 acres of land and erect a fence around it said to have cost $80,000. On that land, dozens of officers continued to search Saturday for any additional bodies after the woman told investigators Kohlhepp claimed to have killed at least four others.
As a teen, Kohlhepp was cold and callous. He went to his 14-year-old rape victim’s house after talking to her parents and making sure they wouldn’t be home. He was smart, angry and felt the world owed him something, his chief probation officer wrote in court papers in Arizona in 1987.
“It is this type of individual, one with little or no conscience, who presents the greatest risk to the community,” the officer wrote in the papers obtained by WHNS-TV.
Kohlhepp remains behind bars. The 45-year-old had to register as a sex offender after his release from prison in Arizona.
In the South Carolina case, the couple disappeared about August 31 when the woman went to do some cleaning on the suspect’s nearly 100-acre property near Woodruff. Her boyfriend accompanied her, said Daniel Herren, a friend who sat with the woman in her hospital room after she was rescued Thursday.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman because the suspect is a sex offender, though authorities have not said whether she was sexually assaulted.
Neighbor calls him ‘big bragger’
Kohlhepp has a house about 9 miles away in Moore, where neighbor Ron Owen said Kohlhepp was very private, but when they did talk across the fence, he was a “big bragger.”
Kohlhepp liked to talk about the money he made day trading online, for example, and about his two BMWs. He recently told Owen, 76, that he’d paid $80,000 to put the chain-link fence around his property where the woman was found.
“We didn’t see any signs whatsoever that this was going on,” Owen said. “My first reaction’s a baseball bat, but I know I’m not to take that in my own hands. God will deal with him.”