Man confesses to 7 killings after woman found chained on his property
Sheriff says revelation solves 2003 shooting deaths of 4 at motorcycle shop
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, 45, confessed he was the shooter who killed four people at a motorcycle shop in Spartanburg County in 2003, Wright said.
"God is good," he said. The community is no longer wondering who's responsible for the "four people who were brutally murdered."
His confession came one day before the 13th anniversary of the deaths of the owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper of Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee, S.C.
"He's been very co-operative," said Wright. He's confident Kohlhepp's confession solved the cold case. "He told us some stuff nobody else ought to know."
Wright says Kohlhepp also showed law enforcement officers Saturday the gravesites of two of his other victims buried on his 40-hectare property near Woodruff.S.C.
That's in addition to the body found Friday at the site, identified as 32-year-old Charles Carver, the boyfriend of the 30-year-old woman found in a locked metal container on Thursday. Carver died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The Spartanburg County Sheriff's website on Sunday said Kohlhepp faces four counts of murder and a single kidnapping charge. Authorities say more charges are coming and it's possible more bodies will be uncovered.
These are not the first charges Kohlhepp has faced for violent offences. When he was 15 and facing charges that he raped a neighbour 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 neighbour called him a "devil on a chain."
Woman's boyfriend killed
In last week's raid, Spartanburg County deputies were brought to his Woodruff-area property by the last known cellphone signals of Carver and his girlfriend and found the woman. There, they found her chained in a container, where she had lived for two months. She told investigators that Kohlhepp shot and killed her boyfriend in front of her on Aug. 31, after they arrived at the property to do a cleaning job.
"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."
It was an abrupt, but perhaps not unexpected turn for a man who spent his 20s in prison, but after his release managed to get a private pilot's licence and build a real estate firm with more than a dozen agents.
As a teen, Kohlhepp was described as cold and callous. 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.
The judge who ruled on the 1986 kidnapping and rape — which led to Kohlhepp having to register as a sex offender — said he was "impulsive, explosive, and preoccupied with sexual content" from the age of nine. "He has not changed. He has been unabatedly aggressive to others and destructive of property since nursery school."
Real estate success
But that didn't stop him from becoming an apparently successful real estate agent. Kohlhepp followed the rules and admitted he had a felony conviction when he applied for his real estate licence in 2006. But his letter explaining the charge was full of lies. He said he argued with his girlfriend, police were called, he had a gun and was caught up in a crackdown on gun violence.
Police, however, said the 14-year-old girl he had raped was friendly, but not romantic toward him. After raping her, he said he would kill her six-year-old and three-year-old siblings that she was babysitting if she called the police. His first question to officers when he was arrested was how long he was going to have to spend in prison, according to court records.
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.
Kohlhepp has a house in Moore, about 14 kilometres away from the rural property. A neighbour in Moore, 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."
A neighbour recounted how Kohlhepp laughed as he rolled her crying son down the street locked in a dog carrier. Even as his father felt he couldn't be helped, but court records show Kohlhepp's still had one supporter in 1987 — his mother.
She wrote a letter asking the judge to send Kohlhepp to his grandparents instead of prison.
"He even walked the girl home," she wrote. "Does that sound like a dangerous criminal?"