Kidnapping suspect confesses to 2003 murders

Crime | Todd Kohlhepp is now accused of killing at least seven people
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 11/04/16, 05:12 pm

UPDATE (11/7/16, 10:15 a.m.): What started as a kidnapping case Friday has become a cold case murder investigation spanning more than 10 years. Police arrested real estate agent Todd Kohlhepp after finding a woman chained in a shipping container on a property he owned in Woodruff, S.C. They quickly accused him of killing the woman’s boyfriend too, but then the number of victims increased dramatically.

Kohlhepp pointed investigators to two other graves on the property and confessed to killing four people at a motorcycle shop in Chesnee, S.C., in 2003. On Sunday, several of the victims’ family members stood in the courtroom when Kohlhepp made his first appearance since his arrest. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit and did not appear to have an attorney. He did not make any statement. Investigators are now searching other properties Kohlhepp owns for signs of additional graves. 

Earlier Sunday, community members gathered outside the site where the kidnapped woman was found and prayed for Kohlhepp’s victims. One woman who stopped by the property on her way to church called Kohlhepp’s confession to the motorcycle shop killings an answer to prayer.

“I thanked God for giving us good out of this,” Frances Bradley said.

UPDATE (11/5/16, 9:50 p.m.): The body found Friday on the South Carolina property where a missing woman was kept chained was that of her boyfriend, authorities confirmed today. The woman, who was rescued Thursday, earlier told police she saw the property owner, Todd Kohlhepp, shoot and kill her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Carver. The Greenville News reported Kohlhepp, who is in jail on kidnapping charges, spent time with officers at the property today. More details have emerged about Kohlhepp since his arrest, including how he spent 14 years in prison for raping a teenage girl when he was 15 and became a successful real estate agent after his release.

OUR EARLIER REPORT: Investigators uncovered a body today on the South Carolina property where a missing woman was rescued Thursday. Police found her “chained up like a dog” inside a storage container near the rural town of Woodruff, S.C.

The woman told police there might be other bodies on the property, so investigators used cadaver dogs to search the land today. They began excavating the property after a dog signaled the possible presence of remains. The body has not been identified, according to prosecutor Barry Barnette. Police seized guns and a large stock of ammunition from the property and are continuing to search the land. “We’re trying to make sure that we don’t have a serial killer on our hands,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said. He added later that authorities would reopen missing-person cases from the county.

The woman disappeared with her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Carver, in August. Earlier reports said Carver was still missing, but the woman now says she saw her captor shoot and kill Carver.

Authorities, responding to a tip, searched the rural property outside Woodruff on Thursday and heard banging from inside the locked container. The woman, chained up by the neck, said she was held for two months in the 30-foot by 15-foot container and was fed regularly.

The property owner and suspect, Todd Christopher Kohlhepp, is under arrest and appeared at a bond hearing Friday in Spartanburg on kidnapping charges. Kohlhepp, 45, is a registered sex offender with a previous kidnapping conviction. More charges will be filed, according to Barnette.

The judge did not set bond and instead referred the case to circuit court.

As a teenager, Kohlhepp was convicted and sentenced to prison in Arizona for kidnapping and raping a 14-year-old girl. He served 14 years for the felony and was released in 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  •  Neil Evans's picture
    Neil Evans
    Posted: Sat, 11/05/2016 01:14 pm

    The picture of searchers obviously praying for God's Gracious guidance is wonder-full !

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Posted: Sat, 11/05/2016 08:57 pm

    My blood boils when I consider all this woman has gone thru, along with Jaycee Dugard and how many others? And yet courts and prisons release these and other fiends out and lose track of them.

    Some months back I asked a property mgr to recommend a good maintenance/handy man for a rent house we own. Then some weeks later the property mgr contacted me and mentioned that the same man she had so glowingly recommended was barred from working on any "occupied" property, esp one with children living in it.

    Long story short I went to the Texas Dept of Public Safety (state police) website and saw this man's pic and offense. Background checks are great but you have to use them.