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US man held for chaining woman admits 7 killings

Todd Kohlhepp
Todd Kohlhepp

MIAMI: A man who was arrested in the US state of South Carolina for holding a woman hostage and “chained like a dog” has confessed to up to seven killings, a local sheriff said.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told a press conference late Saturday that warrants were issued charging Todd Christopher Kohlhepp with a quadruple murder that baffled police and investigators for 13 years. Wright said that the suspect had also shown authorities two gravesites on his vast property, in addition to one body dug up from a shallow grave on Friday. Kohlhepp was denied bond yesterday.

“There’s no wondering anymore” about the Nov 2003 killings at the Superbike Motorsports in the nearby town of Chesnee, Wright told local media, including local ABC affiliate WLOS-13 and The Greenville Times. “He told us some stuff that nobody else ought to know,” Wright told reporters. Four people – a woman who worked at the store and her adult son, and two other store workers – were found “brutally murdered” for unknown reasons at the business, Wright said. The case was even featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted”, which has helped crack cold cases in the past. Wright did not mention any motive in the case.

Kohlhepp appeared before Magistrate Judge Jimmy Henson yesterday for a brief bond hearing on the four murder counts. The issue of bond could be taken up by a circuit court later. Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Kohlhepp declined to make a statement when offered the chance. After Kohlhepp left the courtroom, Henson addressed the victims’ families, saying, “What you’ve gone through … is beyond what a lot of people would understand.”

Kohlhepp, 45, was arrested Thursday and charged with kidnapping after the woman who police said was “chained like a dog” inside a shipping container was rescued from his property. Kala Brown, 30, was discovered with chains around her neck and ankles trapped inside the padlocked container. Police rescued her after hearing a banging sound when they arrived at Kohlhepp’s property with a search warrant. Kohlhepp, who owns a 95-acre tract of rural land in the town of Woodruff, northeast of the state capital Columbia, is a real-estate agent and registered sex offender.

Brown told officers she had been in the container for two months. She and her boyfriend, Charles Carver, 32, had been missing since August. Brown told police that Kohlhepp shot her boyfriend multiple times in the chest in front of her. Sheriff Wright said Saturday that authorities identified the body dug up the day before as that of Carver. Kohlhepp however has not yet been charged with Carver’s death, the sheriff said.

Reporters, who were kept at a distance, saw Kohlhepp walk agents around the property on Saturday. Kohlhepp has been registered as a sex offender in South Carolina for a 1987 conviction in Arizona, according to local WSPA News. He was 15 when he was accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Kohlhepp moved to South Carolina after he completed his prison sentence in Aug 2001. – Agencies

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