A Spartanburg County man has pleaded guilty to the murder of seven people over 13 years.
Todd Kohlhepp entered the guilty plea in a state court Friday after prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty. Judge Derham Cole then gave Kohlhepp seven life sentences.
Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette said he did not pursue the death penalty because it would lead to trial and at least a decade of legal appeals. “It’s not fair to (the victims’) family members to wait years and years and years for justice,” he told reporters after Kohlhepp’s sentence. Barnette noted South Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2011 due to ongoing appeals and because South Carolina has exhausted its supply of execution drugs with the inability to legally obtain more.
Kohlhepp’s case got national attention last fall after a missing woman Kala Brown was discovered chained inside a container at property he owned in Woodruff. Spartanburg County investigators later found three bodies buried on the property, including Brown’s boyfriend Charlie Carver. The county sheriff’s office said Kohlhepp admitted to killing the individuals. He later admitted to killing four people at a Chesnee powersports store in 2003. The shooting at Superbike Motorsports had been unsolved for more than a decade.
Brown told investigators Kohlhepp, a real estate agent, hired her and Carver to clear underbrush at his property in Woodruff last August. But not long after they arrived, she said Kohlhepp shot Carver and forced her at gunpoint into the container. During an appearance on the television show Dr. Phil in Februrary, Brown said Kohlhepp raped her repeatedly and threatened to kill her if she attempted escape. Kohlhepp has not been charged with sexual assault.
Spartanburg County authorities rescued Brown in November while following up on a lead. Kohlhepp was arrested and admitted to his actions. Spartanburg County deputies suspect Kohlhepp also lured Meagan and Johnny Coxie to the same property a year earlier. The bodies of both were also found within a week of the raid.
Not long after Kohlhepp’s arrest, Sheriff Chuck Wright said he admitted to the shootings at Superbike Motorsports and knew details of the case which had never been released to the public. Kohlhepp claimed he retaliated after some store employees mocked his inexperience with motorcycles.
But family members present on Friday disputed that account and said they thought Kohlhepp a “sick” man.
“I just want him to go away,” said Lorraine Lucas, whose son was among the Superbike Motorsports victims. “Good luck to him in prison. And I don’t ever want to hear about him again. I don’t want to see his face. I don’t want to hear his name. I just want to go on with my life, get my life back in order and try to do something in a positive light.”
Wright said his office was shaken by its inability to link the crimes to Kohlhepp, despite the man’s status as a real estate agent in western Spartanburg County. “We will look back over things we have done, what worked and what didn’t,” he told reporters. “And I vow to you that we will continue to search for other people who need and deserve closure.”
By agreeing to the guilty plea, Kohlhepp waived his right to appeal or to seek post-conviction relief.