A South Carolina man accused of kidnapping a woman and keeping her chained “like a dog” inside a metal storage container may have killed at least seven people, multiple outlets have reported.
On Thursday, authorities discovered 30-year-old Kala Brown located on the Woodruff, S.C. property of registered sex offender and realtor Todd Kohlhepp. According to WYFF4, deputies were searching the property when they heard banging from within the container, which measured 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. Inside was Brown, who had been inside for two months with a chain around her neck:
He said Brown had been fed regularly, but she was “obviously traumatized.”
“It was pretty emotional, to say the least, when she was found — especially when she was chained like a dog, Wright said. “She had a chain around her neck. It’s only by God’s grace we found that little girl alive.”
Brown, along with her boyfriend Charles “David” Carver, had been missing since August 31. On Saturday, investigators located Carver’s body in a shallow grave on Kohlhepp’s property. According to the AP, Carver was shot to death. Brown told authorities she’d witnessed Kohlhepp killing Carver.
Kohlhepp also confessed to murdering four people 13 years ago at a South Carolina motorcycle shop, a quadruple homicide unsolved since 2003. Additionally, he pointed authorities to the graves of two more unidentified victims. In total, authorities believe Kohlhepp to be responsible for at least seven murders.
The Washington Post points out that Kohlhepp has long maintained a relatively clean public image as a realtor, his smiling, professional photo offering no indication that he’s also a longtime registered sex offender. According to reporting by the Arizona Republic:
Records showed that when Kohlhepp was 15 he went to a neighbor’s house, held a .22-caliber handgun to the 14-year-old girl’s head and demanded that she follow him, the Republic reported. Once back at his home, Kohlhepp duct-taped the girl’s mouth, restrained her hands and raped her — then told her he would kill her and her younger siblings if she called police, according to the paper.
The girl reported the rape to police, and Kohlhepp was arrested on kidnapping and sexual assault charges, court records showed. He took a plea bargain, pleading guilty to just the kidnapping charge, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Kohlhepp was released in 2001, and eventually went to South Carolina to launch his real estate career. When applying for his real estate license in 2006, he explained his sex offender status in a decidedly different fashion from the crime for which he served time, essentially chalking the whole incident up to “heated fight” with his then-girlfriend, calling it a “youthful mistake.”
Kohlhepp has been charged with kidnapping and four counts of murder, with the expectation that he will soon also be charged with Carver’s death. He was denied bond.