Investigators expand search for remains following confession
By SEANNA ADCOX
and MEG KINNARD
WOODRUFF, S.C. — Law enforcement investigators have expanded their search for human remains beyond the South Carolina property where they discovered a woman chained inside a storage container after the landowner confessed to a 13-year-old quadruple slaying and led them to graves where he says two bodies are buried.
Todd Kohlhepp, 45, became a suspect in at least seven deaths in the days after a woman was found Thursday chained by her neck and ankle in a metal storage container on his 95-acre property near rural Woodruff.
The body of her boyfriend was found a day later. Following his arrest, Kohlhepp confessed to a 2003 quadruple slaying at a motorcycle shop in the small town of Chesnee, said Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright. He was denied bond Sunday on four murder charges for gunning down the motorcycle shop’s owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper.
Wright has said Kohlhepp gave details only the killer would know. His confession came a day before the 13th anniversary of the crime, which many feared would never be solved.
Before his confession, authorities granted three requests, WSPA-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2fwxkwb ): One was to transfer money to a girl Kohlhepp says he’s helping raise, to help pay for college. The second was to give his mother a photograph, and the third was to let him talk to his mother.
Kohlhepp is also charged with kidnapping the woman, and more criminal counts are expected. He has chosen to represent himself and not hire an attorney, Wright told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Wright, who was first elected about a year after the Superbike Motorsports killings, is now investigating what appears to be a crime spree stretching over more than a decade.
As a teen, Kohlhepp was sentenced to 14 years in prison in Arizona for binding and raping a 14-year-old neighbor at gunpoint. Released in 2001, he managed to obtain a real estate license in South Carolina in 2006. The search for human remains has now expanded to other properties he owns or used to own, including places outside of South Carolina, Wright said Sunday. He declined to elaborate.
Kohlhepp showed investigators Saturday where he says he buried two other victims on the property he bought two years ago. Human remains were uncovered Sunday at one of those sites, Wright said.
“We’re not even close” to identifying the remains or cause of death, he said. “We can’t tell anything.”
Kohlhepp did not tell investigators who was buried there. Removing the remains to “preserve every bit of evidence” is a meticulous, time-consuming process, said Coroner Rusty Clevenger.
The gravesites Kohlhepp pointed to are in addition to the body found Friday in a shallow grave at the site. Authorities identified that victim as the boyfriend of the woman found Thursday. Clevenger said he died of multiple gunshot wounds.
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.
On Sunday, Kohlhepp appeared in an orange jumpsuit for the brief bond hearing and declined to make a statement.
After Kohlhepp left the courtroom, Magistrate Judge Jimmy Henson told the family members they would have a chance later to address Kohlhepp in court.
“You have something to say. You’ve been waiting 13 years to say it,” he said.
The father of Brian Lucas, the 29-year-old slain service manager, thanked the judge.
“Your honor, I appreciate your words to us and your counsel,” Tom Lucas said as two others put their hands on his shoulders. “We thank you.”
Before the hearing, Lucas said he wanted to be in court to look Kohlhepp in the eye.
“I want to look at him, and I want to try to use that in healing,” he said.