A man in the US state of South Carolina has confessed to killing at least seven people over more than a decade. He was captured after allegedly kidnapping a woman and executing her boyfriend.
Authorities said Sunday that 45-year-old real estate agent Todd Christopher Kohlhepp accepted responsibility for more than a half dozen unsolved murders following his arrest on charges of kidnapping. It is alleged Kohlhepp held a 30-year-old woman prisoner in a metal shipping container on his sprawling 95-acre (38 hectare) property for two months. The body of her 32-year-old boyfriend, who had also been missing, was found on the property, police said.
The confession came a day after the woman was found by police executing a search warrant on the property. Kohlhepp showed law enforcement officers the gravesites of at least two of his other victims buried on the property near Woodruff, a city of about 4,000 people. Kohlhepp, in handcuffs and wearing an orange jumpsuit, was at the site for less than an hour.
"He's been very cooperative," Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told reporters. "He told us some stuff nobody else ought to know."
Kala Brown, a woman Kohlhepp hired to do cleaning work on his property, and her boyfriend, Charles Carver, went missing on August 31. Carver's body was found Friday with multiple gunshot wounds. Police traced the couple to the rural property by checking cellular phone records and tracking the last signals sent by their mobile phones.
The successful real estate agent also confessed to the 2003 deaths of the owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper of Superbike Motorsports, a motorcycle shop in the city of Chesnee. "God answered our prayers. If it wasn't for him answering our prayers and Todd talking to us, I don't know that we'd ever solve that case," Wright said. The sheriff added that it is possible more bodies will be uncovered.
Authorities did not mention a motive for the killings. But court records indicate the man had a troubled, violent history. When he was 15-years-old and growing up in Arizona, while facing charges of raping a teenage neighbor after forcing her into his home at gunpoint and tying her up, the man's father told court officials the only emotion the teen was capable of showing was anger, and a neighbor called him a "devil on a chain."
After spending much of his 20s in state prison, Kohlhepp was released as a registered sex offender. He succeeded in getting his private pilot license, building a real estate firm with more than a dozen employees and buying nearly 100 acres (40 hectares) of land that he secured with a high fence for privacy. It was on that land where dozens of officers continued to search for any additional bodies after the woman told investigators Kohlhepp claimed to have killed at least four others.
As a teenager, Kohlhepp was described as cold and callous. He went to his 14-year-old rape victim's house after talking to her parents and making sure they would not be home. He was intelligent, angry and felt the world owed him something, his chief probation officer wrote in court papers in Arizona in 1987. "It is this type of individual, one with little or no conscience, who presents the greatest risk to the community," the officer continued in the papers obtained by WHNS-TV, a private television channel in Greensville.
Kohlhepp remains behind bars without bail as police and prosecutors continue their investigation.
jar/jlw (AP, Reuters)