A woman found chained in a storage container. Her captor: a successful realtor who confessed to seven murders — a double life beyond belief. Now, “48 Hours” has the story behind the story. The court has just released hundreds of documents, photographs and even hours of videotape that reveal, in stunning detail, a serial killer’s journey into darkness.
“I’ve never done anything to anybody who didn’t have it coming,” Kohlhepp tells detectives.
This bizarre and frightening story began Labor Day weekend 2016, when 30-year-old Kala Brown and her 32-year-old boyfriend, Charles David Carver, went missing near Spartanburg.
Dan Herren: Kala Brown is a very good friend of mine … she’s really a wonderful person. …She always wants to please people.
Dan Herren: One day Kala met Charlie … she said they had a love that went beyond anything superficial.
Dan Herren: I found out they were missing on Labor Day weekend … after searching for her for two months … I then got a text message from another good friend of mine and she said, they found Kala—she’s alive.
But her boyfriend Charlie was not with her. Kala Brown told her rescuers that Todd Kohlhepp, her captor, had killed Charlie almost immediately. Kala said she had witnessed Charlie’s murder.
Joanne Shiflet: Charles David Carver is my son. He is my firstborn [in tears]. He could bring a smile to the saddest person. He loved to laugh.
Charlie Carver operated a printer at a local business. His father, Chuck, says he was a gentle soul.
Chuck Carver: He never hurt anybody … he would give you the shirt off his back or the last $2 in his pocket. That was just the guy he was.
The effort to find Charlie and Kala started as soon as they went missing, but it would take a couple months to put that puzzle together. Investigators got hold of a search warrant that allowed them to access Kala’s Facebook page. That’s where they found a message that Kala sent to Charlie where she referenced Todd Kohlhepp. And then, there were the cell phone records. Apparently one of the couples’ last pings from their cell phones was near a property that Kohlhepp owned.
All signs pointed to a 99-acre piece of land owned by Kohlhepp. He kept it fenced off, but sheriff’s deputies obtained a warrant and they began searching there on Nov. 3, 2016. That’s when they heard the female voice yelling for help inside that storage container.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright: I got there in six minutes, it was 25 minutes away and I made it in six.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright and his deputies rushed to cut the five locks on the storage container door. Those dramatic moments were captured by police body cam:
Kala Brown was rushed from the scene into an ambulance where she began talking about her two-month imprisonment at the hands of Todd Kohlhepp:
Detective Walsh: What did Todd do while you were there?
Kala Brown: He would get there between 1 and 3 o’clock every day … take me up to the main building…beat me [pauses] make me do whatever he wanted sexually and then he would put me back in the building.
Detective to Kala [inside the ambulance]: It’s OK to cry. You’ve been through hell.
Kala Brown: He said he was breaking all his rules with me and he didn’t know if he was going to kill me or sell me or what yet.
Kala told investigators she had gone to Kohlhepp’s isolated property to do some cleaning as she had before. Her boyfriend, Charlie, accompanied her and, without warning or provocation, Kala said Todd Kohlhepp shot Charlie as he stood next to her. Kala said it was so sudden and unexpected, she could hardly believe it.
Kala Brown to Dr. Phil: I was in shock. I just went — he pulled me to go and told me to go he — or I could join Charlie. I just went. I was numb. I — I couldn’t think. I still hadn’t comprehended what had happened.
Kala Brown gave
Dr. Phil McGraw: Let’s talk about the day you were rescued. What happened?
Kala Brown: I think it was 9 o’clock. I start hearing noises.
Kala Brown: …and then I heard somebody’s voice, and I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t breathe, like I panicked …Somebody came up and like asked if I was in there. They said, “We’re going to get you out.”
She described how her two-month ordeal inside that storage container began:
Kala Brown: It was pitch black but he had a flashlight and he had a lot of shelving with um, like, dried food and rations and stuff and lots of bottles of water.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Did he come in there with you?
Kala Brown: Yeah. He took me all the way in the back.
Dr. Phil McGraw: And did he leave you bound or did he un — bind you?
Kala Brown: He left me bound and he also put a chain around my neck.
Dr. Phil McGraw: How long was the chain?
Kala Brown: Two-and-a half, three feet. …My neck was in one corner and my ankle was in the other corner.
At the same time deputies were searching for Kala, other detectives had been dispatched to Kohlhepp’s home. At this point, the deputies do not know Kala has been found. They were there for Kohlhepp’s cell phone and the visit begins with a cordial tone:
Officer: Hello. How you doing?
Todd Kohlhepp: Doing well.
But things start to get serious as deputies begin getting phone calls on their cell phones from their colleagues who are at Kohlhepp’s property. Kohlhepp is handcuffed and then he’s told the news: Kala’s been rescued.
Detective: Alright, this is where we’re at Mr. Kohlhepp … While we were here, alright?
Todd Kohlhepp: Mmm hmm.
Detective: …my sergeant served a search warrant on your property.
Todd Kohlhepp: OK.
Detective: OK. We have Kala.
Todd Kohlhepp: Excuse me?
Detective: We have Kala in your property. She was locked in a container. OK. She has told us that you shot and killed Charlie.
Detective: You’re under arrest right now for kidnapping … alright. They continue to search your property. They’re going to continue. They got cadaver dogs down there.
Todd Kohlhepp: OK.
Detective: OK, if you want to help yourself, tell me where Charlie’s at. So we can go find his body.
Todd Kohlhepp: OK.
Detective: That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.
Todd Kohlhepp: OK.
Detective: Do you want to help yourself and tell me where the body’s at so we can go recover Charlie’s body?
Todd Kohlhepp: No, sir.
Detective: You don’t want to?
Todd Kohlhepp: No, sir.
Detective: OK. Why’d you shoot him?
Todd Kohlhepp: I didn’t shoot anybody, sir.
Detective: Why did you lock her in a container in your property?
Todd Kohlhepp: I don’t know what you’re talking about … I’m going to need an attorney. Uh…
Detective: Probably a good thing. Go ahead and put him in the back of your car.
Kala told Dr. Phil that Kohlhepp raped her repeatedly:
Dr. Phil McGraw: When he raped you, did his demeanor change afterwards?
Kala Brown: No.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Same before and same after. Did he leave you bound during this time?
Kala Brown: Yes, sir.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Hands behind your back?
Kala Brown: Yes, sir.
After his arrest, Kohlhepp begged the sheriff to allow him to tell his mother, Regina Tague, what he had done before she heard it from someone else. She in turn tried to tell her son’s story to “48 Hours.”
Regina Tague: “I’m sorry mom.”
David Begnaud: Did he cry?
Regina Tague: Mmm hmm. …his eyes looked horrible. They were bulging out of his face and they were red.. He’s never been a monster. He’s not even close to it.
Regina Tague: I want to say something to the people that have been hurt. I want the world to know that he’s not a bad person. He’s a good person.
David Begnaud: Why did he chain that girl up?
Regina Tague: Because he didn’t know what to do at that point.
Regina Tague: …she saw… evidently saw him kill the other. Her boyfriend … And he didn’t know what to do with her. He couldn’t turn her loose. She’d go get the police.
David Begnaud: So he chained her up.
Regina Tague: Mmm hmm. He tried to make her as comfortable as possible. He had a dilemma.
Tague says Kohlhepp promised her that he did not abuse Kala and, in fact, treated her well.
Regina Tague: I want her to know how sorry I am. And I think Todd is too. Because he didn’t wanna hurt her, he just didn’t know what to do.
David Begnaud: Why did he kill her boyfriend?
Regina Tague: Because he got nasty, mad, and smart mouth. And Todd had hired him to– to do some stuff, and Todd pays well. And the guy got mouthy about it, and from what I gathered, he said some smart things to Todd. And I guess Todd shot him.
David Begnaud: Is that how your son handles his anger? He just killed people when they mistreated him?
Regina Tague: Never before.
That may be what Kohlhepp told his mama, but it was far from the truth — as he himself told police. In a series of candid confessions, Kohlhepp stunned investigators by admitting to seven different murders.
It seems almost surreal now, but if you had asked people in town about Todd Kohlhepp before his arrest, they would’ve talked about him in glowing terms. Just listen to the local sheriff.
Sheriff Chuck Wright: He did his job super good. … I just met him around town. He did his job very well; I mean he was a good realtor.
David Begnaud: You wanted to buy a house, is he someone you would have called?
Sheriff Chuck Wright: Heck yeah I would’ve. This guy knew exactly what he was doing — very smart.
Kohlhepp was single, lived in an upscale home, drove a BMW and had a pilot’s license. But there was no doubt he had a dark side. After investigators located the body of Charlie Carver, Kohlhepp led detectives to two other bodies that he’d buried on his land: a young married couple, Meagan and Johnny Joe Coxie.
Todd Kohlhepp: Got her number. We talked on the phone for a brief moment.
Todd Kohlhepp: Basically offered her the job. Offered to let him go in and do … work as well.
And then, in an otherwise ordinary interrogation room at the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Kohlhepp began his extraordinary confessions, talking for hours with investigators. There was almost no emotion except for laughter. He joked that his new notoriety might give a boost to his real estate business.
Todd Kohlhepp: I mean, I think they should put my face on some billboards and like “Hey, know the face! Hire him!”
Kohlhepp revealed that he crossed paths with Meagan and Johnny Joe Coxie when they were down on their luck. He offered to pay them to do some cleanup at his property:
Todd Kohlhepp: And, I picked them up and I drove them to my land to get supplies … and got them down to my building and that’s when Johnny pulled a knife out.
Detective: Mmm hmm.
Todd Kohlhepp: and —
Detective: You shot him.
Todd Kohlhepp: I shot him.
Detective: OK, and you shot her?
Todd Kohlhepp: Not exactly…
It was December 2015, about a year before Kala was rescued. Kohlhepp says he held Meagan in the same container where he later chained Kala.
Todd Kohlhepp: I didn’t know what to do with her, man. On one side, I really wanted to drop her, the next side I really — this is gonna sound f—ed, but I kind of wanted to save her ass.
He says he bought Meagan cigarettes, pizza, and even her favorite pop. But after about a week, Kohlhepp said she became too hard to control and he felt the easiest way out for him was to kill her.
Todd Kohlhepp: Walked her outside and put a .40 in the back of her head.
Detective: What gun did shoot her with?
Todd Kohlhepp: Same one…
Detective: That you shot —
Todd Kohlhepp: Mmm hmm.
Detective and Kohlhepp in unison: — Johnny with.
Detective: And that’s a Glock … and that’s the same one you shot Charlie —
Todd Kohlhepp: It’s…my favorite guns. It’s just…
Detective: It’s a handy one.
Todd Kohlhepp: It’s really effective.
Less than a year later, on Aug. 30 2016, Kohlhepp says he invited Kala Brown to his “sanctuary.” She asked if her boyfriend Charlie Carver could come along and Kohlhepp agreed, but says he got a little testy when the two began bickering in front of him.
Detective: What made you shoot Charlie?
Todd Kohlhepp: I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t know how to answer that honestly.
Todd Kohlhepp: I was angry at her… I wasn’t angry at him… It just went very quickly…
After he killed Charlie Carver, Kohlhepp kept Kala Brown alive as a sex slave for the two months before she was rescued. She believes Kohlhepp did not kill her because it seemed, as she told Dr. Phil, that he was “infatuated” with her:
Dr. Phil McGraw: How did he seem infatuated?
Kala Brown: I mean, he let me know that I was his property … that he chose me. He told me how beautiful and smart I was and stuff like that.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Did you respond when he said these things to you?
Kala Brown: Not at first. Later on, I realized that I had to stay alive in order to be found … So I made him think whatever I had to, to stay alive and keep him from abusing me.
But if you ask Kohlhepp, he’ll tell you all the sex was consensual:
Todd Kohlhepp: The only problem I have with any of this … is I’m not gonna accept Kala’s rape. That’s not going to happen. That’s — I’ll fight — we’ll go jury.
Detective: I understand.
Todd Kohlhepp: I won’t win —
Detective: I understand.
Todd Kohlhepp: –but I’ll make it extremely, extremely costly.
Dr. Kris Mohandie is a forensic psychologist and a CBS News consultant.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: The idea that he claims all these rapes were consensual sex is outrageous. …It’s failing to take into account the scenario he created. He’s put her into bondage after seeing her boyfriend executed … the fact that he’s outraged he might be charged with rape — ridiculous.
Kohlhepp says he allowed Kala to shower at an apartment he kept next to the storage container and he claims he pretty much gave her what she asked for.
Todd Kohlhepp: She had me get her the DVD player, the MP3 player, the coloring books…
Detective: Coloring books?
Todd Kohlhepp: Adult coloring books.
Todd Kohlhepp: Dude, I did question. I just… It got her to shut up.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: Indulging her requests for creature comforts like coloring books is his way of playing God with her. It’s almost like granting her prayers … it is not actions of goodness.
Mohandie said whether she realizes it or not, Kala was manipulating Kohlhepp. While it seemed to him that he was granting her favors, Kala was actually ingratiating herself to him.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: Submissiveness as a behavioral tactic very effective with Todd Kohlhepp.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: So these kinds of behaviors that she was asking for and he was granting were a brilliant and resourceful way of her surviving … to the extent that you can get the offender to do things for your wellbeing. It’s going to make it that much more difficult for them to harm you.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Did he have a fantasy that at some point the two of you would become a couple?
Kala Brown: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Phil McGraw: And live together? Did he talk about the fantasy?
Kala Brown: Yeah. He was going to build a house on the property. I was going to have a soundproof room. He would let me have the run of the property eventually when he trusted me. No, he even said that he would let me go and give me money if he ever got old and sick.
Dr. Phil McGraw: So he was thinking very long-term.
Kala Brown: Uh-huh.
Mohandie said there was really only one way to describe the type of man Todd Kohlhepp is.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: He is a reptile in the truest sense of the word.
In fact, long before he took Kala Brown captive, Todd Kohlhepp was a sexual predator. When he was only 15 years old, he kidnapped and raped a 14-year-old girl in Tempe, Arizona.
Kohlhepp, charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in exchange for getting the sexual assault charge dropped. The troubled teen spent the next 14 years in the Arizona prison system. And when he got out, he moved back to South Carolina, started a new life and eventually bought his home there.
Regina Tague: I set everything up so that he could be a productive part of our city, and that he could enjoy the rest of his life and do what he loved doing
David Begnaud: You never gave up on him.
Regina Tague: No. You don’t give up on your kids. You don’t do that. You can’t.
Kohlhepp was not done confessing. The next story he told shocked the sheriff to his core.and the sheriff knew exactly what he was talking about — a cold case that had been unsolved for nearly 13 years.
THE SUPERBIKE MOTORSPORTS MURDERS
It is one of the most notorious unsolved murder mysteries in South Carolina’s history: four people shot execution-style at Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee. A brutal crime that baffled police for over a decade was now being claimed by Todd Kohlhepp, who says he opened fire that day after what he perceived was rude treatment by the owner and his staff:
Detective: Was there any conversation, “don’t please?” whatever —
Todd Kohlhepp: No, sir.
Detective: –with any of this?
Todd Kohlhepp: I don’t remember hearing any of that. I will tell you that once I engaged, I was engaged.
Todd Kohlhepp: Um, it’s almost like a videogame. It’s not a game, but it’s almost – you — you’re focused on … You’ve been there, sir. You know what I’m talking about.
Before Kohlhepp’s confession, back when the murders happened, investigators had a very different suspect in mind.
Melissa Ponder: It’s still sometimes hard for me to believe that this is my story, this is my late husband’s story, that this is us sitting here talking about it.
It all began one cold November morning in 2003. Melissa Ponder was seven weeks pregnant and still asleep when her husband, Scott, left for work at the Motorsports dealership — their family business. Hours later, he would call to check in.
Peter Van Sant: What were the last words he said to you?
Melissa Ponder: He said, “OK, I will see you later. I love you. Bye.”
Sometime after 2 p.m., Scott Ponder, his mother Beverly, his service manager and close friend Brian Lucas, and his mechanic, Chris Sherbert were all hard at work at the bike shop when someone gunned them down.
911: Where’s you’re emergency?
Noel Lee: It’s at, uh, Superbike Motorsports.
911: OK, and what’s the problem?
Noel Lee: Apparently, everybody’s been shot up here!
Four murders committed in a matter of seconds, ending, for Melissa, a picture-perfect marriage.
Melissa Ponder: I was happy, I was pregnant — sicker than a dog, but I was so excited about it.
Terry Guy was Scott’s stepfather. He lost Scott and his wife.
Terry Guy: Just a split second your whole world’s just turned completely upside down.
Lorraine and Tom Lucas lost their son, Brian.
Tom Lucas: I was real proud of him. …he was just a good person. And anybody that needed help and they asked him, he would do it.
Lorraine Lucas: He got married…had two children, two sons. He was a wonderful father. …And I have heard from people that they say he was the best mechanic around.
Early on in the investigation, a witness reported seeing a man in the bike shop not long before the murders. In his confession, Kohlhepp corroborated that part of the story saying he spared that witness because he was with his young son.
Todd Kohlhepp: I knew a guy came in with a kid looking for a go-cart and left.
Todd Kohlhepp: And I intentionally waited until they were gone
At the time, police thought it was strange that nothing had been taken from the bike shop. This was not a robbery gone bad, so police did what they always do: they focused on those closest to the victims.
Melissa Ponder: I was polygraphed. …And I was asked the very serious questions of, “Did you kill your husband, Scott Ponder? Did you plan the murder of your husband, Scott Ponder?”
Peter Van Sant: And your answers were always—
Melissa Ponder: Oh, absolutely not, no.
Seven months later, Melissa gave birth to a son.
Melissa Ponder: That birth overshadowed any type of … sadness that I had felt through this. I got to hold a piece of him again. I had his flesh and blood with me.
She named him Scotty, after his father.
Peter Van Sant: How long after the birth did — did the police come back?
Melissa Ponder: My son was six months old. And I get a phone call one day… “We need you to come down to the dealership. Don’t bring the baby with you. We need to talk to you.”
What Melissa didn’t know, is that police had gotten an anonymous tip that Scott was sterile. Police suspected Melissa was having an affair, and wanted Scott out of the picture.
Melissa Ponder: They proceeded to tell me that, “We took a diaper that you threw away here a couple weeks ago and sent it off to have a DNA test done.” … “Well, the problem is it doesn’t match up with your husband’s DNA.” I immediately said, No, way.”
Peter Van Sant: There’s no way, what?
Melissa Ponder: There’s no way that this is not my husband’s baby. There’s no way. And so I said, “I’m going to get my baby. …You will swab his mouth in front of me. I will watch you put it in that envelope. … I was just “No. no.”
Peter Van Sant: The notion is — a potential love triangle.
Melissa Ponder: For sure.
Peter Van Sant And a love triangle can create a motive for murder.
Melissa Ponder: Correct.
Peter Van Sant: And they’re wondering if you did the killing or if someone you know?
Melissa Ponder: Right.
Melissa was sure the second DNA test would prove Scott was the father. Incredibly, it did not.
Melissa Ponder: He said, “Melissa, we now have two DNA tests that show Scott Ponder is not the father of your baby. We need you to come clean. And we need you to tell us who the father is.” …And I said … “You’re trying to pin something on me that has nothing to do with me. This is his baby. …And I will have his body exhumed right now.”
That never happened. Police soon admitted that they got it wrong. The vial of blood they were testing against the baby’s DNA was mislabeled by another agency. Melissa was cleared, but it was too late — the damage was done.
Melissa Ponder: The rumors ran rampant … I cannot tell you the things that have been said about me. I know that Scott’s grandmother, who I thought I was close to, died … believing that that was not her own grandson.
The truth of what happened that day would not be revealed for 13 years, not until Todd Kohlhepp — in an even and unemotional tone — calmly laid out the horrifying details of how he slaughtered four people.
The fast and furious world of Superbike Motorsports was once the premiere pit stop for high-octane thrill seekers.
Noel Lee: Anytime I was off work, I would go up there. A lot of us went up there to hang out. …It was a good time, a really good time.
Noel Lee was a regular at the shop and became friends with Scott Ponder and Brian Lucas.
Noel Lee: Definitely my closest friends. …I would leave there on some days, I would say, “All right, guys. Love you guys.”
But on the afternoon of Nov. 6, 2003, when Noel Lee went to see his friends, he stumbled onto a horrifying, blood-soaked crime scene.
Noel Lee to 911: It’s at uh — Superbike Motorsports. … Apparently, everybody’s been shot up here! Everybody’s layin’ down in a pool of blood. His momma’s been shot. The mechanic’s been shot.
Lee is still haunted by the memories of what happened.
Noel Lee: I know it doesn’t look like much now, but back in 2003 this was the place you wanted to be. …This is supposed to be a safe place
Everything changed when Kala Brown was found chained inside that container. After her capture and Todd Kohlhepp’s arrest, he unraveled for police his murderous career —. Showing no emotion, he told detectives the story of what happened that day.
It all began, Kohlhepp says, after he bought a motorcycle he admits he could not ride. He says he went back and asked the store’s employees for help.
Todd Kohlhepp: And told them that I was having a hard time riding it. And I was trying to see if I could possibly trade it in for a smaller bike. They proceeded to give me … on the rude side about, uh, my inability to — to ride that kind of bike. No one ever taught me.
Days later, the motorcycle was stolen and Kohlhepp felt someone at the Superbike shop was involved.
Todd Kohlhepp: It was implied that “we took your s—t.”
After his arrest, Kohlhepp told his mother the experience left him feeling humiliated.
Regina Tague: And they made fun of him. …And they laughed at him. Made jokes at him. …he was hurt.
On a quiet afternoon in 2003, Kohlhepp sought revenge. Kohlhepp picked out a bike to buy and, when the mechanic went into a back room to prepare it, Kohlhepp followed him and pulled a Beretta from his shoulder holster.
Detective: So you pulled out the Beretta and what happened?
Todd Kohlhepp: Shot the mechanic twice. Downward angle. I got him two lung — two lung shots.
Todd Kohlhepp: I got each lung. They had heard the gunshots in the back and were coming this way to figure out what had happened. All of a sudden I had three people in front of me. Mom was the closest and I shot her two, three times in the chest. Not my best work. She fell. The –the owner and the manager ran for the door. Took off in the process of that.
Detective: Mmm hmm.
Todd Kohlhepp: I emptied — popped a few rounds and got one of them in the back and he crumpled in the door. Did a tactical reload and dropped the other one before he got out the door. I put, I believe two, maybe three rounds in him, I’m not sure of the count. That was a very fast reload [laughs].
After Kohlhepp’s confession, Melissa Ponder got a phone call at her Arizona home from one of the detectives involved in the original case. He told Melissa about the arrest and said Kohlhepp had revealed a key detail only the killer would know. Kohlhepp admitted firing a single bullet into the forehead of each of his victims:
Todd Kohlhepp: I proceeded to walk back in the building again to clear and as I went … I put one round in each person’s forehead.
Peter Van Sant: After all those years, you are finally told who murdered your husband.
Melissa Ponder: Right. And it’s somebody that didn’t even ring a bell with me. Never even heard of the guy.
In fact, police knew the name “Todd Kohlhepp” for years. Because he had been a customer, investigators had sent Kohlhepp a form letter in 2013 asking him to come forward if he had any information about the Superbike murders. That letter was one of hundreds of pages of documents in the case file released in June 2017.
Sheriff Chuck Wright: There was no reason to interview everybody. There was nothing in this gentleman’s background that screamed, “I did this.”
But that infuriates Scott Ponder’s stepfather, Terry Guy.
Terry Guy: … the sad part about it is, you know, had they thoroughly checked every person on it … they might’ve helped however many people this gentleman’s killed in the last 13 years.
Days after his arrest, Todd Kohlhepp was formally charged with the Superbike homicides. And for the first time, Tom and Lorraine Lucas came face to face with their son’s killer.
Tom Lucas: I was expecting probably to see somebody that had tattoos, and earrings, and, you know, just mean looking, and so forth. And … I was just — just staring at him, thinking, “I just don’t get it.”
There’s a lot about Todd Kohlhepp people just don’t get. He seems different somehow. After all, most murderers don’t make casual jokes about killing their victims.
Todd Kohlhepp: My golf game was weak. My kill game is strong. [laughs].
Despite all the confessions, Kohlhepp still needed to be heard in a court of law. And he was up front when asked what a fitting end to his story might be:
Detective: I mean all joking aside, all kidding, what do you want?
Todd Kohlhepp: Take me out back, shoot me in the back of the head.
In the hours he spent confessing to detectives, Todd Kohlhepp remained remarkably candid — even when he showed police where he buried his victims.
Detective: Up there at the spot where you took Charlie … there were two holes dug.
Todd Kohlhepp: Mmm hmm.
Detective: What was your intent with the second hole?
Todd Kohlhepp: Hadn’t decided yet.
Detective: Was that possibly for Kala?
Todd Kohlhepp: Yes, sir.
Kohlhepp even told Kala he had already picked out his next victim.
Kala Brown [in the ambulance]: Some girl named Holly, he’s supposedly planning to kill if he can ever get her and her boyfriend out.
There was really only one way to describe Todd Kohlhepp.
David Begnaud: Your son is the definition of what’s known as a serial killer.
Regina Tague: I hate that.
David Begnaud: Do you think he’ll plead guilty or not guilty?
Regina Tague: He’ll plead guilty. Because he knows he did it.
And so, seven months after his arrest, on May 29 2017, Todd Kohlhepp stood before Judge J. Derham Cole.
Judge J. Derham Cole: Do you wish to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to these charges?
Todd Kohlhepp: Guilty, sir
In the quiet South Carolina courtroom, the moment felt like a dry legal matter, but, in truth, the soft-spoken Todd Kohlhepp had just admitted killing Charlie Carver, Kala’s boyfriend; Johnny Joe Coxie and his wife, Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie, and the four people at the Superbike Motorsports store: owner Scott Ponder, his mother, Beverly, service manager Brian Lucas, and mechanic Chris Sherbert.
In the end, Todd Kohlhepp bargained for his own life. He would escape the death penalty in exchange for, as well as the kidnapping and rape charges related to Kala Brown. He was given seven consecutive life sentences plus 60 years. The man who laughed during his confession showed no remorse even when the families of his victims poured into the courtroom to make their victim impact statements.
Father of Meagan Coxie: I hope Mr. Kohlhepp will spend every day for the rest of his life thinking about the pain and suffering he has caused so many people.
Kala Brown was not in the courtroom, but Melissa Ponder was.
Melissa Ponder: I don’t have a hatred towards him. The only thing that comes to mind for me, is I’m sad. I’m sad that his life has been something that has led to these different events that has caused so much trauma to other people.
Her greatest love is for her son Scotty, the young boy who was born after his father was murdered. Scotty watched as Kohlhepp got the sentence that even he had wished for.
Scotty Ponder: I hope he’ll be in jail for the rest of his life than die. I just don’t want any more people to die.
The question of whether Kohlhepp killed others is an open one. There is nothing to indicate there are other victims, but Sheriff Chuck Wright said in court he has not closed that door.
Sheriff Chuck Wright: I vow to you that we will continue to search for other people who need and deserve closure.
As for Kala Brown, she is recovering and she told Dr. Phil she is a survivor.
Dr. Phil McGraw: If he’s watching this right now, what do you have to say to him?
Kala Brown: I would just tell him that no matter what he did to me, he did not break me. He cannot destroy who I am and I won.
There was no relief for Todd Kohlhepp’s 70-year-old mother. She had told “48 Hours” that his killing spree made her heartsick.
David Begnaud: What do you wanna say to the families?
Regina Tague: That I know how bad they’ve hurt all this time. And they’ve all lost someone they love so dearly. And I am so sorry that it was my son that hurt them.
without ever having to watch her son stand before the families of his victims and admit the unthinkable.
Regina Tague: There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t change it. I wish to God I could. For them as much as me and Todd … Everybody’s hurt. He hurt everybody.
Todd Kohlhepp was not allowed to attend his mother’s funeral
In a letter to a local newspaper Kohlhepp claims he killed more than seven people. The FBI says it’s investigating.