She Was Missing For Months. But When Police Finally Found Her, They Learned the Horrible Truth
1. A Quick Cleaning Job
It was supposed to just be a simple cleaning job. Kala Brown, 30, and her boyfriend Charles David Carver went to clean the house of a successful South Carolina real estate agent. It seemed like a quick and easy way to make extra money and so the pair set off.
It was August 31, 2016 when they arrived at Kohlhepp’s home in Moore, South Carolina. The property was gorgeous, surrounded by acres of beautiful forest. However, this simple cleaning job soon turned sinister.
2. Strange Facebook Posts
The day came and went, yet Brown and Carver were nowhere to be found. They were very close with their families and not the kind of people who would just disappear. Right away, their loved ones reported them missing to police. But then Carver’s Facebook became active all of a sudden.
On Carver’s Facebook, there were posts saying that he and Kala got married and moved away. The posts said they didn’t want contact with anyone. Their families didn’t believe that. It was obvious that this was not written by the real Charlie Carver.
3. Romeo Alone
After Carver’s mother hadn’t heard from him in days, which was unusual since they spoke every day, she called the apartment complex in which he lived with Brown to ask if she could check the apartment. What she found was unsettling.
She found the couple’s beloved Pomeranian, Romeo, inside without food or water. Brown’s mother told Dateline, “That dog is her baby. She’d never leave him like that.” That is what made the Facebook messages even more unbelievable.
4. The Search Begins
After the police were contacted about Brown and Carver going missing, they immediately opened an investigation. However, there was hardly any information to work with because everything at their house seemed normal. It was clear, though, that something was very wrong.
Brown and Carver’s families tried their best to help the search efforts and quickly put up fliers all around town. They also created a Facebook page to bring attention to their missing loved ones in the hope that someone could provide more details on what was going on.
5. Follow the Phone Signal
Police scoured Kala Brown’s cell phone records from AT&T, hoping it would provide her last known location. It took them quite some time to obtain the search warrant, get the records themselves, and then analyze them. This proved to be an incredibly useful tactic, however.
The cell phone signals didn’t point directly to spot but rather to a certain area. From there, the police did some research about the properties in the area to make a guess as to where Brown and Carver could have gone.
6. Which Property Was It?
Fortunately, police were able to track Brown’s cell phone signal to one particular property, that of real estate agent by the name of Todd Kohlhepp, who owned 95-acres of land. The vast swath of land was bordered by a tall fence. He clearly did not want visitors.
The investigators soon discovered that the real estate agent had a criminal background too. So they started at this property since it seemed like the most unusual one. Nobody knew what they would find upon arriving at the property but everyone was hoping for the best.
7. The Kohlhepp Estate
Before police got their search warrant for Kohlhepp’s property, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office surveyed the area from above with a helicopter. They eventually decided it would be better to search on foot. On November 3, 2016, officers finally were able to descended on the vast property to look for Brown and Carver.
They began searching through the woods, looking for any strange clues on the ground. But soon after they arrived, they suddenly heard banging noises from in the middle of the forest. Despite all their years in the field, nothing could have prepared them for the sight they were about to see.
8. A Strange Sight in the Forest
The police investigators followed the noise until it led them to a large shipping container among the trees and next to a small cabin. It was an odd thing to find in nature. The banging noises continued frantically. There must be something or someone
If not for the noise, investigators might not have noticed that the shipping container was there. It was painted green to blend in with the trees. It was apparent that Kohlhepp had something inside that he wanted nobody to ever find.
9. Cracking It Open
The officers who searched Kohlhepp’s property wore body cameras as they went, so every moment of the chilling search operation was filmed. The shipping container was heavily lock up and they had to saw off the lock to pry it open.
They pried the doors open and the police officers slowly entered the dark container, guns ready to shoot. They may have been prepared to find drugs, weapons or even an attack animal. But not what they found next.
10. Chained Up Like a Dog
Police slowly entered the dark, stale air of the shipping container. At the end of it was Kala Brown, who had been missing for two months at this point. She was chained to the wall by her neck and ankle. She was so scared that she had her hands up in the air as they shined flashlights on her.
They quickly cut her free using bolt cutters. Although she was finally free physically now, it was obvious that she had gone through a severe amount of trauma. Before they took her to the hospital, police asked her where her boyfriend was. They were about to open a Pandora’s Box of horrors.
11. Private Sex Lair
For two months, Brown was chained up like an animal in a dark 30-by-15 foot container with only a bed and some buckets. Kohlhepp kept Kala Brown as his personal sex slave and in the container, he would rape her almost every day.
She said that he would randomly come in during the day and do whatever he wanted with her sexually. As you can imagine, at first, Brown was reluctant to reveal what Kohlhepp did to her but, it would prove necessary to the case.
12. Daily Life in the Dark
Kohlhepp provided Brown with food, a bucket to use as a toilet and some water bottles. Occasionally, he would let her outside to get some sunlight and to walk around. Yet, Brown spent the majority of her two months in the dark, chained up, and without anything to do.
In an interview with Kohlhepp’s mother, Regina Tague, she said her son was not a monster and that he made sure the girl was comfortable. By comfortable, she means he fed her daily and clothed her. The mother didn’t comment on the chain.
13. Carver’s Fate
Despite obviously having just gone through two months of unimaginable horrors, Brown was eager to help police right away and divulge everything she knew. When they asked about her boyfriend, she told them exactly what happened. She told it without point blank without any sugar coating.
“Todd Kohlhepp shot Charlie Carver three times in the chest, wrapped him in a blue tarp, put him in the bucket of the tractor, locked me down here,” she told police. “I’ve never seen him again. He says he’s dead and buried. He says there are several bodies dead and buried out here.” As it turned, this was just the beginning of a horrifying tale.
14. A Kind Man
When Carver went missing, his parents spoke with the media about their beloved son. His mother, Joanne Shiflet, said “He could bring a smile to the saddest person. He loved to laugh. He loved making people laugh. He was a hard worker. He loved his little sister.”
His father Chuck said, “He never hurt anybody … he would give you the shirt off his back or the last two dollars in his pocket. That was just the guy he was.” Everyone was confounded as to how this sweet happy person would all of a sudden be so mean on Facebook and disappear.
15. Watching Him Die
According to Brown, shortly after arriving at the large property near Moore, South Carolina, Kohlhepp shot Carver. Brown watched her boyfriend die in front of her but couldn’t do anything to save him. According to Kohlhepp’s mother, he killed Carver “because [Carver] got nasty and got smart-mouthed.”
His mother said he kept the girl because she saw him kill Carver and didn’t know what else to do. While Brown’s family was happy to find their daughter alive, Carver’s now had to deal with the heartbreaking news that their son was dead.
16. More Murders
While Brown was in captivity, Kohlhepp revealed to her a slew of other crimes he had committed as a way to threaten her. She immediately relayed everything she knew to police. The police now realized they had a serial killer on their hands.
According to Brown, Kohlhepp showed her three graves on the property saying if she tried to escape, he would kill and bury her just like he did with those people. He told her a lot about his killings to instill fear and he wasn’t bluffing.
17. Two Bodies Found
After Brown informed them that Kohlhepp had killed and buried other people on his property, the search widened. Although the police started their investigation only looking for Brown and Carver, they ended up uncovering other bodies as well.
First, they found Carver’s body in a shallow grave. As they kept digging, they came across two other bodies as well. Since Brown told them that Kohlhepp confessed to her that he killed a married couple, the officers figured it could very well be another couple that had gone missing the year before.
18. Johnny Joe Coxie and Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie case could now be closed
In December 2015, 29-year-old Johnny Coxie and 26-year-old Leigh McCraw-Coxie from Spartanburg, South Carolina were hired by Kohlhepp to work on his property. They were soon reported missing. Thanks to Kohlhepp’s confession to Brown, police were able to find their bodies buried underneath Charlie Carver’s. The coroner confirmed it was them through their many tattoos.
It turns out that Coxie was killed by a gunshot wound to the head and McCraw-Coxie was killed in a similar way a week later. Kohlhepp said he killed her after she tried to escape by burning a hole through the container with cigarettes. However gruesome, Kohlhepp carried out many other murders like this.
19. Murder at the Motorcycle Shop
Todd Kohlhepp’s murderous rage was not just confined to his private property. On November 6, 2003, four employees at a motorcycle shop were shot and killed. The murderer was unknown for 13 years until Brown told police that Kohlhepp confessed to being behind it all.
Kohlhepp’s mother said he killed the employees of Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee, South Carolina because they had made fun of him when he tried to return a motorcycle he had bought. Two of his victims were a mother and son. How did Kohlhepp react when confronted by police about all this?
20. Pure Denial
After Brown was found in the container, Kohlhepp was immediately arrested and charged with kidnapping. He refused to cooperate with the officers and flat out denied shooting Carver. The police had to search all over the massive property without any clue, since he wouldn’t cooperate.
The officer told Kohlhepp: “I’m trying to give you an opportunity to help yourself and help us and help you find this body because she’s saying you buried Charlie’s body on that property,” but Kohlhepp wanted an attorney present.
21. Quick Confessions
After many long interrogation sessions, the truth was finally coming out. Todd Kohlhepp confessed to killing seven people: the four motorcycle shop workers, Coxie and McCraw-Coxie, and finally, Carver. He also confessed to raping Kala Brown and keeping her hostage.
Both he and his mother said he killed no one else. However, during the interrogation, Kohlhepp said he also killed a man in Arizona when he was 14 but couldn’t remember the specific details. The officers looked into the claim but it only turned up a dead end. What drove this real estate agent to such gruesome crimes?
22. Making a Murderer
On March 7, 1971, a baby boy was brought into this world in Florida. He grew up in South Carolina and Georgia after his parents divorced when he was two years old. It seemed to have a big impact on his life, especially when his mother got custody of him and remarried only a year later.
Kohlhepp didn’t have a good relationship with his stepfather and wanted nothing more than to live with his real father. By the time he was only in nursery school, he was already exhibiting signs that he was a troubled child.
23. An Aggressive Child
Even as early as nursery school, Kohlhepp was an aggressive child and did not get along well with others. This continued well until elementary school and his teenage years. Hee would constantly destroy property and other student’s things. He even destroyed his own room with a hammer and shredded his clothes. It was as if he was angry 100% of the time and didn’t know how to manage it.
Kohlhepp didn’t limit his aggressive tendencies to inanimate objects. He was also said to harm animals as he cloroxed a gold fish and shot a dog with a BB gun. He was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for his anger.
24. Obsession With Sex
It shouldn’t be surprising that this troubled kid was eventually sent to see a counselor to help him work through his problems. What was shocking was that Kohlhepp couldn’t be helped. He started intensive therapy sessions at the age of nine but the young boy kept on being angry.
Was it just the divorce that affected him so deeply or was it something else? This question was never answered. In court, the judge read the counselor’s report which stated: “he was ‘explosive’ and ‘preoccupied with sexual content.” That should have been an early sign of what Kohlhepp would grow up to become.
25. The Hospital
Since counseling wasn’t working and the young Kohlhepp couldn’t get along with other children, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Georgia. He would spend three and a half months there but it didn’t seem to help calm the angry child down. In fact, it probably made him angrier. He still hated his stepfather, who eventually adopted him, and his mother didn’t know how to control her only child.
Even the therapist was at a loss over what to do. In his file, the therapist wrote that “Twenty-five months of the most intensive and expensive professional intervention, short of God’s, will provide no protection for the public and no rehabilitation of this juvenile.” Kohlhepp seemed like a lost cause.
26. A Big Move
In 1982, when Kohlhepp was 12-years-old, his mother Regina split up from her second husband. She said it was due to marital problems but it makes one wonder if her son had anything to do with it, considering he hated his stepfather so much.
Regina thought that maybe his anger came from not knowing his biological father so she sent Kohlhepp to go live with him over the summer. His father was William Sampsell, a military veteran. He had been absent from his son’s life for eight years. Instead of making the situation better, living his Sampsell only made things worse.
27. Dedicated to Dad
For someone fueled with so much anger, one would think he would be upset with his father for abandoning him. The opposite was true. When he went to go live with him that summer in Arizona, he admired his father, especially his love for guns. He even started going by Todd Sampsell, which was his birth name before his stepfather adopted him.
William Sampsell was not the father figure he needed, though. Kohlhepp returned to his mother at the end of the summer but all he wanted to do was go back to live with his father. He even threatened to kill himself or her if she didn’t let him go.
28. A Dangerous Way to Bond
Although we aren’t 100% sure of Sampsell’s military status and no one has been in contact with him since the convictions, he is said to have been a special forces soldier, mercenary, and arms dealer. Through him, Kohlhepp learned about weapons and started a hobby collecting them.
Apparently, the father and son shared this hobby and bonded over it. Kohlhepp said that Sampsell also taught him how to “blow things up and make bombs.” Whether this is true or not it is frightening to think that the troubled boy knows how to do this.
29. Growing Hatred
Regina eventually caved and allowed her son to go live permanently with William in Arizona. She did have a marriage that she needed to work on and it would be easier without her enraged son around. Kohlhepp’s life started going well with his father and he got a job as a dishwasher and busboy at his father’s restaurant Billy’s Famous For Ribs.
Yet, he soon grew angry again. He didn’t like how his father wasn’t always around and had a lot of girlfriends. Despite liking him in the beginning, Kohlhepp soon grew to hate him too and wanted to go home to his mother.
30. Missing Mom?
After Kohlhepp couldn’t stand living with his father anymore, he called up his mother and asked if he could come live with her again. You would think she would want her son back but she didn’t want to strain her on-the-rocks marriage.
Regina Tague said that Kohlhepp “wanted her all to himself” and would purposely try to end her marriage with his stepfather. She simply made excuses as to why he should stay in Arizona. If only Regina knew what would happen if her son stayed in Arizona with a father that didn’t watch over him very well. In fact, he was away when the incident happened.
31. The First Rape
When Kohlhepp was only 15 years old, he lured a local girl his age into his home at gunpoint, tied her hand’s and put tape over her mouth. Kohlhepp then raped her. Sampsell claimed that he was away in Nebraska for a business trip when the assault took place.
A friend of Sampsell was supposed to check in but never did. After the rape, Kohlhepp took the girl home and threatened her that if she ever told anyone what he did, he would kill her siblings. Luckily for her, someone else called the police but Kohlhepp didn’t seem to care.
32. Heartless Reaction
When the police arrived at his house to question him, they found him inside pointing a rifle at the ceiling. He didn’t run or pretend to be innocent. Instead, he simply asked an officer, “how much time am I going to get for this?” It was almost like he wanted to be imprisoned.
When police asked him why he kidnapped and raped the girl, he said it was because he was angry at his father. A neighbor described him as being starved for affection and attention and referred to him as “a devil on a chain.” He would certainly get attention later in life but for the wrong reasons.
33. Personality Disorder
Considering he was 15-years-old and had been mentally unstable for most of his life, he underwent a lot of psychiatric treatment and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It was said he had a deep emotional disturbance and that “he generally feels he should be in control,” which is why he rebels against authority figures.
A psychologist who evaluated him said he needed “confrontation over and over again regarding his aggressive behavior and needs to take responsibility for his aggressive behaviors.” But that’s not easy. This diagnosis would still be true 30 years later when he was convicted of worse crimes.
34. Years in Prison
Despite the fact that he was only 15-years-old, Kohlhepp was tried as an adult for the kidnapping and raping of his neighbor because there was nothing childlike about him and he showed no remorse. A deal was made, though, where Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to kidnapping but the sexual assault charges were dropped, which a lot of people thought wasn’t fair.
He was sentenced to 15 years without possibility of parole. During those 15 years in adult prison, he had seven violations recorded, most of which were for fighting or for disobeying orders. When Kohlhepp was released, he was not a changed man.
35. Released from Prison
When he was released from prison in 2001, he was 30 years old and didn’t even have a driver’s license. He moved back to the area where his mother lived in South Carolina but got his own place. He was placed on the government’s sex offender registry but managed to get a real estate license after he lied on his application and no background check was administered.
Kohlhepp actually became the top-selling agent in the Carolina region. Lying his way through employment seemed to work well for him and he started making a decent amount of money. Yet, strange things kept happening in the area since he moved back.
36. A Life of Seclusion
This should have been a sign that he was hiding something or doing something suspicious. In 2007, Kohlhepp bought a house that came with almost 100 acres of land for $137,500 near Moore, South Carolina. From there, he ran his own real estate business.
He made his home even more private by spending $80,000 to build a tall fence all around the entire property. He had neighbors but he didn’t interact with them often and Kohlhepp made it very clear he wanted his privacy.
37. Strange Purchases
After Kayla Brown was rescued and Kohlhepp admitted to the crimes, an investigation ensued to discover more about him. His Amazon account showed purchases for padlocks, tactical gear, targets, knives, gun accessories, and even books about snipers and emergency war surgery.
The investigation into his Amazon account showed that he had left chilling comments on a number of products. For example, on a review of a Master padlock, he wrote that he put the lock on a shipping container but it “won’t stop them.” The writing style matched Kohlhepp’s posts on Facebook.
38. Active on Facebook
While his Facebook account has long been deactivated by the police, his unsettling posts live on and show how creepy he was. In one post about bad drivers, he wrote that “We need Ebola to come as a huge snowstorm, wipe out half the population, then melt away….”
In the days after Kala Brown went missing, Kohlhepp was very much active and even mentioned that usually when people go missing, it is a misunderstanding. It is a shame that no one saw the truth behind these posts. Maybe then, Kala Brown could have been saved sooner.
39. Bragging About Murder
Once they finally arrested Kohlhepp after rescuing Kala Brown, he failed to show remorse for his crimes. Rather, he bragged about how smart he was with his crimes, especially the motorcycle shop murder spree. He told the interrogator, “That was one big building. I cleared that building in under 30 seconds. I’m sorry, but you guys would have been proud.”
Apparently, he got away with the crime because he concealed his finger prints with gloves. Furthermore, Kohlhepp said he threw away the gun in different trash bins and then put the gun’s barrel in cat litter. Unfortunately, these methods had worked at keeping his identity hidden.
40. Linking the Crimes
After the motorcycle murder case was finally closed and Kohlhepp was named the sole culprit, he was charged with four counts of murder. Next, he was charged with one count of kidnapping in regards to the imprisonment of Kala Brown.
A while later, he was also charged with the murders of Coxie, McCraw-Coxie, and Carver. In addition, he was handed another kidnapping charge and three counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He is being represented by South Carolina Capital Indigent Defense lawyer Shane Goranson.
41. Getting Sued
The murder charges for Todd Kohlhepp were apparently not enough of a punishment. When the police told Melissa Ponder Brackman, whose husband was murdered at the motorcycle shop, they finally found the killer, she wanted even more justice for her husband and putting the killer behind bars wasn’t enough.
Brackman, along with relatives of the three other victims, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kohlhepp for murdering the employees of Superbike Motorsports in 2003 in Chesnee. In addition, Kala Brown filed a separate civil lawsuit against him. One thing was for sure: The people who had been wronged by him wanted to see him suffer.
42. Locked Up for Good
Todd Kohlhepp’s trial took a long time but the final court session and sentencing happened on May 26, 2017. That was when he was found guilty of seven counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of criminal sexual assault.
The court gave him seven consecutive life sentences without parole but ruled that he will not get the death penalty. Kohlhepp struck a deal where he would plead guilty if they took the death penalty off the table.
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