For several seconds, the only sound in the video is of someone sawing intently at a locked metal storage container in the middle of a wooded area.
Moments later, several men try to pry open the doors with a crowbar. In the background, a dog barks. A police radio crackles.
When the doors finally swing open, the men march into the dark container, declaring they’re from the sheriff’s office. One brandishes a gun.
“Just the girl, just the girl!” an officer shouts from the back. “How are you, honey?”
Soon, the camera captures a chilling sight: a thin woman sitting on a mattress, nearly motionless. She’s chained to the wall by her neck.
The footage, released Friday by prosecutors in South Carolina, shows for the first time the tense rescue last November of Kala Brown, who told authorities she had been kept chained and locked for two months inside the metal storage container in rural Woodruff, S.C.
Brown had gone to the property in August with her boyfriend, Charles “David” Carver, intending to do cleaning work for its owner, real estate agent Todd Christopher Kohlhepp. What she couldn’t have known then is that their visit would end in tragedy and eventually lead to Kohlhepp’s arrest — and the unveiling of his dark and violent history as a serial killer.
Brown and Carver were reported missing on Aug. 31, 2016, triggering an agonizing search by their family and friends. Eventually, cellphone and social media records led authorities to Kohlhepp’s Woodruff property. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, an “obviously traumatized” Brown screamed for help from inside the large metal container, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said, according to WYFF.
That’s when they began their rescue attempt.
In the newly released video, officers explain to Brown that paramedics are there to rescue her, as she explains in a small voice that the chain around her neck is attached to the wall.
“Do you know where your buddy is?” one officer asks, referring to Carver.
“Charlie? He shot him,” Brown says.
“Who did?” the officer asks.
Brown replies with a sudden torrent of words: “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. I’ve never seen him again,” she says. “He says he’s dead and buried. He says there are several bodies dead and buried out here, and he says that the dogs will be ruined if they go looking because there’s red pepper.”
In their search of the 95-acre property, investigators discovered a body buried in a shallow grave, which was identified as Carver’s.
Last week, prosecutors also released video of Kohlhepp talking to investigators after his arrest. In those videos, an emotionless Kohlhepp confesses — and at times even seems to brag — about killing seven other people in South Carolina, including four people in 2003 at a motorcycle shop in Chesnee, S.C. The “Superbike murders,” the county’s first quadruple homicide, had remained unsolved for nearly 13 years.
“You know we want to talk to you about Superbikes,” one investigator told him in the video, referring to the murders that had taken place at the small, family-owned Superbike Motorsports in 2003.
Kohlhepp, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, responded that he would prefer to recount the murders out loud, rather than in writing, according to the video. Kohlhepp proceeded to recount in detail how he had shot to death 30-year-old shop owner Scott Ponder; Ponder’s 52-year-old mother, Beverly Guy; shop foreman Brian Lucas, 29; and mechanic Chris Sherbert, 26. All had been killed in the afternoon on what had been a Thursday.
“They had heard the gunshots in the back and were coming this way to figure out what had happened,” Kohlhepp told investigators. “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 son and the manager … ran for the door, took off. … At that range, they should have ran to me, not away.”
Kohlhepp told investigators he “got one in the back and he crumpled to the floor.” After reloading his gun, he said he killed another person from the store “before he got out the door.” That person died in the parking lot, Kohlhepp said.
“That was one big building. I cleared that building in under 30 seconds,” Kohlhepp told investigators. “I’m sorry, but you guys would have been proud.”
Kohlhepp said he didn’t remember if any of his victims said anything to him.
“I will tell you that once I engaged, I was engaged,” Kohlhepp said. “It was almost like a video game. It’s not a game. … You’ve been there, sir, you know what I’m talking about.”
He also described taking apart his gun after the murders and discarding it in pieces in different trash bags, including dumping one part in used cat litter.
According to the Associated Press, Kohlhepp also killed Johnny Coxie, 29, and Leigh McCraw-Coxie, 26, in December 2015, after he lured them to his property to do work.
In additional interrogation footage, Kohlhepp told investigators that he shot Coxie twice in the chest and was conflicted about “what to do” with McCraw-Coxie. He told her he wasn’t going to harm her, then handcuffed her and locked her in the back of the metal storage container.
Kohlhepp said he “fed her for a couple days” but that McCraw-Coxie kept trying to burn things inside the container. He eventually killed her, too, he said.
“Every other d— day, she wanted Little Caesars pizza. I hate that s—. It only gives me heartburn,” Kohlhepp said. “Little Caesars pizza … Dr Pepper, cinnamon rolls and freaking Newports. If you go down to that building, you’ll find an unused package of Newports that I bought for her. And then she went bats—. She tried to light my d— building on fire.”
The gruesome confessions were a stark contrast to Kohlhepp’s professional image. Kohlhepp portrayed himself as a dedicated and tech-savvy Realtor who ran his own South Carolina real estate firm.
“At Todd Kohlhepp & Associates we feel that it’s important for our clients to know a little more about who’s working for them besides a name and number,” read the first part of his bio in a company brochure. Beneath it was a picture of Kohlhepp dressed in a pinstripe suit, smiling broadly, next to a list of his business qualifications. He boasted that he was a licensed pilot and that his company had “One Focus … Results!”
But there was no mention of Kohlhepp’s criminal history and why he was a registered sex offender.
Kohlhepp, 46, pleaded guilty to 14 charges last month, a deal made to avoid the death penalty, and received seven consecutive life sentences, according to the Anderson Independent Mail.
“There are no other victims,” Kohlhepp’s attorney, Shane Gorenson, said, according to the newspaper. “Mr. Kohlhepp has come clean.”