Captive’s rescue leads to break in grisly quadruple slaying
CHESNEE, S.C. >> For 13 years, the relatives came together periodically to grieve one of South Carolina’s grisliest mass shootings and compare leads with stumped investigators.
On Sunday, they gathered again on the anniversary of the crime — this time in a Spartanburg courtroom after an unexpected break led to the man who, authorities say, confessed to the quadruple slayings.
The victims’ relatives sat a few feet away from Todd Kohlhepp as he was denied bond on the murder charges. It was their first chance to face the man accused of killing their loved ones.
After the hearing, Magistrate Judge Jimmy Henson thanked the families for their civility and composure.
“I know there’s a lot of hurt ... beyond what a lot of people understand,” he said.
Authorities have charged Kohlhepp, 45, with four counts of murder in the 2003 deaths at the Superbike Motorsports motorcycle shop in Chesnee.
Kohlhepp’s alleged role in those killings was uncovered, authorities said, after a woman was found last week chained in a locked metal container on Kohlhepp’s property in rural Woodruff.
The murder charges against Kohlhepp represent welcome progress for investigators and families haunted by the slayings at the motorcycle shop. The killings shocked the state and left the victims’ parents and spouses reeling with each new rumor about a possible motive.
“We got ‘em today. We got ‘em today,” Sheriff Chuck Wright said late Saturday, referring to answers in the cold case. “I’m rejoicing that this community can know that four people who were brutally murdered, there’s no wondering about it anymore,” said Wright, who was first elected to the position about a year after the quadruple slayings.
A Spartanburg County Sheriff’s investigative report from Saturday says Kohlhepp “confessed to investigators that he shot and killed” the owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper of the motorcycle shop, giving details only the killer would know.
Kohlhepp is also charged with the woman’s kidnapping, and prosecutors say more charges are expected.
Officers are making more grisly discoveries as they unwind a hidden crime spree that unfolded over more than a decade.
The investigation has expanded to other properties that Kohlhepp, a real estate agent, either currently or used to own. Those properties are not limited to South Carolina, Wright said Sunday, declining to be more specific.
Both the FBI and Homeland Security are involved, he said.
Kohlhepp showed investigators Saturday where he says he buried two other victims on his 95-acre property near Woodruff. Human remains were uncovered Sunday at one of those sites, Wright said.
“We’re not even close” on identifying the remains or cause of death, he said. “We can’t tell anything.”
Kohlhepp did not tell investigators who was buried there. Even if he did, investigators can’t take that as identification, the sheriff said.
The excavation of that grave and search for others continues Monday.
The gravesites Kohlhepp pointed to are in addition to the body found Friday at the site. Authorities identified that victim as 32-yearold Charles Carver, the boyfriend of the woman found Thursday. Carver died of multiple gunshot wounds after he and the woman went missing at the end of August.
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.
In Spartanburg, Kohlhepp appeared in an orange jumpsuit for the brief bond hearing and declined to make a statement. He didn’t have an attorney.
After Kohlhepp left the courtroom, Henson told the family members that they would have a chance later to address Kohlhepp in court.
“When it comes your time to speak to that defendant, speak from the heart,” he said. “You have something to say. You’ve been waiting 13 years to say it.”
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.”
Standing with his wife 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.
JoAnn McKinney, a local resident, prepares a cross Sunday on the fence of Todd Kohlhepp’s property in Woodruff, S.C. Authorities have charged Kohlhepp, 45, with four counts of murder in the deaths of four people in 2003 at the Superbike Motorsports motorcycle shop.