Friends put missing posters up around the small town of Anderson, South Carolina. Loved ones started social media campaigns and the community were all on the lookout as they went about their daily business.
Young couple Kala Brown and Charles Carver had vanished, and there were no clues. They’d only been dating seriously a few months but had moved in together and were planning a future.
Hardworking Charles, 32, who operated a printer at a local business, hadn’t long separated from his wife when he met Kala, 30, and was in the midst of a divorce.
The pair were in love and determined to build a life together. But since August 31, 2016, no one had seen either of them. Kala had left her beloved Pomeranian dog in their apartment with no food or water, Charles’ car was missing and he hadn’t taken any clothes.
Everyone was worried – until there was activity on Charles’ Facebook page. It said the couple were fine and they’d bought a house. It even suggested they had married. But relief quickly turned to disgust when it became clear it wasn’t Charles updating his status.
The grammar and spelling were unlike him – and there was no way they would have gone through such major events without telling family, especially as Charles was not even divorced from his first wife.
The cryptic messages made everyone even more concerned. Was the person responsible for their disappearance going online and pretending to be Charles? It would be two months before there was more news.
Police traced the last known signals of the couple’s mobile phones. It led them to a property owned by a respected local estate agent, Todd Kohlhepp. This made sense. Kala did cleaning work for his business and Charles had likely gone along. It turned out that Kala was due on the isolated 93-acre land in Woodruff around the time she disappeared. Officers went to investigate.
They found Charles’ car in a ravine near the property, covered with bushes, like someone was trying to hide it. Then they heard banging coming from a padlocked metal storage container on the land. When they opened it, they were stunned at what they found.
Inside was Kala chained by the neck inside a cage. She was terrified – but alive. Kala said that Todd had kept her in there since he’d abducted her two months earlier. He’d only allow her out occasionally for fresh air, but then he’d drag her to what looked like graves, and warned her if she tried to escape, that’s where she’d end up. Kala had been fed just once a day – and she said he’d raped her, too.
Kala had been found alive. But where was Charles? Sadly, it wasn’t good news. Kala told police that she’d been forced to watch Todd shoot her boyfriend dead. They’d gone there to do cleaning, but Todd shot Charles several times in the chest, then chained Kala up and held her captive.
Police found Todd at his nearby home and arrested him. As the shocking news that Charles was dead and Kala alive spread across the community, everyone was stunned that Todd was the one responsible.
He was well respected, single, drove an expensive car and even held a pilot’s licence. But once he was arrested, Todd started to make ever more startling revelations. It seemed he had been a dark figure in plain sight.
When questioned by police, he revealed that there were three bodies buried on his land. One was Charles and the other two bodies belonged to Johnny Coxie and his wife Meagan. They’d vanished a year earlier in December 2015.
Meagan, 26, and Johnny, 29, had also been hired to do work on Todd’s property. Johnny had been shot dead a week before Meagan. Had she been held captive in the container, too?
But Todd hadn’t finished confessing. He claimed he was responsible for an infamous unsolved cold case that was 13 years old and had happened 2,000 miles away. Four people had been shot dead at Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee on November 6 2003. It was a popular spot for adrenalin enthusiasts. One customer turned up to find the place a bloodbath.
‘Everybody’s been shot up here!’ the 911 caller cried. ‘Everybody’s layin’ in a pool of blood. His momma’s been shot. The mechanic’s been shot.’
The victims were the owner, Scott Ponder, 30, his mum, Beverly Guy, 52, who did the books, service manager Brian Lucas, 30, and mechanic Chris Sherbert, 26. Someone had walked in and gunned them down. Nothing had been stolen so investigators struggled to find a motive. It seemed so personal.
No one suspected Todd, but he was a customer at the shop. He’d been there several times and had tried to return a motorbike he’d bought and struggled to ride. The employees laughed and refused to take the bike back. A humiliated Todd took his revenge. As police questioned whether Todd was telling the truth, he revealed something that had never been released to the press. He said he’d shot a single bullet into the head of each victim.
‘I cleared that building in under 30 seconds,’ Todd bragged.
There were more twisted revelations. Todd had been leaving reviews on Amazon for the tools he’d bought while he was killing.
In a review about a shovel, he recommended you should ‘keep [it] in car to hide the bodies’, while he revealed he wanted to use a stun gun on one of his lazy agents. He left over 140 reviews for knives and tactical gear.
He wrote about a padlock: ‘Works great… also if someone talks back… go old school on them by putting it in a sock and beating them…’
The more investiagtors looked into Todd’s history, the more they discovered. His violent temper could be traced back to childhood. He would hit other school friends, hurt animals and destroyed his bedroom with a hammer. His anger, referred to as ‘explosive’, saw him forced to have therapy.
Not only that, Todd should already have been a suspect – he had a criminal record that he was hiding from everyone. In 1986, when he was just 15, Todd kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in Arizona. He threatened her with a gun and forced her to come home with him, where he tied her up and raped her.
He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and the other charges were dropped in return for 15 years in prison and being registered as a sex offender for life.
Todd was released after 14 years and moved to South Carolina. He started a new life. Despite being a registered sex offender, he lied and got an estate agents’ licence, managing to employ a dozen agents. Some saw a darker side to Todd. He could be inappropriate and would watch pornography at work. But when
But there was no confusion now. Todd was responsible for the deaths of seven people. An arsenal of guns were found on his property, including pistols and semi-automatic weapons. Todd was an incredibly dangerous serial killer.
Despite this his mother, Regina Tague, stood by him, saying: ‘He was very misunderstood… Todd is not a monster. He wasn’t doing it for enjoyment, he was doing it because he was mad and he was hurt.’
In May 2017, Todd, 46, pleaded guilty to seven counts of murder and was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole. The deal spared him the death penalty. Loved ones spoke out against his shocking actions. Cindy Coxie, mum of victim Johnny, said she was devastated to tell his seven-year-old son that his dad was dead.
‘He hates you with his little heart,’ she told Todd.
Scott Ponder’s wife was pregnant when he was gunned down in his bike shop. His son, Scott Jr, was there to see Todd condemned.
‘I’m always going to wonder what it would have been like if my dad was here,’ he said. Kala’s lawyer said she wasn’t able to be in court as she continues to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, but agreed with the life sentence.
Even with Todd behind bars, there were more sick revelations. Afterwards, it was revealed that Todd has hinted in interviews that there are more victims. Is he just bragging or had his temper triggered the deaths of others? One thing’s for sure: he’s a disturbed serial killer who is now where he belongs – behind bars.
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