Search for more victims of serial killer in South Carolina called off

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — More than a dozen searchers combed through the woods in rural Spartanburg County, South Carolina Wednesday looking for more possible victims of a serial killer already serving life in prison for seven slayings.

About 20 deputies searched for hours in heavily wooded areas along Interstate 26 near Enoree after Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said he had received a "second-or-third-hand tip" from a documentary film crew about more bodies connected with Todd Kohlhepp, who previously lived in the area.

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"We're trying to get a game plan together to find out exactly where and what to do. Investigators have been talking to him," Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said. "We're not going to try to keep that quiet. We're going to go search."

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The sheriff said that the victims they were searching for could be two pizza delivery drivers. He did not elaborate on their identities of refer to any specific missing persons cases they could be linked to.

Officials left the property they were searching without finding anything.

Earlier Wednesday, Wright said he wasn't optimistic about finding any more bodies and didn't want to give the killer any unwarranted attention, but "because I know he's killed seven, I feel like we need to check this out."

Kohlhepp is serving seven consecutive life sentences without parole at Broad River Correctional Facility in Columbia after pleading guilty to multiple charges in May 2017.

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His string of crimes was uncovered in 2016 after police rescued Kala Brown from a storage container where she was chained at the neck and investigators found a body buried in a shallow grave. Brown told investigators she saw Kohlhepp shoot and kill her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Carter, who went with her for a cleaning job on Kohlhepp's property in rural Spartanburg County.

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Kohlhepp raped Brown while holding her against her will, and told her he had also killed a husband and wife in December 2015, burying their bodies on his land. Johnny Joe Coxie, 29, had been killed immediately, and Kohlhepp kept 26-year-old Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie alive for six days before shooting her in the back of the head on Christmas, Solicitor Barry Barnette said.

The Associated Press typically doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but Brown has spoken publicly about her traumatic experience.

Kohlhepp admitted to her that he had killed four people in the Superbike motorcycle shop in November 2003, the prosecutor said. The owner, Scott Ponder, 30; Beverly Guy, 52; Brian Lucas, 30; and Chris Sherbert, 26 were killed because Kohlhepp thought they were making fun of him. Guy was Ponder's mother and worked as a bookkeeper. Lucas was a service manager, and Sherbert was a mechanic at the shop.

Kohlhepp's crimes took place over more than a decade as he ran a real estate business.

Todd Kohlhepp

According to the plea agreement signed by Kohlhepp, he will serve seven consecutive life terms plus 60 years on kidnapping, sexual assault and other charges. Kohlhepp will not be eligible for parole, and he also agreed not to appeal the sentence.

Kohlhepp moved to South Carolina in 2001 shortly after 14 years in prison for pleading guilty to kidnapping in Arizona. Authorities there said the then 15-year-old forced a 14-year-old neighbor back to his home at gunpoint, tied her up and raped her.

Friends and co-workers at Kohlhepp's real estate business said he was a hard worker with some strange habits. He would watch pornographic videos during work and joked on his firm's website that he motivated workers by not feeding them.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Kevin Bobo released the below statement about Wednesday’s search:

"When Todd Kohlhepp was arrested in November, 2016, he made vague statements to our investigators about committing 2 homicides prior to the Superbike incident. At that time, we researched his statement and found no evidence to support his claim. Since his incarceration at the SC Department of Corrections, he made that same claim to a production company that is filing a documentary about his crimes, but his account to that company differed in some details and also included possible locations of these 2 alleged victims. Last week, 2 of our investigators went to the Department of Corrections and interviewed Kohlhepp. Some of the details he shared with our investigators differed from what he had shared with the production company; specifically that the victims were buried in one location as opposed to two different ones. Those investigators asked Kohlhepp if he would be willing to show us the location of these 2 alleged victims. Todd Kohlhepp declined that request. Monday and Tuesday, our investigators met with the production company and compared notes to see what was consistent in Kohlhepp's claims and what wasn't. That additional research led to numerous deputies and cadaver dogs searching a wooded area at the dead end of a frontage road at Hwy. 92 and I-26 in Enoree, SC. Again, we didn't find any evidence to support his claim. At present, there aren't any plans to go back to the site tomorrow, and that lead will be suspended until Kohlhepp decides to share more detailed information that can be verified."

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