SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man who admitted killing seven people over nearly 13 years while running a successful real estate business pleaded guilty Friday to seven counts of murder and a number of other charges.
Todd Kohlhepp admitted his role in the deaths of seven people less than seven months after he was arrested when investigators checking on a missing couple rescued a woman chained inside a shipping container on Kohlhepp’s Spartanburg County property.
The woman had been raped and locked inside the container for more than two months after Kohlhepp shot and killed her boyfriend, authorities said. Charles David Carter, 32, was the last of the seven murder victims.
According to the plea agreement signed by the 44-year-old Kohlhepp, he will serve seven consecutive life terms plus 60 years on kidnapping, sexual assault and other charges. He will not be eligible for parole, and he also agreed not to appeal the sentence.
Kohlhepp admitted Friday that he killed four workers at Superbike Motorsports motorcycle store in Chesnee in 2003 after the manager made him angry. The victims were the owner, Scott Ponder, 30; Beverly Guy, 52; Brian Lucas, 30; and Chris Sherbert, 26. Guy was Ponder’s mother and worked as a bookkeeper. Lucas was a service manager, and Sherbert was a mechanic at the shop.
Kohlhepp also admitted guilt in the deaths of a husband and wife who disappeared in December 2015. The bodies of 29-year-old Johnny Joe Coxie and 26-year-old Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie were found on Kohlhepp’s land after his arrest. The couple had been hired to do work on Kohlhepp’s property.
Melissa Brackman stood just feet from Kohlhepp with only the prosecutor and a deputy between them. On her right was her son, Scott Ponder Jr., who never met his father.
She said Kohlhepp stole a wonderful life from her my killing her husband Scott Ponder.
“I miss motorcycle rides on the back of his bike. I missed him rubbing my pregnant belly,” Brackman said.
Johnny Coxie’s mother said his 7-year-old son held out hopes that his father was alive for months after he disappeared. Cindy Coxie said came the worst day of her life when she had to tell the boy his father was dead.
“He hates you with his little heart,” she said.
Kohlhepp was eligible for the death penalty, but the plea deal took that off the table.
No one has been executed in South Carolina in more than six years because the state lacks the drugs needed for lethal injections.
Kohlhepp moved to South Carolina in 2001 shortly after 14 years in prison after 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.
Kohlhepp had to register on South Carolina’s sex offender registry, but told people it was a trumped up charge after a girl’s father was angry about a joyride. Kohlhepp also lied about the felony conviction so he could get his real estate license in the state.
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.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP
His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/jeffrey%20collins