JUST days ago extraordinary footage was released of police rescuing an American woman who had been kept handcuffed and chained to a wall inside a shipping container for two months by a serial killer.
Now video of real estate agent Todd Kohlhepp, 45, who confessed to the murders of seven people, including Ms Brown’s boyfriend Charlie Carver, reveals the moment investigators told him they’d found her – alive.
The footage shows Spartanburg Sheriff’s Office detectives Brad Whitfield and Charlynn Ezell confronting Kohlhepp in his home on November 3 after their colleagues discovered Ms Brown locked inside a shipping container on a South Carolina farm.
At the time, Whitfield and Ezell had no idea that Kohlhepp was a serial killer with at least seven murders under his belt. They were there to search for Ms Brown and Mr Carver after pings from Ms Brown’s mobile phone placed her at the property around the time the couple vanished the previous August.
“OK, this is where we’re at. While we were here, right, my sergeant served a search warrant on your property, OK. We have Kala,” Whitfield tells a seated, handcuffed Kohlhepp.
Kohlhepp blinks, cocks his head to one side and replies: “Excuse me?”
“We have Kala,” Whitfield repeats. “She was locked in a container, OK? She has told us that you shot and killed Charlie. So at this time I’m going to need you to stand up and raise your hands -”
(Off screen deputy’s voice) “He’s already cuffed.”
Whitfield: “All right. You’re under arrest right now for kidnapping. We need to search your property, they’re going to continue. They got cadaver dogs down there, OK? If you want to help yourself, tell me where Charlie’s at so we can find his body.”
Whitfield: “That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.”
Whitfield: “Do you want to help yourself and tell me where the body’s at so we can go and recover Charlie’s body?”
Kohlhepp: ‘No sir.”
Whitfield: “You don’t want to?”
Kohlhepp: “No, sir.”
Whitfield: “OK, why’d you shoot him?”
Kohlhepp: “I didn’t shoot him, sir.”
Whitfield: “Why’d you lock her in a container?
Whitfield: “She’s on your property right now locked in a container they just got her out of a. a … a shipping container – what do they call it? Conex box. She was locked in a container in a Conex box. They got her. We have investigators, we have, like, 20 investigators, on your property right now.”
Whitfield: “And they have found her in the Conex box. So she never left your property, OK? You locked her in the Conex box and she has told investigators that you shot and killed Charlie. So I’m trying to give you an opportunity to help yourself, and help us help you find his body. Because she saying Charlie’s body, you buried Charlie’s body on that property.”
Kohlhepp: “No sir.”
Whitfield: “So, you’re saying you didn’t lock her up, you didn’t lock her in a Conex box or anything.”
Kohlhepp: “No sir. I’m going to need an attorney.”
Whitfield : “(Addressing off camera deputy) Probably a good thing, go ahead and put him in the back of your car.”
“CHAINED LIKE A DOG”
Last month, Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to raping Ms Brown and killing seven people. He was spared the death penalty in exchange for his guilty plea and was given seven life sentences.
His victims were Ms Brown’s boyfriend Charlie Carver, married couple Johnny and Meagan Coxie, aged 25 and 29, and the four gunned down in South Carolina’s most infamous cold case, the 2003 Superbike Murders; Scott Ponder, Beverly Guy, Brian Lucas and Chris Sherbert.
The bodies of the Coxies, who had been reported missing nearly a year earlier, were found buried on Kohlhepp’s property along with Mr Carver’s. Both had been shot after also being lured to his home on the promise of work.
Ms Brown later told police that she had worked for Kohlhepp for several weeks leading up to her kidnapping, cleaning the houses he was trying to sell.
On August 31, the day of their disappearance, she and Mr Carver had gone to Kohlhepp’s home after he asked them to clear some undergrowth. But when they arrived, he took them hostage. He shot Mr Carver, 32, three times and chained her up in the container.
Ms Brown revealed details of her horror months in captivity during an appearance on the Dr Phil show earlier this year, bravely waiving her right to anonymity as a victim of sexual assault to enable her to tell her story on her own terms.
During her incarceration in the 9m x 4.5m container, Ms Brown was given a 19 litre bucket to use as a toilet and was given just crackers and mouldy cheese to eat.
Kohlhepp fed her once a day and occasionally took her out for exercise, leading her around his property by the chain on her neck. He also raped her repeatedly.
“I would tell him that no matter what he did to me, he did not break me,” she told Dr Phil in February.
“He cannot destroy who I am and I won. He tried to crush me but I’m not broken. I’ll recover from this.”
Disturbing video of Ms Brown’s rescue from the shipping container that was her jail for more than two months was released last weekend along with dozens of pictures and hundreds of pages of evidence from the Kohlhepp case following numerous FOI submissions by local and national media.
Police had gone to the property on November 3 last year after mobile phone data revealed Ms Brown’s phone had pinged near Kohlhepp’s property on August 31 when she and Mr Carver vanished.
That combined with a social media post they unearthed from Ms Brown’s account stating that she was scheduled to travel to the property that day was enough to secure a search warrant.
As dozens of officers from the Spartanburg Sheriff’s Office combed the 100 acre grounds, a pair of deputies heard screams and banging coming from inside a large industrial shipping container.
In police footage of the rescue, sparks fly as officers use a metal cutter to break the locks before flinging open the doors and entering into the darkness with torches and guns drawn.
They walk past cases of plastic water bottles, metal shelving and what appears to be a cage before finding Ms Brown shackled from neck to ankle on a pile of filthy mattresses. She is dressed in a dark long-sleeved shirt, grey sweatpants and flip flops, and has a large chain around her neck. Her hands are cuffed behind her head.
Ms Brown greets the officers calmly, showing remarkable composure her chains are cracked open with bolt cutters.
She tells the rescuers “Todd Kolhepp shot Charlie Carver three time … he’s dead and buried. He says there’s several bodies dead and buried here”.
On the way to hospital, she told police that Kohlhepp had also confessed to the Superbike murders.
“It was pretty emotional,’ County Sheriff Chuck Wright said later. “She was chained like a dog. It’s only by God’s grace that we found that little girl alive.”
TODD KOHLHEPP THE TIMEBOMB
Kohlhepp was an only child whose parents divorced when he was a toddler and went on to develop a nasty habit of torturing and killing pets as a child.
In 1986, he was jailed in Arizona for the rape and kidnap of a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint.
Court records painted the then 15-year-old Kohlhepp as a severely disturbed adolescent who once threatened to kill his mother, used a hammer to destroy his newly remodelled bedroom, poured bleach into a goldfish bowl and locked a boy in a dog cage and rolled him around.
One neighbour described him in a pre-sentence report as “a devil on a chain.”
In a plea bargain, Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of kidnapping and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He had originally been charged with sexual assault and kidnapping.
“Approximately six years of intervention in 15 years of life have resulted in abysmal failure,” Judge C. Kimball Rose wrote in transferring Kohlhepp’s case to adult court.
Hundreds of pages of court pages, including a presentence report, psychological evaluations and statements by police, probation officers and judges in the case portray Kohlhepp as an emotionally disturbed 15-year-old with explosive anger issues, no family support system and little remorse for his crime.
According to the records, Kohlhepp used his father’s handgun to force a 14-year-old neighbour to walk to his home, where he placed duct tape on her in his bedroom, tied her hands and then raped her.
When questioned about the crime, Kohlhepp told a probation officer that he wasn’t sure why he raped the girl but it could have been an act of rebellion because his father was out of town, according to the records. He said the gun did not work. He also said he used a knife to threaten her after placing the gun back where he found it, according to the records.
“When questioned how he thinks this offence has affected the victim, the defendant responded, ‘I have messed myself up too,'” a probation officer reported.
Kohlhepp told the officer, according to the records, while he knew what he did was wrong, he said he thought the girl was 16 at the time. He said he thought a 15-year sentence would be unfair. He wanted 12 years or less because he said that would allow him to get a job with the military, according to the pre-sentence report.
The parents of the girl told the officer that the rape had a “devastating effect on the entire family.” The girl cried and was unable to communicate during most of an interview with the probation officer and her parents said her grades and athletic ventures had deteriorated. They alleged that Kohlhepp was a “violent and vicious person” who shined a knife in the girl’s face during the assault, according to the records. They alleged that he knew her age at the time and “had no sense of reality.”
His mother Regina Tague submitted a letter saying while the crime was wrong, “he is not a bad boy.” She pointed to the fact that he walked the girl home after the assault.
“Does that sound like a dangerous criminal?” she asked.
After Kohlhepp was unmasked as a serial killer, she again leapt to her son’s defence, declaring he was “not a monster” and was simply “misunderstood”.