South Carolina killer pleads guilty to seven murders

Todd Kohlhepp was arrested last year after police found a woman chained in a cage on his property.
By Doug G. Ware   |   May 26, 2017 at 3:27 PM

May 26 (UPI) -- A South Carolina serial killer pleaded guilty Friday to the slaying of seven people in exchange for sidestepping the death penalty.

In a Spartanburg County court, Todd C. Kohlhepp entered the pleas to 14 criminal counts and was immediately sentenced to seven consecutive life terms. In addition to murder, he was also charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and unlawful possession of a firearm.

As part of the plea, Kohlhepp agreed not to file any appeals and will never be considered for parole.

Kohlhepp, who killed seven people between 2003 and last year, was arrested last August after a woman he was holding captive on his property was rescued by police. Officials say the woman, Kala Brown, had been chained inside a metal storage container. She and her boyfriend, Charles Carver, were reported missing after they went to Kohlhepp's house to perform cleaning work and didn't return.

Investigators said they believed Kohlhepp is a serial killer and would have continued killing, as they found no significant motive for his crimes.

"It is not fair for families to wait years and years for justice," Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette said.

Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty, but they were concerned with South Carolina's aging drug supply that's used for lethal injections. The state hasn't executed a prisoner in six years.

Kohlhepp, who was convicted and imprisoned in an unrelated 1986 Arizona kidnapping and rape case, had been free for less than two years before he killed the first four victims -- Scott Ponder, 30; Brian Lucas, 30; Chris Sherbert, 26; and Beverly Guy, 52, in a South Carolina motorcycle shop in November 2003.

Twelve years later, Kohlhepp killed married couple Johnny and Megan Leigh Coxie, who he'd hired to work on his property. Their bodies were found buried there when police searched the grounds after Brown's rescue.

Investigators suspect the 46-year-old killer may be involved in other unresolved cases -- including a 2003 bank robbery and triple murder in South Carolina that occurred within six months of Kohlhepp's quadruple homicide. Police said he also claimed to have shot a man in Arizona.

"I'm always going to wonder what it would have been like if my dad was here," Scott Ponder, Jr., said of his father's death at Friday's hearing.

"Today is not so much his day in court as it is Meagan's day of justice and retribution," another relative said.

Cindy Coxie, the mother of the 2015 victim, called Kohlhepp "an incomprehensible evil" and told him in court Friday that Johnny's young son -- her grandson -- must live with the pain of his actions.

"He hates you with his little heart," she said. "I miss my son so much. One day he was here and the next he was gone."

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