WOODRUFF, S.C. — Before daylight broke Friday over the countryside north this city of 4,000, dozens of investigators gathered at the scene where a 30-year-old woman was found “chained up like a dog” inside a metal container fewer than 24 hours earlier.
Kala Brown of Anderson, S.C., had been held captive for two months in this area about 80 miles northwest of the state capital of Columbia. But Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright is worried that four bodies could be buried somewhere near the shipping container where she was kept.
Brown's boyfriend, Charles Carver, 32, remained missing as the sun rose. And investigators feared Thursday that they were dealing with a serial killer as they combed over a fenced property of nearly 100 acres where they were told bear traps may be laid.
Deputies arrested Todd Christopher Kohlhepp, 45, of Moore, S.C., on Thursday as they were executing a search warrant as part of a missing persons investigation with Anderson police. The real-estate broker owns the property though he lives about nine miles away.
Kohlhepp has been a private pilot licensed to fly a single-engine plane since March 2006, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
He also owns at least two expensive cars, a BMW X5 and a BMW Z4, and a Suzuki motorcycle, according to the South Carolina Sex Offenders Registry, where he is listed in connection with a kidnapping and crimes against children in Arizona.
In November 1986 in Tempe, Ariz., he was accused of raping a 14-year-old girl and pointing a gun at her head when he was 15, according to WHNS-TV, Greenville. He served time in prison from 1987 to 2001.
He was convicted in adult court Oct. 16, 1987, and is classified as a Tier III offender, the most serious, according to the state sex-offender registry. Though his initial crimes were in Arizona, he is not listed in the online registry for that state, likely because of his move to South Carolina.
“We don’t know what goes on inside (closed) doors,” said his next-door neighbor, Maurene Owen. “It makes life such a scary place when you think of it like that.”
Though charges in Brown's case had not been formally filed as of 6 a.m. ET, Kohlhepp is scheduled for an initial hearing at 2 p.m. at Spartanburg County Jail, according to Murray Glenn, 7th Judicial Circuit solicitor’s office spokesman.
Brown worked for Kohlhepp, cleaning houses before he offered them for sale or rent, according to her close friend, Leah Miller.
Miller said she believes that Brown started working for Kohlhepp just weeks before she disappeared.