WOODRUFF, SC – Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said a husband and wife who were reported missing in December 2015 were found buried on Todd Kohlhepp’s Woodruff property.
Clevenger said the victims were identified as Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie, 26, and Johnny Joe Coxie, 29.
The couple was found buried in two grave sites were found on a Spartanburg County property where a woman was held captive in a storage container and her boyfriend was also found buried in a shallow grave.
The owner of the property, 45-year-old Todd Kohlhepp, was arrested Thursday morning after the kidnapping victim was discovered on his nearly 100-acre property in Woodruff. Investigators have been searching the land for additional evidence ever since, turning up three bodies in the process.
Below are the latest updates in the Kohlhepp investigation:
Kidnapping Victim Discovered
On Nov. 3, Wright said 30-year-old Kala Brown was found “chained up like a dog” and had been kept there for two months. Wright said she was being held in a metal storage container that is approximately 30 feet by 15 feet on a large tract of property along Wofford Road. Investigators discovered her after hearing a banging sound inside the container while conducting an investigation on the land.
Brown was reportedly being fed by her captor while chained up by her neck.
“It’s all by God’s grace we found that little girl alive,” Wright said. She was released after being treated at an undisclosed medical facility.
Newsom said Thursday that her daughter was extremely emotional but was in good physical condition.
“I have got so many emotions going on,” Newsom said. “I’m ecstatic, scared because you know, I’m mad because of what she went through. I’m still scared because of what she is going to have to go through to get her normalcy in her life… It’s going to be a long road, but we got this.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, crews removed the shipping container that investigators said Brown was held captive in from Kohlhepp’s property. The large container was loaded onto an 18-wheeler and hauled away from the crime scene.
Anderson Couple’s Disappearance
Brown and boyfriend Charles Carver, 32, were reported missing after disappearing in late August.
Brown’s mother, Bobbie Newsom, said her daughter disappeared on social media on Aug. 28 and there has been no activity on her cell phone since Aug. 31. Newsom later found Brown’s apartment unlocked and the dog inside without food and water. The dog’s crate was also missing.
The Anderson Police Department subsequently launched an investigation into the couple’s disappearance.
A few weeks later, mysterious posts on Facebook began to surface on the Facebook account belonging to Carver. The posts claimed Carver and Brown were alive and well but the missing woman’s family was not convinced.
Anderson Police Chief Jim Stewart told the Associated Press that the joint investigation with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office began when investigators learned through phone records that the Woodruff property was the last place a phone connected to the case was “pinged.”
Carver’s family members were clinging to hope that he was still alive, despite claims that Brown saw Kohlhepp shoot Carver multiple times.
On Saturday, Wright revealed that Carver’s vehicle had been hidden on the property in a ravine. Wright later confirmed that a body found in a shallow grave on Kohlhepp’s property was identified as Carver.
Sex Offender Ruled Suspect
A spokesperson for the Carver family said the couple met Kohlhepp online and the three were casual friends. He was reportedly at the scene when Brown was found and was taken into custody without incident.
Kohlhepp is a convicted sex offender listed on the SLED registry. He was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 15 in Arizona in 1987.
Investigative records from Arizona show Kohlhepp was accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint in 1986, forcing her to go back to his father’s home in Tempe, AZ, tied her hands, duct taped her mouth, and raped the girl. The reports state he threatened to kill the girl and her family if she told anyone about the assault. He was charged with kidnapping and sexual assault and agreed to plead guilty to the kidnapping charge in 1987. As part of the plea deal, the sexual assault charge was dismissed but Kohlhepp would still have to register as a sex offender.
Court documents pertaining to the crime paint a picture of a highly troubled but intelligent young man. Kohlhepp was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the kidnapping. He was released in 2001 and eventually returned to the Upstate.
During the hearing, the solicitor described Kohlhepp as a “very, very dangerous individual” and said his property as a “compound” with an inventory of chains and firearms. He said Brown told officials she watched Kohlhepp shoot her boyfriend.
At the time, the solicitor said he was confident a murder charge was forthcoming for Kohlhepp when Carver’s body was found on the property. Later, multiple murder warrants were signed for Kohlhepp.
The sheriff confirmed Kohlhepp has elected to represent himself in court and will not have an attorney.
Kohlhepp will appear in general sessions court on Jan. 19, 2017.
Bodies Found, Investigation Ongoing
Multiple graves were located on Kohlhepp’s property during the investigation, according to Wright.
A backhoe, excavators and additional heavy machinery are being used on the 100-acre property to search for evidence and Wright said some had been uncovered, but the investigation is in its infancy.
Just after 11 a.m. on Friday, the Spartanburg County coroner confirmed he was at the scene to investigate after a cadaver dog alerted to something. The coroner and sheriff later confirmed a body was found in a shallow grave. The body was later identified as Carver.
The coroner said Carver’s death was ruled a homicide, and his cause of death was determined to be multiple gunshot wounds. He would not confirm how long the body had been buried on Kohlhepp’s property.
“We’re trying to make sure that we don’t have a serial killer on our hands,” he said. “It very possibly could be what we have.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said agents have met with local officials to offer any assistance in the case if needed. A spokesperson said, “We’ll continue to monitor this matter to determine what, if any, are the next appropriate steps.”
Wright said all missing persons cases in the county are being reopened in light of the discovery.
Wright asked the public to pray for the victim and investigators, especially in light of the disturbing circumstances of the case.
“Just ask God to take that scene out of their mind,” he said. “And yeah, this is exactly what you read in books.”
On Sunday Wright confirmed more human remains were found on Kohlhepp’s property. On the previous day, Kohlhepp reportedly showed investigators two sites on the property where he said bodies were buried. Wright said two grave sites were found and later the coroner confirmed remains from two different people were recovered from the scene.
On Wednesday, Coroner Rusty Clevenger said the remains found on the property were those of Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie, 26, and Johnny Joe Coxie, 29. The coroner said both victims had extensive tattoos, which were used to make a positive identification. The cause of death is still pending but Clevenger said it appears the wife was shot in the head and the husband died after being shot in the torso.
The husband and wife had last resided on Shalaan Drive in Spartanburg before they disappeared in December 2015.
Lt. Kevin Bobo said the female victim’s mother reported the couple missing on Dec. 22, 2015. Both victims had just got out of jail about a week earlier. Bobo said the mother provided bail money so Meagan could get out of jail and begin work at a new job. The mother did know where she was to begin working.
Bobo said the couple also had a history of panhandling in the area of I-26 and Reidville Road.
There was no word on how the couple was targeted or what their connection was to Kohlhepp. Bobo did say Kohlhepp called the victims by name when he pointed out their graves to investigators.
Superbike Murders Confession
In a press conference late Saturday evening, Wright announced a shocking break in an unsolved quadruple homicide case in connection with the Kohlhepp investigation. Wright said four murder warrants were signed for Kohlhepp after he confessed to killing four employees in 2003 at Superbike Motorsports.
The massacre, which has remain unsolved and haunted the county for more than decade, claimed the lives of store owner, Scott Ponder, his mother Beverly Guy, shop foreman Brian Lucas and mechanic Chris Sherbert.
Kohlhepp’s confession was supported by arrest warrants, indicating he told investigations specific details “that only the killer would know.”
On Sunday, Kohlhepp was denied bond by a judge on the murder charges connected to the Superbike killings.
Kohlhepp had nothing to say to the victims’ families during the hearing. The judge told the victims’ families who were in court that the system will work to get justice.
Ponder’s wife, Melissa Ponder, said she was stunned by the break in the case. She said detectives told her Kohlhepp was a customer of the store before the killings.
“My heart is in a million places,” Ponder said. “I’m incredibly sad, relieved, overwhelmed, and in shock.”
Lorraine Lucas, mother of victim Brian Lucas said the announcement is “still unreal” and she and her husband are filled with emotions. She asked the public to keep the Lucas family in their prayers.
“[It’s] hard to comprehend what we are being told of a person of his caliber living amongst us,” Lucas said. “There is a lot more to the story and I hope other families have closure as well.”
Friends, Neighbors Shocked
According to court records, Kohlhepp was working as a realtor at Todd Kohlhepp & Associates, LLC in Spartanburg County.
An agent working at TKA Real Estate said she knew of Kohlhepp’s sex offender status but said the arrest seemed “totally out of character.”
“I’m really hoping that there’s a mistake or something,” she said. “It doesn’t sound like him.”
Neighbors said Kohlhepp lived at a home in Moore but would regularly visit the property. One neighbor said he would drop by on evenings around 6 p.m. and stay for about an hour. They said they have never seen anything like what investigators uncovered Thursday.
Neighbors who live next to Moore at his home on Windsong Way were horrified to learn of the new accusations against the real estate agent.
One Upstate woman, however, said she met with Kohlhepp about a property and immediately got a bad feeling about him. Listening to her gut, she reported him to the real estate board after she said he made unsettling jokes about guns.