Thursday 8 December 2016

Body of couple found on suspected serial killer's land where woman found 'chained up like a dog'

Published 10/11/2016 | 06:51

Todd Kohlhepp has been arrested and charged with kidnapping (Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office/AP)
Todd Kohlhepp has been arrested and charged with kidnapping (Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office/AP)

Two bodies found on the rural property of a South Carolina man linked to five other deaths were a couple who had a history of begging and had been buried there for nearly a year.

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One of the victims was 25-year-old Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie of Spartanburg, who appears to have died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators search the property of Todd Kohlhepp in Woodruff, South Carolina (The Spartanburg Herald-Journal/AP)
Investigators search the property of Todd Kohlhepp in Woodruff, South Carolina (The Spartanburg Herald-Journal/AP)

The other was her husband, 29-year-old Johnny Joe Coxie, who was shot in his chest, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said.

Their families were told simultaneously that the couple was killed, and they are grieving, he said.

"It's bad news but also they have questions that we're able to give them answers to. This isn't a run of the mill case. It never has been," Mr Clevenger said.

The couple's "extensive tattoos" helped identify them, he said. They have at least one child who is accounted for.

Excavation and search work continues on Todd Kohlhepp's property in Woodruff, South Carolina (AP)
Excavation and search work continues on Todd Kohlhepp's property in Woodruff, South Carolina (AP)

Police made a breakthrough in the cold cases last week when investigators searching the property discovered a woman alive and chained by her neck and ankle in a large storage container, yelling for help.

Her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charlie Carver, was found shot dead in a shallow grave on the land. That couple had disappeared about two months earlier.

The property owner, Todd Kohlhepp, was arrested last Thursday at his suburban home about 10 miles from his 95-acre property.

After his arrest, deputies say he confessed to killing four other people in the county at a motorcycle shop in 2003, leaving behind their bodies and a mystery the local sheriff thought he may never solve.

Kohlhepp acknowledged the grisly cold case after authorities granted him several requests, including letting him speak to his mother.

On Saturday, investigators brought Kohlhepp out to his land and he identified the gravesites, even calling the Coxies by name, authorities said. It was not clear what the couple's relationship with Kohlhepp was.

The authorities believe they have uncovered all the bodies on the land, but investigators were searching other properties Kohlhepp either currently or used to own.

The FBI said on Wednesday it was helping local authorities and conducting its own investigation to determine whether any federal laws were broken.

As a convicted felon, Kohlhepp could not legally purchase guns, but multiple weapons, including an assault rifle and handguns with silencers, were confiscated from both his home and the rural property.

Investigators have not given a motive for the shootings of the Coxies and Carver. In the motorcycle shop killings, the wife of the shop's owner said detectives told her that Kohlhepp was a disgruntled customer.

Kohlhepp, 45, was denied bond on Sunday on four murder charges in those killings. He has chosen to represent himself. More charges are expected.

As a teenager, Kohlhepp was sentenced to 14 years in prison in Arizona for binding and raping a 14-year-old neighbour at gunpoint.

Released in 2001, he managed to obtain a real estate licence in South Carolina in 2006 and by most accounts, lived a very private and seemingly quiet life.

The Coxies were reported missing last December, after being released from jail earlier that month. McCraw-Coxie had told her mother she needed to be bonded out so she could go to a job, but then her mother lost contact, police said.

They did not specify why they were in jail, other than to say both had a history of begging around Interstate 26.

The two were buried roughly 11 months ago, Mr Clevenger said.

"There's no way of putting an exact time of death," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the metal container where the woman spent two months locked inside was removed from the property.

Her boyfriend's estranged wife, 35-year-old Nichole Ellen Carver, was arrested on Tuesday after police said she posed as a detective when she called AT&T last month to try to track down Charlie Carver's phone.

She was released from jail on Wednesday.

Police know of no connection between her and the killing. The couple married about three years ago and had not filed for divorce, The Anderson Independent-Mail reported.

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