Woman chained in container says captor bragged about killing

2017-02-15 15:28
Todd Kohlhepp enters court for a hearing in November 2016. (File, Richard Shiro, AP)

Todd Kohlhepp enters court for a hearing in November 2016. (File, Richard Shiro, AP)

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Columbia — A South Carolina woman who spent two months chained inside a large metal container says her captor raped her daily and bragged that he was good at killing, claiming that his victims tallied nearly 100.

Kala Brown says she did what she had to do to survive.

"He told me as long as I served my purpose, I was safe," Brown told Phillip McGraw, the host of the television show Dr. Phil.

It was the first time she has talked publicly since her November 3 rescue, which authorities say helped them solve seven killings in the area dating back 13 years. Police said Todd Kohlhepp, a real estate agent with his own firm until his arrest, killed Brown's boyfriend, a couple who had been missing nearly a year and four people at a motorcycle shop in 2003.

Brown said she and her boyfriend had gone to Kohlhepp's rural property August 31 to help him clear some underbrush. She'd cleaned houses for him previously to prepare them for sale. After the couple followed him to a two-story garage on the property in Spartanburg County, Kohlhepp handed them hedge clippers and bottles of water. He said he needed to get something inside and came out shooting, Brown said.

He shot Charles Carver three times in the chest, she said. He gagged Brown and handcuffed her ankles and wrists. Kohlhepp took her to a "pitch black", 9m long storage container nearby, chained her by the neck in a back corner and raped her, she said.

More chains

He "let me know that if I tried to run, he'd kill me. If I tried to hurt him, he'd kill me. If I fought back, he would kill me. And then he raped me," Brown said in episodes that aired this week. "He would rape me twice a day, every day."

The days evolved into a pattern, she said.

He took her to the garage twice a day, where she ate, used the bathroom and was allowed to bathe every other day using a washcloth and a small plastic bowl of water. But she was never unchained, she said.

"He would put more chains on before he took other chains off," she said.

Kohlhepp, 45, faces murder, kidnapping and weapons charges. He is not charged with sexual assault. Spokesmen for the sheriff and prosecutor declined to address the rape allegations or whether more charges are forthcoming. His attorney did not return messages.

The Associated Press normally does not identify victims of sexual assault but is naming Brown after she publicly identified herself.

The day after her rescue, investigators found Carver's body in a shallow grave on Kohlhepp's property. Brought to the site in handcuffs, Kohlhepp showed authorities the graves of the couple missing since December 2015. Kohlhepp told Brown he held that woman captive, too, before killing her.

Police said Kohlhepp acknowledged the grisly 2003 cold case after authorities granted him several requests, including letting him speak to his mother.

Stockholm syndrome

Brown said Kohlhepp told her he killed Carver because "it was easier to control someone if you took someone they loved".

She thought Kohlhepp was infatuated with her and didn't want to kill her, even saying he would let her go and give her money "if he ever got old and sick", she said. He explained Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage starts feeling sympathetic toward their captor, and said "it would kick in and we'd be happy together".

He twice let her see parts of the property beyond the garage and container, including once chained to a four-wheeler.

"I had been in a dark, small, enclosed space and couldn't move more than a few feet. I was thrilled to be outdoors," she said.

When Brown heard people talking outside the container the morning of November 3, she panicked, thinking maybe he had brought someone else. When she realised help had come, "I started screaming and hitting the walls," she said.

"I knew my family would never stop looking, but he was so careful, I couldn't see how I could be found so soon. I was scared it really wasn't happening," she said. "And when they finally got the door open and I saw the police uniforms, I was relieved."

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