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Third body found on property of S.C. murder suspect

USA TODAY USA TODAY 8/11/2016 The Greenville (S.C.) News and the Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail

WOODRUFF, S.C. — A third body was found Monday at the property near Woodruff where a kidnapped woman was rescued last week and investigators believe they have found all the bodies on the 95-acre property.

One body was found Sunday and another was found Monday. Both were removed from the property, authorities said.

"We can’t say if they are male or female," said Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger. They were found close to each other and were at the two sites that Todd Kohlhepp indicated on Saturday.

Kohlhepp, 45, a real estate broker, pilot and convicted sex offender, was arrested and charged with kidnapping 30-year-old Kala Brown, who was found chained inside a storage building on the property Thursday.

Kohlhepp also has been charged with four counts of murder in the 2003 quadruple slayings at Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee.

Clevenger said he will examine the bodies to determine how they died and would not go into their state of decomposition.

"At this time we don’t feel like there are any more bodies on this property," said Lt. Kevin Bobo, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The majority of the property has been searched, but investigators will be back on the site Tuesday, he said.

Kohlhepp initially refused to talk with investigators and asked for a lawyer, Bobo said. On Saturday, he "reinitiated contact with us and confessed to the Superbike murders," Bobo said.

"We can’t go into who the people are or if Kohlhepp identified the two people found Sunday and Monday," Bobo said. He has not confessed to any more killings, Bobo said.

Investigators searched the property of Todd C. Kohlhepp on Saturday.

Investigators searched the property of Todd C. Kohlhepp on Saturday.
© Heidi Heilbrunn/The Greenville News, via Associated Press

On Monday, a day after investigators unearthed a second body from a wooded section of Kohlhepp’s property, an excavator could be seen digging at a site separate from Friday's and Sunday's discovery of bodies as the painstaking search for more remains entered its fifth day.

A green body board was taken onto the property Monday afternoon. About an hour earlier, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright gathered inside the fenced area but away from investigators with a group of people from Duncan First Baptist Church for prayer.

The sheriff and coronor, along with other investigators, could be seen working in the woods close to a clearing on the property. Late in the afternoon, a piece of excavating equipment was removed from the scene as was some evidence put into a black bag and driven away in a truck.

Two of Kohlhepp’s goats also were loaded into a large crate in the back of a truck and driven away.

On Saturday, Kohlhepp pointed investigators to the location of the second body and another after he was allowed to see his mother, according to CBS.

Wright did not know when further charges might be brought against Kohlhepp, but Solicitor Barry Barnette said other charges are likely.

The search for bodies has extended beyond the Woodruff property to other locations linked to Kohlhepp, though Wright declined to say where investigators were looking. The investigation is widespread and no longer limited to South Carolina, he said.

Just how far and for how long the search will continue is unclear, but with a private pilot’s license since 2006 and as a real estate broker in Greenville and Spartanburg who owned his own property management business, the search may prove vast.

He has yet to be charged in relation to two bodies that have now been found buried on his property. The remains of Charles Carver, 32, who was Brown’s boyfriend and had gone missing along with her in late August, were recovered Friday. Carver had been shot multiple times, Clevenger said.

Wright said it is believed to be one of the two bodies the suspect told investigators about when he was brought to the scene Saturday morning. Neither Wright nor Clevenger would speculate on an identity, or whether Kohlhepp had identified who might be in those graves.

The process of recovering the body has been meticulous, Clevenger said.

“You go to the point where they reference, where they tell you, and you very meticulously take off small layers of soil until you can identify potential for human remains,” Clevenger said. Experts meticulously dig around and underneath the body to preserve every bit of evidence possible, he said.

Wright and Clevenger declined to say whether the remains were skeletal or how long they may have been buried on the property, and would only classify them as "human remains."

Earlier Sunday, Kohlhepp appeared in court in Spartanburg and was officially charged with four counts of murder. The charges are for the four deaths at the Chesnee motorcycle shop 13 years ago.

Kohlhepp was denied bond and his next court appearance was scheduled for Jan. 19.

He is charged in the deaths at Superbike Motorsports of Scott Ponder, 30, Ponder's 52-year-old mother and part-time employee Beverly Guy, and employees Brian Lucas, 29, and Chris Sherbert, 26, according to Wright. The four were found “brutally murdered” on Nov. 6, 2003, at the business on Parris Bridge Road. The case was Spartanburg County’s first quadruple homicide.

Families of some of Kohlhepp’s alleged victims comforted each other as he stood before the Spartanburg County magistrate to be charged with four murders.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and acknowledging only the magistrate and law-enforcement officers, the short-haired, 5-foot-11, 300-pound man was told he could face the death penalty.

Kohlhepp quietly answered “yes, sir” or “no, sir” to questions from magistrate Jimmy Henson Sunday.

Asked if he wanted to make a statement to victims’ families, he said, “Not at this time, sir."

Contributing: Michael Burns,Nathaniel Cary and Eric Connor, The Greenville (S.C.) News; Mike Eads and Frances Parrish, Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail.

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