(WOODRUFF, S.C.) — Investigators are still scouring the 100-acre property in South Carolina where a woman who has been missing for two months was found with a chain around her neck inside a metal storage container.
A tip led investigators to the massive plot of land in Woodruff, South Carolina. They began combing through the property Thursday morning when they heard “banging” coming from a padlocked container measuring about 30 feet by 15 feet. A woman, identified as 30-year-old Kala Brown, was being held against her will inside and “chained up like a dog,” said Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright.
A suspect has been arrested but officials said the investigation is not over. Here’s what we know about the man in custody as well as the victim and the ongoing search.
Officials said Todd Kohlhepp, 45, is the owner of the land where they are searching. He was on the property when a search warrant was served. Kohlhepp was arrested Thursday at 10:45 a.m. and is in the detention center, where he is currently being held on one charge of kidnapping as the investigation continues. He could face more charges, depending on the outcome of the investigation, officials said.
Kohlhepp had a bond hearing this afternoon, but bond was not set and the judge said it will be passed on to a circuit court, officials said. He is scheduled to appear back in court Jan. 19. ABC News was not able to reach Kohlhepp and it was unclear if he has an attorney.
According to South Carolina’s sex offender registry, Kohlhepp was required to register as a sex offender after he was arrested for a kidnapping in Arizona in 1987. According to 7th Circuit solicitor Barry Barnette, Kohlhepp was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl when he was a teenager. He allegedly tied her up during the assault and, afterward, threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone.
“This individual is a very, very dangerous individual,” Barnette said of Kohlhepp.
Barnette said Kohlhepp was the last person to speak to Brown before she went missing.
According to ABC affiliate KTRK, South Carolina Labor, Licensing and Regulation says Kohlhepp is listed as “broker in charge” at TKA Real Estate and TKA Real Estate Greenville. According to the company’s website, TKA Real Estate has over a dozen employees with offices in Greenville and Spartanburg. Employees at the firm could not be immediately reached for comment.
In what appears to be his biography on the company website, Kohlhepp says he’s a licensed pilot and has degrees in business and computer science from University of South Carolina and Central Arizona College.
Lindsey Mayson, a friend of Brown, told ABC affiliate WJBF-TV that Brown cleaned houses for Kohlhepp. Mayson said she met the man briefly when she helped Brown on the job one day.
“We went by his house to get a key before we went by his house to clean. Didn’t seem like a person who would do anything to anybody. He seemed down to earth,” Mayson told WJBF-TV.
Sheriff Wright called it “divine intervention from God himself” that led investigators to Brown’s location and “good investigative work” that brought them out to the stretch of land in the first place.
The Anderson Police Department received information that Brown’s phone had been tracked to Kohlhepp’s property on Woodruff Road, according to Barnette. After receiving the tip, investigators launched a search on Kohlhepp’s property around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Numerous officers, police dogs, digging equipment and a helicopter were on the scene.
The vehicle that Brown and her boyfriend, Charles Carver, were seen in after disappearing in late August was located in a wooded area on the property. Carver is still missing.
“We don’t have any indication either way. We’re certainly praying for the best outcome,” Wright said at a press conference Thursday.
According to a court solicitor, at least one body was found on Kohlhepp’s property Friday.
Investigators said they have also recovered multiple weapons and ammunition from the property.
What’s Next for Kala Brown
Wright said Brown was found “chained up like a dog with a chain around her neck” in the container and she told investigators she had been there for two months. She was transported to a hospital for treatment.
Brown told officials she had been fed regularly, but the Spartanburg County sheriff said it was “the grace of God that she was found alive.” Wright described Brown as “alive and well” when she was found but “obviously traumatized.”
When asked again about her condition Thursday night, Wright told reporters Brown “was in good spirits” and “looked good” considering her ordeal.
Brown told investigators that Kohlhepp took her and her boyfriend’s phones. Phone pinging indicated that their phones were near Greenville. Brown also said she witnessed the suspect shoot Carver, according to Barnette.
The Spartanburg County sheriff said investigators may be dealing with a possible serial killer and there could be multiple bodies on the vast property.
“We’re trying to make sure that we don’t have a serial killer on our hands,” Wright said Thursday. “It very possibly could be what we have.”
According to Wright, Brown “told us that there may be four people on this property.”
“We’re going back as far as we can for every piece of property this man has ever had to find what we need,” he added.
As the search continued this morning, Wright said cadaver dogs alerted investigators to some spots on the property. The remains of at least one person was found Friday and investigators believe there are more bodies on Kohlhepp’s property, according to Barnette.
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