In this episode, we’re going to take a visit to the southern United States. We’re going to start in beautiful, sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Know for beautiful beaches, boating canals and luxury hotels, it’s a city perfect for travelers. On March 7, 1971, Regina and William Sampsell welcomed their son Todd into this beautiful city.
Two years later, the couple divorces and Regina gained custody. And just one year later, she remarried Carl Kohlhepp. His stepfather even legally adopted Todd in 1976, changing his last name from Sampsell to Kohlhepp. Todd did not like his stepfather and repeatedly made it known that he wanted to be with his biological father who had moved to Arizona.
Todd’s aggressive behavior started early in his life. At the age of 4, he was aggressive toward the other children in his nursery school, both in behavior toward them as well as being destructive of other’s property. Throughout his childhood, he exhibited emotional and mental instability. He would destroy items in his room with a hammer and was dismissed from the Boy Scouts for being disruptive.
At age 9, he started counseling and a short stay at a mental institution. While under their care, he was diagnosed with ADHD and possible Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which is a behavioral disorder including “a frequent and ongoing pattern of anger, irritability, arguing and defiance toward parents and other authority figures.” Todd was said to be explosive and obsessed with sexual content. It was also brought to light that he displayed cruelty to animals.
At age 12, his mother granted his wish and sent him to live with his biological father in Tempe, Arizona. The two shared an interest in firearms and explosives, but his father was more often preoccupied or gone by romantic relationships and endeavors. Todd realized that he wanted to return to his mother, but she didn’t want him back.
On November 25, 1986, 15-year-old Todd decided to abduct a 14-year-old girl. He used a 22-caliber revolver to threaten her and then take her home. Once home, he tied her up, taped her mouth shut and then sexually assaulted her. Afterward, he walked her home and let her go. But first, he threatened to kill her entire family if she told anyone what had happened.
Luckily, that girl was defiant and she told her parents what had happened.
Todd was arrested and charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, and commiting a dangerous crime to a minor. As part of a plea deal, he pled guilty to the kidnapping to have the other charges dropped, but was still added to the Sex Offenders Registry. The judge in the case said that he was “behaviorally and emotionally dangerous,” and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This disorder includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions, unstable relationships and often engaging in dangerous behaviors. It often begins in early adulthood, and adverse life events can play a role in its development. While uncurable, it can be treated with various psychotherapies and medication.
While incarcerated, it was also recorded that he has an above average IQ of 118. He was even able to earn his bachelors degree in Computer Science from Central Arizona College before his release. He was released in August of 2001 after serving 14 years of his 15 year sentence.
After his release, he moved to South Carolina. In 2006, he got his real estate license and a private pilot license. Then, in 2014, he purchased 95 acres of land near Woodruff.
On August 31, 2016, 30-year-old Kala Brown and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Carver went missing after being hired to remove brush from one of Kohlhepp’s properties. Then, on November 3, police were able to track down the last known location of the couples’ cellphones on Kohlhepp’s 95-acre property. In their search, they found a large metal storage container and heard banging inside. Once they were able to cut open the doors, they found Kala chained up. She had one chain padlocked around her neck and one around her ankle.
Police also found Carver’s vehicle on the property within a ravine and covered with brush. Kala told police that during her captivity, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Kohlhepp and watched as he shot and killed Charles. He also showed her graves of his victims to scare her into obedience.
The three graves he showed her belonged to Charles and a married couple that went missing in December of 2015. Once exhumed from the makeshift graves, the couple was identified as Johnny and Meagan Coxie. They had also been hired to help clean up property that Kohlhepp owned. Johnny died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen and Meagan died a week later from a gunshot wound to the head.
Kohlhepp was arrested and the investigation began to uncover the odd behaviors of this well-known successful businessman of the area. Mixed accounts would come in of customers saying he was out-going and professional while others said he was angry and condescending. Kohlhepp would frequent a local Waffle House and his behavior toward the waitress there resulting in only male employees taking his orders.
Police also uncovered a variety of bizarre Amazon reviews from his account. On a folding shovel, he said “keep it in your car for when you have to hide the bodies and you left the full-size shovel at home.”
In exchange for the ability to reconnect with his mother, Kohlhepp confessed to a cold case that had haunted the region for 13 years. In his confession, he revealed details that were not made public.
In 2003, he purchased a motorcycle from Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee, SC. The 2003 Suzuki GSX-R750 was not a good choice for a beginner. Kohlhepp felt it was too much and returned to the store to talk about trading it in or selling it back. He says the employees were rude. A few weeks later, the motorcycle was stolen, and he believed the shop took it.
Kohlhepp proceeded to purchase a Beretta 92 FS 9-mm handgun and visited the store. He waited until no other customers were there, but all 4 employees he was disgruntled with were present. He then said he was going to purchased a particular bike, and the mechanic, 26-year-old Chris Sherbert, took it to the back to be readied for the purchase. At this point, Kohlhepp went into the back. While standing over Chris, he unholstered the gun and shot the mechanic 2-3 times. He noticed they were what he called “lung shots” and knew that the man would not be getting back up.
Kohlhepp then returned to the front to find the others on their way to see what had happened. They heard the gunshots but weren’t sure what was going on. At this point, Kohlhepp shot 52-year-old Beverly Guy, the bookkeeper and mother of the store’s owner, multiple times in the chest. The other two employees started to run away and Kohlhepp shot service manager 29-year-old Brian Lucas in the back. The owner, 30-year-old Scott Ponder was the final victim who was shot in the head in the parking lot of the store.
Kohlhepp bragged to investigators that he killed all four in less than 1 minute. And when he was done, he just got in his car and drove away.
The case had remained unsolved due to a lack of evidence. Kohlhepp told them that when he loaded the magazines of bullets, he wore latex gloves. Then, while in the store, he made sure not to touch any door handles with his skin.
Kohlhepp made a deal that if he pled guilty to the seven murders, he could escape the death penalty. He is currently serving 7 consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, SC.
In August of 2020, some of his belongings were auctioned off and the money generated was used to pay judgements against him including what was owed to the families of the victims.