Kala Brown had been missing for more than two months when authorities chasing a tip about a sex crime ventured onto a rural South Carolina property and heard banging coming from within a metal shipping container.
Inside they discovered the disheveled 30-year-old woman, in restraints and with a locked chain wrapped around her neck. Yet even as they worked with bolt cutters to free her, deputies stumbled onto another horrific revelation.
“Do you know where your buddy is?” they asked about Brown’s boyfriend, who disappeared with her on August 31, 2016.
“Charlie?” Brown answers in the video of her rescue — a riveting moment in the three-part limited series Serial Killer: Devil Unchained, which premieres Monday (9 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery. (A clip is above.)
“He shot him,” Brown asserts in a strong voice, still in restraints. “Todd Kohlhepp shot Charlie Carver three times in the chest. He wrapped him in a blue tarp, put him in the bucket of the tractor, locked me down here, I’ve never seen him again.”
The charge abruptly spun the image of Kohlhepp from kidnapper to killer. He would later plead guilty to the murders of Carver and six others over 13 years, and be sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“It was pretty emotional, to say the least, when she was found,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told reporters on the scene, as shown in the series’ premiere episode, “especially when she was chained like a dog.”
Kohlhepp was arrested after police freed Brown on Nov. 3, 2016, from the container on Kohlhepp’s nearly 100-acre property in Woodruff, South Carolina. The body of 32-year-old Carver later was found on the property.
Authorities said Kohlhepp, while in custody, admitted to Carver’s murder and also to the quadruple killings of Beverly Guy, Brian Lucas, Scott Ponder and Chris Sherbert — all shot to death in 2003 inside Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee, South Carolina.
Kohlhepp’s sixth and seventh murder charges were in connection with the 2015 deaths of Johnny and Meagan Coxie, whose bodies were recovered from Kohlhepp’s property after Brown’s rescue. They went missing in December 2015.
Meagan, according to an indictment, also had allegedly been held in Kohlhepp’s storage container for about six days after she disappeared, chained at both the wrists and ankles.
Brown was located after authorities learned from her Facebook page that she and Carver had planned to go work on Kohlhepp’s property on the day they disappeared. In an interview three months after her recovery, she said Kohlhepp shot her boyfriend in front of her before taking her prisoner.
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Brown said she survived by feeding her captor’s affection for her. Kohlhepp seemed “infatuated” with her, remarking on her beauty and intelligence. “He didn’t want to kill me, he wanted to keep me,” she during the interview on Dr. Phil.
“I had to stay alive in order to be found, and I realized that it was easier if he felt things were going his way,” she told Phil McGraw. “So I made him think whatever I had to to stay alive and to keep him from abusing me.”
“According to the stories he told me, I’d already been alive longer than anyone else, so … I believed [my strategy] was working,” she said.
The Investigation Discovery series revs up when journalist Maria Awes receives a call from the accused killer, who claims he has murdered more than his seven victims, and then follows his trail to learn whether his story might be true.
The three-part limited series Serial Killer: Devil Unchained premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.