How can one truly know the soul of a man? Some will tell you it’s the eyes which are the window to the soul; a psychoanalyst might look towards his dreams; and irritating people with dream catchers above their beds will insist that star signs reveal everything you need to know about a person.
But as we and the NSA know, none of that retro nonsense can hold a candle to the one true avenue to a person’s secret self: their internet activity. That’s the real way to discover all the dark depths of a person’s mind, and that’s what I’m bringing you today: a window into the mind of a psychopath as told through an unlikely medium — his Amazon.com reviews.
Back in 2014, one courteous shopper known only as “me” left a series of lighthearted ratings for stuff he’d recently picked up online. However, “me” had quite a peculiar shopping cart: padlocks, a chainsaw, a shovel, firearm attachments, a stun gun…
Sounds like the wish list of either: a particularly heavy-handed mall cop; a tree surgeon in a bad part of town; or perhaps, just maybe, a serial killer. So who was this mystery reviewer, and what pearls of wisdom did they have to share with the world? Tidbits such as:
Clearly our anonymous Leatherface has a dark sense of humour. But what if I told you that he was only ever half joking. Because many of the tools he was reviewing would end up being used in very real murders, kidnappings, sexual assaults, and more.
It’d all start to look a lot less funny in retrospect, when the genuinely disturbed individual behind these quirky posts was captured…
Ghost in the Machine
On August 31st 2016, 30-year-old Kala Brown and her boyfriend, 32-year old Charles Carver, disappeared without a trace from their apartment in Anderson, South Carolina. The couple had recently moved in together after a whirlwind romance, and were having one of Kala’s friends over for dinner that night to introduce them to Charlie.
But when the guest arrived at the apartment that evening, nobody was there to welcome them. The only one inside was their dog — a little Pomeranian called Romeo — barking at the sound of the doorbell. So the visitor tried the door handle, and was surprised to find it unlocked. She called out, but there was no answer.
Little Romeo had been left without any food or water, which meant the couple couldn’t have planned to be out for long. The friend tried calling Kala, but her phone was off. So she asked around on Facebook, to see if anyone knew where Charlie and Kala had gotten to. Friends of Charlie confirmed that he too was unreachable. He was last seen on CCTV leaving work on the 31st, but after that, nothing.
When his family went round the next day to investigate (and rescue poor Romeo) they noticed something strange: Charlie and Kala had left their contact lenses and prescription medication behind. Had they planned on being out overnight, they’d definitely have taken them along.
That’s when they called the police. Friends and family raised the alarm on social media, and began preparing flyers to hand out around the area. And then, just as quickly as he was gone, Charlie reappeared. Not in person, but online.
And thanks to the digital relics of this case left online, we see how it unfolded in real time from the safety of our own basement content caves. On September 1st, Charlie’s Facebook profile sprung to life with a change in relationship status: apparently he and Kala had run off and gotten married without telling anyone. This was especially strange because Charlie was actually already married — at the time he was estranged from his wife.
Things got stranger over the following days, as Charlie started posting memes on his Facebook page — something his mother said that he never usually did — and ignoring everyone’s worried appeals for information.
Even more out of character was the aggressive tone this usually mild-mannered dude took on in the comment threads. On September 6th, he updated his cover picture to an image of the Joker and Harley Quinn, and this time even responded to some of the worried comments below.
Friend: “Where is Kala”
Charlie: “who the fuck are you to question me about my girl friend ?”
Friend: “The cops are looking for u asshole.”
His brother Nathan commented underneath saying his brother never spoke so disrespectfully to people, so the only reasonable assumption was his page had been hacked. Some sick individual had either done something to Charlie, or cracked his password to troll his family for fun.
The social media saga unfolded over the following weeks, with each new post and interaction dissected for clues. This new version of Charlie told a friend: “the one person that means the most to the me and kala she know where we are and we are coming that way for ever”
Judging by the grammar we’re dealing with perhaps the most diabolical 7-year-old in America (another reason his mother knew it wasn’t really her son). But the question remained, why in the hell would anyone have reason to impersonate Charlie in the first place?
Naturally, suspicion started falling on his estranged wife, Nichole Carver. As I said, the two were separated and judging by her own social media posts it appears as if it wasn’t a mutual decision. As the digital clues came trickling in, some started to believe that she had done something to the couple out of jealousy.
On September 16th, two weeks after the disappearance, whoever was behind Charlie’s internet activity posted a song on his profile: Aaliyah — 4 Page Letter. One of his friends saw this as a cryptic confession by Nichole, since the chorus talks about wanting to be with someone who doesn’t even notice you.
This became a popular theory among Charlie’s nearest and dearest — that his ex had either harmed him and his new girlfriend, or paid someone else to do so. And Nichole did actually end up getting arrested… for trying to clear her name.
A few weeks after the disappearance, she had the bright idea of calling up Charlie’s cell phone provider, claiming to be the lead investigator from the Anderson City PD. Nichole demanded to know the most recent ping location of the missing man’s cell phone (ie, which cell phone tower it was most recently connected to). But in real life vigilantes don’t usually succeed, so Nichole’s antics landed her straight in jail for impersonating a police officer.
Through October, the steady stream of Facebook activity continued. The brain damaged version of Charlie claimed he and Kala had moved far away, bought a house, and were planning on having a baby together. By this point, his family feared that kind of happy ending was impossible; the person who commandeered the account wasn’t some random hacker… it was their killer.
One of the most ominous clues of all seemed to solidify that fear. On October 2nd, Charlie’s account reposted a quote from the Eagles song Hotel California:
“Last thing I remember, was running for the door,
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before,
‘Relax’ said the nightman. We are programmed to receive.
You can check out anytime you like,
but you can never leave…”
Welcome to the Hotel California
In my books, the hero of our story so far is Nichole Carver: wrongly accused, she sets out on a quest to crack the case and clear her name. Shame about the felony charge she got for her trouble, but that’s basically how vigilantes always end up. However, her sacrifice may nothave been in vain.
Just over two months into the search, on November 3rd 2016, the cops themselves decided to check the ping locations of Nichole and Charlie’s cell phones. While it’s worrying that some random woman was a month ahead of the actual detectives in that regard, at least they got there in the end.
This time the cell phone company could legally turn over the records, seeing as it was a proper police officer asking. And what they revealed was that Charlie and Kala hadn’t gotten very far at all. Estimates placed their last pinged location at a rural property on the outskirts of Woodruff, about 35 miles to the northeast of Anderson.
Unbeknownst to the police at the time, this fenced-off, 95-acre stretch of woodland and scrub was the lair of one of the most ruthless killers in the state’s history. A team of detectives from the county Sheriff’s Department went to the eerily quiet property on the 3rd of November, and found it empty. Deep in the centre was a rustic, barn-shaped house.
The lights were off inside, but through the windows they could see a dust-covered space in disarray — bare floorboards, military gear, boxes of ammunition piled high, and tinned foods covering metal shelves along the walls. Everything you might need to survive a total societal collapse.
They knocked, but there was no answer; it seemed as if the whole 95 acres were currently deserted. But then, a strange sound… It was a rumbling, coming from somewhere in the trees behind the house. And then, the faint but unmistakable sound of a woman screaming.
The officers followed the sound through the trees, crunching over a carpet of autumn leaves, and came out onto a winding dirt road. Where it began to curve, the officers spotted a wooden tool shed. And next to it was the source of the sound: a dark green shipping container, with heavy locks on the outside (“solid locks… have 5 on a shipping container…”)
Someone was banging on the inside of the container wall…
What happened next was all captured on video, released online by the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. Using a rotary saw, one officer cuts through the heavy bars and padlocks on the outside of the container, sending a shower of amber sparks pouring onto the floor.
I have it on good authority that those are 5 star padlocks (“won’t stop them. but sure will slow them down til they are too old to care”). But the buzz saw makes short work of them, and then two more detectives move in with crowbars to pry the doors open.
A third waits with his gun, preparing for the worst case scenario, and a fourth with a towel. The doors swing open, and at first it’s too dark to see deep into the container. It appears to just be a regular storage container — an industrial vacuum sits on one side, with some metal wire lockers behind it.
But then the camera progresses inside, following behind the cops. One officer at the back says “just the girl — just the girl”. And there she is: a redheaded woman wearing jeans and a sweater sits with her hands in the air. It’s Kala Brown, alive and seemingly unharmed.
Her face is expressionless, as if she can’t quite believe what’s happening just yet. Along the back wall is the dirty old mattress she’s been forced to sleep on, next to a plastic bedside cabinet with tattered old books on top. The container was a makeshift prison cell, not even fit for a dog.
And like a dog, the sick person that put her there had Kala Brown chained by the neck. In a withered voice, she explains “just one [foot] — it’s attached to a chain, to the wall, and my neck’s attached to the wall up here.” She shifts some damp bedding to show the officers the metal hoop, bolted into the wall.
After the crime scene photographer snaps some pictures, one detective calls for a pair of bolt cutters, and begins snipping through the links. The question on everyone’s minds now is: where’s Charlie?…
Sheriff’s Deputy: “Do you know where your buddy is?”
Kala: “He shot him.”
Cop: “He shot him?”
Sheriff’s Deputy: “Who did?”
Kala: “Todd Kohlhepp shot Charlie Carver three times in the chest, wrapped him in a blue tarp, put him in the bucket of the tractor then locked me down here — I’ve never seen him again. He says he’s dead and buried. He says there’s several bodies dead and buried out here. And he says that the dogs will be ruined if they go looking because there’s red pepper.”
The video cuts off shortly after. The bolt cutters snap through the chain, and the victim is led out of the container with the handcuffs still dangling from her ankle. Kala’s two-month-long nightmare is finally over…
So they were too late to save Charlie — he was shot dead. And who was this man that Kala mentioned, Todd Kohlhepp? He was the owner of this sprawling property, and the occupant of the farmhouse. Kohlhepp was a big man with broad, flat shoulders, and the build of a star NFL defender (30 years past his prime).
It all began when Charlie and Kala took Mr Kohlhepp up on a job offer to clear brush from his property. That’s where the couple disappeared to after Charlie clocked off on the 31st of August, expecting to work a few hours on the land and be home by dinner.
It’s not entirely clear what happened that day, but it seems things went south when (as the killer’s mother later explained) Charlie “got nasty and got smart-mouthed”. So of course the landowner did the reasonable thing… and drew a pistol on him.
Stranded on his vast estate with nothing to protect themselves, Charlie and Kala were completely at Kohlhepp‘s mercy. He was a renowned gun nut, so the neighbours wouldn’t have thought anything of it as three gunshots rang out through the trees that afternoon.
After her boyfriend was gunned down by this pudgy paramilitary, Kohlhepp told Kala that he didn’t want to kill her, he just couldn’t let her go without jeopardising himself. So he made her a deal:
“If I said ‘no,’ he didn’t force himself on me because he said he didn’t believe in rape but he made it very well known why I was there. And if I wasn’t useful, then I wouldn’t need to be kept any longer, and then he would shoot me […]. He told me if I was a good girl he’d teach me how to kill and I’d get to be his partner.”
He then took the terrified woman to a clearing on his property, and pointed at the ground. This is where his last pet was buried, he claimed. She followed her boyfriend to the grave because she never obeyed the rules.
Then Kala was chained with her hands behind her back, and thrown into the shipping container. For 65 grueling days, she lived in the container as the weather outside got colder and colder. Twice per day Kohlhepp would swing open the doors, and bring her to his house.
Inside, a bed was set up with more chains fixed into the floor. There Kala was fed and sexually abused day, before being returned to the dark cell where she spent her nights. This is just the information which has been made public; the detectives have said there are more horrific details that’ll never see the light of day…
That was Kala’s daily hell for all that time while she wondered if anyone would ever come find her, or if she’d be stuck obeying this pudgy psycho for the rest of her days. While she was mulling over those grim prospects, the Amazon Killer got to work covering his tracks. He drove Charlie’s beat up old car into a ravine on the property, and tossed some brush over the top.
Then on to phase two: those unconvincing Facebook messages we covered before. Of course, by this point the real Charlie was dead and buried in a shallow grave. Following Kala’s directions, the police soon uncovered his body, minus two pieces. Suspiciously, his feet were nowhere to be found.
Kohlhepp claimed he knew nothing about this, but it really seemed as though they had been intentionally removed. And I happen to know that if you’re looking to dismember a dead body, there’s no better tool than the Husqvarna 455 Rancher 20-inch Gas-powered Chainsaw (“getting the neighbor to stand still while you chase him with it is hard enough”).
Some online sleuths eventually made the connection between Kohlhepp and these unsettling reviews, because his real name was attached to one of the wish lists on his account. That’s how Kohlhepp has come to be known by names like ‘The Amazon Review Killer’ and not ‘The Weird Fat Guy Who Collects Men’s Feet’.
Judging by these reviews, the killer had been amassing an inventory of weapons, murder tools, and imprisonment accessories in anticipation of a horrible crime just like this (and leaving helpful reviews for serial killers around the globe to use when planning their own crimes, how thoughtful).
But before you go out and grab your own Todd Kohlhepp Murder Kit, you should probably hear the rest of his story. At this point, it looked like his own killing career was over for good. He was picked up by the police at his office in nearby Spartanburg, then charged with kidnapping and first degree murder. The Spartanburg sheriff described him as “very calm and very polite” in custody. After confessing to everything, he asked that he be allowed to call his mother.
The story ends much as you’d expect. The trial commenced in May 2017, and ended with Kohlhepp condemned to spend life behind bars. He managed to dodge the death penalty by agreeing to plead guilty on all counts. All in all, he received a stunning seven life sentences, with an extra 60 years tacked on for good luck. That might sound a teeny bit excessive, but the reason was that this killer’s story doesn’t begin and end with the Carver and Brown case.
As detectives and psychologists started pulling on the threads of his life, they ended up unraveling the story of one of the most prolific, calculating, downright vicious serial killers even to grace South Carolina…
A Child of Rage
Kohlhepp was born as Todd Christopher Sampsell, back in 1971, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His mother was courtroom reporter Reggie Sampsell, and his father was army veteran William Sampsell. Just two years after little Todd was born, his parents decided to get divorced, and Reggie went on to remarry soon after. This was how he ended up with the Kohlhepp name, after being adopted by his step-father.
Todd’s relationship with his step-father was apparently quite turbulent. In fact, every single adult in his life sounds violent as hell, fond of using their kids as living piñatas in the guise of ‘tough love’. According to a Facebook post Todd made as an adult:
“my family believed raising me was a group effort. That means when I messed up, my mom beat my ass, my stepfather beat my ass when he got home… next time I went to my grandparents I got my ass beat […]”
Kohlhepp’s grandfather allegedly enjoyed using an electrified cattle prod as part of these punishments. I get that things were different back then, but surely nobody’s defending the practice of tazing toddlers.
So as little Todd started to grow up, he soon developed problems socializing with other kids (I wonder why). You’ve already seen how fast Kohlhepp’s temper could flip. Even the smallest perceived insult would send him straight from zero to murderous fury in 0.5 seconds.
In kindergarten, he would react to any social interaction with anger and violence. He smashed up his peers’ art projects, started fights on the playground, and threw chairs around the classroom. Then whenever he got home, his parents would set him straight with yet another beating. Because maybe if they just beat him enough he’d finally be good. So the older Todd got, the worse his attitude became.
Any perceived slight, any “talking back”, would be met with completely disproportionate violence. An old neighbour from the family’s time in South Carolina recounted how the little terror locked her son inside a dog cage, and started rolling it over, laughing at the boy’s screams.
Later he was caught shooting a neighbourhood dog with a BB gun, and even killed his own goldfish with bleach because he wanted a gerbil instead. A little note for new parents: if your kid ever starts killing animals, get them in therapy (otherwise I’ll be writing an episode about them in 20 years time).
That’s actually just what Todd’s mother did for him: he was committed to a mental hospital at the tender age of nine, but it didn’t seem to do much good. The psychiatrists noted his abnormal obsessions with sex and violence, but beyond that it doesn’t seem like he got much treatment. Todd was released after a few months, and his reign of terror continued unabated.
As Kohlhepp grew into quite a big-built young lad, his temper became so dangerous that his own mother locked his door from the outside each night, in fear of what he might do to the family in their sleep. One neighbour from those days called him a “devil on a chain.”
But his mummy dearest saw things differently. She later explained to the press that Todd wasn’t a bad person, he was just extremely sensitive to being hurt or scolded. So sensitive that, when a girl on the school bus dared laugh at him, he stabbed her in the fucking leg with a pair of scissors!
Thankfully for the school kids of South Carolina, they wouldn’t have to endure this much longer. When Todd turned 12, he demanded that his mother let him move in with his birth father in Arizona. When she refused, he smashed up his room with a claw hammer and threatened to bash her head in.
Coincidentally that’s when his mother realised that putting a couple thousand miles between herself and her little angel might be a good thing after all. Plus, she and Todd’s stepfather had just split up, partly due to the constant antics of this hammer-wielding maniac, who she believes “wanted her all to himself”.
So the little Satan-spawn packed his bags, and moved across the country for the summer…
Todd had spent his entire young life idolising the father who abandoned him, and now he was finally getting to spend some time with his hero. And for the first time in his life, he wasn’t completely surrounded by people just dying to beat the shit out of him every day.
Not that his father was a particularly good influence. That summer he introduced his son to some macho hobbies: collecting weapons, hunting, and… bomb making. (Oh yeah, teach the child psycho how to make pipe bombs, great idea).
According to Todd, over these father-son bomb-making sessions his poppa would regale him with stories from his life as a top-secret mercenary and arms dealer, who would disappear on missions to foreign warzones. To an impressionable little kid with a budding passion for ending lives, these nonsense stories sounded like the coolest thing imaginable.
Miraculously, Kohlhepp never blew up his school with an IED after returning to South Carolina, but he did express his discontent at returning to his normal life. He threatened to kill himself unless his mum let him return to GI Joe back in Arizona, and the following year his mother relented. He would now be living with his dad for good.
Now 13 years old, Kohlhepp was happier than he’d ever been in his life. He even took back his original birth name: Todd Sampsell. Throughout his early teens, he worked as a busboy at his dad’s restaurant, as well as some odd jobs gardening and landscaping.
It was a pleasant start, but over the next few years, the elder Sampsell started disappearing for days, then weeks at a time. No, he wasn’t off bombing freedom into the Middle East, he was actually chasing a never-ending string of girlfriends, leaving his only son home alone..
As you can imagine, this only exacerbated Todd’s issues. He even contacted his mother asking to come back home, but she made excuses to put off his return. Nobody wanted the little maniac bleaching up their fishbowls, so once again young Todd felt utterly abandoned.
The only difference was that now, he had access to guns. The “devil on a leash” was about to lash out with his most vicious attack yet…
Back in 1986, 15-year-old Kohlhepp developed a crush on a neighbourhood girl, a 14-year-old whose house was just three doors down from his father’s. As is usually the case with that first teenage romance, he was too shy to approach her.
The girl already had a boyfriend, and Kohlhepp was absolutely terrible at handling rejection, so he came up with a clever plan to win her heart. While his father was away on a ‘business trip’ that October, he confessed his love to the girl… at gunpoint.
She was babysitting her two younger siblings one night when she heard a knock at the door: it was Kohlhepp. He said that the girl’s boyfriend had sent him, and he wanted to talk urgently. The moment she was outside, Todd drew one of his father’s guns, and pointed it at the girl’s chest.
Todd would eventually become addicted to the power he felt in that moment. The moment he drew a gun, suddenly the world started taking him seriously — suddenly the smug smiles disappeared from people’s faces.
He forced his victim to follow him to his father’s house, where tied her up and taped her mouth shut. Still just a teenager himself, Kohlhepp then proceeded to rape the terrified girl. After the ordeal, he untied her, and then walked her back down the street to her house. Before the crying victim disappeared back inside, Kohlhepp threatened to murder her siblings if she ever told a soul.
Some reports claim that the girl bravely ignored the threats — some say a neighbour noticed what had happened. Either way, the cops arrived shortly after, and found Kohlhepp sitting in his father’s living room, holding a rifle to the ceiling. Court documents reveal that the first thing he said was:
“How much time am I going to get for this?”
The answer? A hell of a lot.
As a 15-year-old with prior psychological diagnoses, Kohlhepp should only have been looking at a few years in a mental hospital for the crime. He tried to explain the act as a simple act of rebellion against his mum and dad — you know, some kids smoke weed and sneak out at night, others kidnap and rape schoolmates. Ah the folly of youth.
But the Arizona courts weren’t buying it — they saw before them a vicious criminal with a long history of violence. Given the precedent set by his history of explosive antisocial behaviour, the prosecutors petitioned to have him tried as an adult. Psychologist Dr Roger Martig performed an evaluation on the teenaged terror, concluding that “the only emotion Todd is capable of is anger.” He would later tell the court:
“He demonstrates episodes of ignoring or distortion of reality […[ excessively strange impulses and feelings [and a] limited capacity to tolerate unpleasant affects.”
He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which explains his explosive reactions to any negativity. All of this meant that the doctors were convinced he would be a threat to society in the future.
And so Todd Kohlhepp was called up to the big leagues — adult court. The sexual assault charges were dropped as part of the deal to bring him there, but kidnapping still carried a hefty sentence in Arizona.
In the end, young Todd “Devil on a Chain” Kohlhepp was sentenced to 15 years behind bars (the entirety of his time on earth at that point!). His mother Reggie believed his sentencing was over-the-top, and her little terror should have been tried in the juvenile courts. She later told reporters:
“Never have I seen this happen to a 15 year old child and not even any help offered. They don’t stop to think that he even walked the girl home. Does that sound like a dangerous criminal? He even walked the girl home.”
Oh yeah Reggie, God forbid she walk home alone — she could get kidnapped or something. Good thing she had her kidnapper there to protect her…
A Fresh Start
All things considered, prison life never turned out too bad for teenaged Todd. Despite a rocky start, he ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and worked for a prison programme producing graphics for companies around the state. His LinkedIn says he was a “graphic designer with emphasis on print media, vinyl graphics and engraving.”
All in all, it seems like a bit of time behind bars might have actually improved his lot in life. He was finally released in 2001, after 14 years behind bars. The new and improved Kohlhepp stepped out into a completely different world, having skipped over the entirety of the 1990s, as well as the vast majority of his own twenties.
And then, as far as anyone could see, he kind of just reintegrated into society. After moving to the ridiculously named town of Spartanburg, South Carolina, he started piecing his life back together. On his resume, he sneakily changed his ex-employer, Arizona Correctional Industries, to Arizona Consumer Industries, allowing him to dodge awkward questions about that kidnapping conviction.
After a few years he even got another degree, and applied for a South Carolina real estate license (which never required a background check at the time). Anyone who spotted his name and face on the Arizona sex offender’s register would be fed a story about how the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.
And it worked a charm: Kohlhepp was granted his real estate license in 2006. He soon started his own company named TKA Real Estate, with a dozen employees, and became quite independently wealthy. He even got a pilot’s license in 2013.
All in all, this sounds like a pretty successful story of rehabilitation. A truly inspiring story of a life turned around. Thanks to the good people of the Arizona penitentiary system, Todd Kohlhepp was finally able to straighten up and fly right.
Oh yeah, there was that other thing, wasn’t there? The whole shipping container sex slave thing. Ehm, okay… Perhaps ol’ Devil on a Chain wasn’t quite as squeaky clean now as I made out. While he was putting together a successful public life for himself post-release, he also lived a secret second life as a cold-blooded criminal.
In fact, the truth is that he made it less than 2 years out of prison before he went back to his old ways…
The Superbike Motorsport Massacre
Way back on November 6th 2003, had you been unlucky enough to walk into the Superbike Motorsports shop in Chesnee, South Carolina at around 3:15pm, you’d have been greeted with a horrific scene. Two people lying in the doorway, with bullet holes in their heads. A further two victims were slumped over inside the shop, also killed with gunshots to the cranium.
It was a case of seemingly senseless violence that shook the community to its core. Nobody had any reason to harm store owner Scott Ponder (30), much less his mother Beverly Guy (52). Manager Brian Lucas (30) and mechanic Chris Sherbert (26) were the others found dead at the scene. It had the hallmarks of a gangland revenge killing, but none of the victims were in any way gang-affiliated.
The investigation went cold for a full 13 years… until our Amazon Review Killer happened to casually mention it to the captive Kala Brown, hoping to impress her with his ruthlessness and marksmanship. When the cops questioned him on this, he readily confessed. It’s almost as if he was desperate to win their admiration too:
“Got there, not everybody was there. Went and sat on a few bikes, did my usual. Basic stuff for time and doing my best to make sure that the paying customers weren’t there. Collateral damage is not cool, haha! […] I cleared that building in under 30 seconds. You guys would have been proud (laughs). I’m sorry but you guys would have been proud.”
Todd was his usual lighthearted self, discussing the massacre of four innocents as if he were chatting about a video game. The cops knew he was telling the truth, because he added information that was never made public: every one of the victims died from a gunshot to the forehead.
Kohlhepp was ridiculously proud of his finely-honed marksman skills — to him, shooting a living person was no different than blasting the bullseye on the paper targets he spent his youth practicing on. But this still leaves the question, why those specific targets?
Well, apparently it was a revenge killing after all — just a gloriously unnecessary one. Kohlhepp claimed that he had beef with the store staff after an altercation earlier that year. He had bought a sports bike from the store, but never could get the hang of riding it. So naturally, he went back to the store to ask for a refund. As the killer’s mummy later explained: “They laughed at him, made jokes at him.”
Oh Todd, you poor thing. But it’s like my own dad always told me: ‘if a kid at school ever tries to bully you… shoot them all dead in a calculated rampage — spare none — leave no witnesses — your honour depends on it, son.’ I had a weird childhood. And as we all know, Todd was similarly fond of massive overreactions.
So when the meanies at Superbike Motorsports bullied him for not knowing how to ride a bike, he added them to the top of his hit list. And even though he had the emotional maturity of a 2-year-old, he was far from stupid. As John Douglas, ex-FBI profiler and the inspiration for Mindhunter, put it:
“He was more of a retaliatory type of person. If he felt you were doing him wrong, he would get even. He’s very patient — he would wait months — but he’s going to come back. He’s going to get you. He was a different breed of cat.”
A different breed of cat indeed. Our humourless egomaniac was willing to go all John Wick on an entire store-full of people just because they weren’t nice to him. On top of that, he really thought of himself as a macho anti-hero, dealing out justice against the world.
After the day he was laughed out of the store, he left, and watched, and waited — and after a long enough time had passed, he returned to the store to execute every one of his bullies in cold blood…
The Doomsday Prepper Days
That was the first of Todd Kohlhepp‘s crimes that we can verify beyond a doubt, but nothing can convince me that there aren’t more bodies out there. Every time someone cut him off in traffic, chuckled at his outfit, or got his order wrong at Burger King, there was a solid chance he fantasised about slaughtering them and their entire family.
Regardless, the years between the Superbike Massacre and his real estate days are suspiciously quiet. The story picks up again around 2014, when Todd was sitting pretty on a mini real-estate empire.
Even though he had achieved financial success, he was generally shunned by most people who knew him. He would write like an edgy teen on Facebook, joking about fatal car crashes and murders, venting his constant rage and saying how “we need ebola snowstorm to wipe out half the population”. (here’s hoping you’re in the unlucky half, Todd)
Female employees complained about the sleazy creep watching porn at his desk. And everyone else knew him as a loudmouthed egomaniac who wouldn’t shut up about his cars and guns. In short, everyone thought he was a ballbag.
So Kohlhepp decided to retreat from society with his middle fingers in the air. In May 2014, he acquired that 95-acre plot of land we visited before for a surprisingly cheap $305,632. Apparently they’re just throwing land away in South Carolina.
Todd tacked another $80k onto the cost by erecting a chain link fence around the perimeter, to keep the outside world at bay. He told the previous owner that he “didn’t want nothing to do with anybody.” Kohlhepp kept his house in Spartanburg, but began spending more and more time down in Woodruff on his expansive property.
A big fan of the Walking Dead, our trigger-happy sociopath dreamed of the day when society would collapse so people like him (middle-aged gun nuts with beer bellies and zero social skills) would rise up to the top of the pecking order. But he wasn’t content to wait for the inevitable zombie hordes; Kohlhepp wanted to satisfy his bloodlust now.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember that this is exactly when those macabre Amazon reviews started popping up online. Rather than waste time visiting 10 different hardware stores like an old-school killer, tech-savvy Kohlhepp had much of his kill kits delivered right to his door.
On his Amazon account, you’ll find dozens of reviews for combat gear straps, holsters, grips, padlocks, reloading tools, super-absorbent sponges, etcetera. He even had a nice library of survival manuals covering everything from assault rifle battle tactics to emergency surgery.
By the time Kohlhepp was captured, his Hotel California killing grounds boasted more arms, ammunition, and military gear than some small nations could even dream of. Let’s return to 2016 for a moment, to take a look around his dingy, doomsday-prepper fortress…
Among an album of 104 pictures of the scene shared with the public, you’ll find:
– A silenced pistol with a laser sight, sitting on top of his dog’s kennel.
– Another pistol stored on top of a closet shelf.
– Another pistol taped above the pantry door frame (just in case the ninja assassins come at you while you’re preparing a nice bolognese)
– A tactical vest packed with ammo, and strapped with (you guessed it) another pistol on the chest.
– An SMG in the trunk of one of his BMWs.
– An assault rifle in the trunk of the other.
– A bulletproof vest in his jacket closet.
– A taser and syringes in his bedroom drawers.
– A silenced SMG tucked between two storage shelves in his garage.
– Entire shelving racks filled with boxes of ammo.
That’s only a fraction of all the firearms found in his properties and vehicles. And I know all of this might not be as shocking for my American friends. You’re maybe thinking “pfft, you call that a collection?”. But I grew up in a place where carrying a flip knife can get you 4 years in prison, so I can’t quite get over it — here’s a guy who once raped a girl at gunpoint in possession of more weaponry than a Mexican cartel!
Unfortunately we don’t have any chirpy Amazon reviews for any of the items above, because Todd procured them illegally (being a felon and all). Just by paying someone to buy the guns for him, he was able to amass enough weaponry to take on the entire sheriff’s department — who knows what he might have done if he had been at the when they came sniffing around!
After spending over a year stockpiling all this lovely killing gear, Kohlhepp decided to make his dark fantasies a reality once again at the end of 2015. From then on, his neighbours noticed a change in his demeanour — Kohlhepp retreated into his forest fortress for huge stretches of time, and cut himself off from the world even further, barring anyone from stepping foot on his land.
A Mr Waldrop, who lived in a trailer just off the property, said: “He told me he wanted to be left alone. It didn’t ring a bell that he might be trying to keep something in instead of something out.”
Johnny and Meagan
Kohlhepp was a familiar face to 26-year-old Meagan McCraw-Coxie of Spartanburg, for all the wrong reasons. Our renowned office masturbator was a frequent customer at the Waffle House in Spartanburg, where the young woman worked.
He would come in for lunch and pester the female staff with the same pervy awkwardness that he inflicted upon his employees. Being his favourite, Meagan got the brunt of his advances. Things got so bad that one of the male chefs had to go out to take Kohlhepp’s order whenever he came in.
Needless to say, she had no intentions of spending any more time near this creep than she had to. But in December 2015, Meagan found herself in dire personal circumstances. That December she was charged with child neglect after her baby tested positive for heroin.
The child was put with a foster family after she admitted to using heroin during the first 6 months of the pregnancy. She and her husband Johnny Coxie (29) were known for occasional panhandling to gather money for drugs, and now that she had lost her job and baby, they were even more desperate for cash.
The last contact Meagan had with her family was when her mother came to bail her out of jail — she said she needed a quick release to take a job offer, but beyond that she gave no details. After that meeting at the jailhouse, Meagan and Johnny disappeared without a trace. They were reported missing on December 22, 2015.
From there, the story is much the same as that of Kala Brown and Charlie Carver, except this first couple were never found. That was until the police dogs descended on Todd Kohlhepp’s property almost a year later, following the killer’s arrest. After finding the body of Charlie Carver, they continued combing over the entire 95 acres, for any trace of further victims.
Sure enough, Meagan and Johnny were down there in the dirt. Kohlhepp candidly confessed to murdering them at his property, in much the same fashion as you’ve already seen. He invited them onto his land promising them good money for clearing away brush.
He then killed Johnny without warning with a gunshot to the head, and imprisoned Meagan in his makeshift holding cell for six days. Apparently wasn’t as compliant a captive as her successor, so Kohlhepp decided to execute her in cold blood: he shot her in the back of the head on Christmas Day.
Once again, he claimed that he killed the male victim on the spur of the moment, as punishment for his bad attitude, and he only imprisoned/abused the woman out of necessity. But I don’t buy this in the slightest. This pathetic man-child clearly planned the whole thing in order to fulfil his desire to kill and control.
He wanted to be seen as a badass gunman at war with the world, when really he was just a standard, sleazy creep with no conscience and a messed up mind. Which brings us back to the most curious question of all: the feet.
Once again, it appeared as if Kohlhepp had severed the feet of the , but when quizzed on it by detectives he played dumb. Years later he wrote to an investigative journalist, saying: “I kill. I don’t play with bodies. This isn’t Criminal Minds.”
So if that’s the case Todd, then who took the feet? Were they already missing when they got there? Do you have a necrophiliac mate who keeps digging around on your land? Did the foot fairy snatch them and leave you a dollar under your pillow?
Honestly this denial is 100x weirder than just admitting you cut them off for some weird sex thing. But I guess that wouldn’t really fit with the image Kohlhepp was trying to project. Because the impression I get is that, above all, Todd Kohlhepp didn’t want to be feared or hated.
More than anything, he just wanted somebody to think he was cool…
How Many More?
The sad thing is that everyone knew a kid like Kohlhepp, but the vast majority of them grew out of it. Even well into his middle age, Kohlhepp was still spinning juvenile fantasies about military glory that only a five-year-old would fall for.
Scott Waldrop, who lived next door to his woodland property, said the killer once claimed to have flown overseas on a secret mission with his ‘mercenary’ father, and “mow[ed] down a village” of locals from a helicopter. This just sounds like he’s describing the Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now, and is 100% verified, premium, grade-A bullshit.
When you’re dealing with such an immature fantasist as this, it makes it especially hard to work out how many victims he actually killed. If we exclude that village full of Vietcong from the tally, then we’re currently looking at 7 murders. That’s how many Kohlhepp was charged with when he went to trial (hence the seven life sentences).
But when Kala told detectives about her nightmare imprisonment at the Hotel California, she revealed a shocking statistic: Kohlhepp claimed he was actually approaching triple digits! He never called himself a serial killer — he preferred the term “mass murderer”…
But how much of that can we trust? In December 2017, he reiterated his claims in a letter to the Spartanburg Herald Journal, claiming there are many more bodies yet to be found:
“Yes there is more than seven. I tried to tell investigators and I did tell FBI, but it was blown off. It’s not an addition problem, it’s an multiplication problem. Leaves the state and leaves the country. Thank you private pilot’s license.”
If that’s true, and he really did use his pilot’s license to get around, then he might be responsible for many more deaths, thousands of miles from South Carolina. Arizona is obviously a top candidate — he claimed to have shot at least one person there. But aside from that, he’s reluctant to offer up any further closure: “At this point, I really don’t see reason to give numbers or locations.”
There’s only one other murder in which he has offered up candid, verifiable details. About one year into his prison sentence, he told officers a story about his return to South Carolina just after getting released from prison in 2001, when he stayed at a complex called the Hunt Club Apartments.
To hear him tell it, several of his nosy neighbours were unhappy about having a sex offender in their midst, and tried to harass him out of the building. They called his phone at all hours, and distributed fliers around the area warning that a convicted kidnapper was in town.
When he told the cops about his predicament, they were less than sympathetic; “deal with it” they said. But to Kohlhepp‘s ears, that sounded like an invitation to take action. When two local men tried to confront him about his past, he dealt with it. In a phone call with a reporter, he said: “Two individuals decided to assault me, and they’re no longer with us.”
Kohlhepp says that one man came at him with a hammer, and the other with a knife. He managed to disarm the latter, then stabbed him in the chest. His friend died from a knife wound to the neck. The killer claims he dumped both those bodies at a dead end off Interstate 26 a few miles outside of Spartanburg (“keep in car for when you have to hide the bodies”).
But wait one second Todd, in that review for the SOG Pentagon Fixed Blade S14-N you said you “havnet stabbed anyone yet”? Were you lying then, or are you lying now? I just don’t know if I can trust you anymore.
Even though I’m not convinced, this dubious confession was apparently enough to justify a full search operation by the county Sheriff, which makes me think that the details must have matched up with to missing person’s cases from back at the turn of the millennium (why else would they spend so much money hunting for bodies that might not exist?).
The cops actually identified a handful of possible locations that fit the description given by Kohlhepp. However nothing but animal bones were found in the end. Who knows if it was all a charade to try to win some limelight, or if there really are two men buried off in those woods somewhere.
Ever since, Kohlhepp has pretty much shut up shop; he’s reluctant to give any more information to the police unless he can be guaranteed immunity from further prosecution — perhaps he knows that the death sentence would be an inevitability otherwise…
That’s the real end of this story so far: the point at which the trail of Kohlhepp‘s destruction goes cold. Unless he decides to open up about the whereabouts of all those alleged bodies (which could be as many as 90) then there aren’t any leads left to follow. So where is the Amazon Review Killer now?
Our wannabe action hero was 46 when he returned to prison, and will now be celebrating turning fifty at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina (and I think we can all agree that the real victim in all this is the cellmate who has to listen to him talk every day).
All in all, he only ever managed about fifteen of his adult years outside of prison. To circle back to the question we began with: I feel that’s the real man at the bottom of all this biography. Todd Kohlhepp wasn’t some mercenary commando, nor a calculating killer genius. Behind all that I just see a maladjusted moron who couldn’t function in the real world. Similarly, his mother told the TV show 48 Hours:
“He was very misunderstood. Todd is not a monster. He’s not even close to it. He wasn’t doing it for enjoyment. He was doing it because he was mad, and he was hurt.”
Sorry Reggie, but your precious little offspring is killing for catharsis, I think the ‘monster’ label fits pretty damn well. The reality we’ve seen today, through witness reports, biography snippets, as well as confession and online posts from the man himself, is that he actually did seem to enjoy every minute of it. Killing human beings was just a way for Todd to work through his explosive insecurities, and indulge his army man fantasies.
And for all those reasons, I’m afraid I can only give the Amazon Review Killer himself two stars out of five — creepy dude, weird obsessions, terrible grammar, would not recommend.
1. The Amazon Killer must have been following the news while the manhunt was on for Kala and Chris, because that September he made a post on Facebook which is incredibly cold in retrospect: “reading the news.. this person missing, that person missing, […] oh wait.. that person just went to the beach with friend, other person found with her parole violation boyfriend […].” He was mocking searches for missing people while Kala was imprisoned in his container dungeon…
2. Buried among the Amazon reviews I found a chilling detail which is never mentioned in any of the coverage of this case. It seems like in 2014, Kohlhepp somehow actually had a proper girlfriend… one with a small daughter. One of the reviews was for a doll he bought the girl (3 stars, in case you’re wondering). I hope her mother got her far away from our killer once the truth came out.
3. And lastly, no matter how unsettling serial killers are, you true crime nuts always find a way to one-up them.In August 2020, the contents of the killer’s Hotel California were auctioned off to raise money for victim compensation. Among the 550 items were his cars, boxing bag, books, and (hilariously) even that motorbike he could never get the hang of. One crime junkie woman bought a real estate sign with his face plastered on front, hoping for the price to go up as the kill count grew: “How many more bodies will they find? It’s fascinating. It’s cool in a very morbid way.” No offense love, but that’s a different class of mental.
The Actual Amazon Account
Images From the Scene
Video of Finding Kala
Might be good to lift the original audio from this.