Though he purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property and has saved enough money to transfer some to a friend as part of investigators’ efforts to secure his cooperation, accused serial killer Todd Kohlhepp is being represented at least temporarily by an attorney paid by the state of South Carolina.
Shane Goranson, who notified the Spartanburg County magistrate Monday night that Kohlhepp waived his right to appear at the arraignment for his most recent charges, is a capital defender for the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, a group that provides legal representation to state residents who cannot afford to hire attorneys.
Kohlhepp, 45, a registered sex offender and real-estate broker from Moore, is facing 12 charges, including seven counts of murder, according to warrants.
He’s also under investigation in Arizona, where he “admitted to shooting somebody,” an investigator told the former wife of one of Kohlhepp’s alleged victims.
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Kohlhepp could be put to death if found guilty.
Goranson has declined to discuss specifics of the case, but he said he’s spoken with Kohlhepp and Kohlhepp has welcomed his representation.
A judge will ultimately rule on whether Kohlhepp qualifies for state-provided indigent defense throughout his trial, Goranson said.
“The reality is that the cost of a capital defense can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most middle to low-income persons, even those who are not indigent, cannot afford to retain a competent lawyer and pay for the investigative and expert services that are critical to presenting an adequate defense,” said John Blume, a Cornell Law School professor and former executive director of the South Carolina Death Penalty Resource Center, a nonprofit organization since renamed Justice 360 that provides resources to lawyers in death-penalty cases.
“If counsel is not appointed, then in many cases the person will run out of money, the defense will be inadequate and there is a substantial risk that counsel will be found ineffective — thus requiring a new trial all on the taxpayers’ dime,” said Blume, who is not involved in the Kohlhepp case and isn’t privy to its particulars.
Money to pay for indigent defense comes from the state through the collection of criminal fines, tickets and such, Blume said.
Kohlhepp, who’s not married and isn’t believed to have children, bought his house on Windsong Way in Moore for $137,500 in January of 2007, records show.
He bought the 95-acre property near Woodruff — where the bodies of three people were discovered after a woman was found chained inside a metal container on Nov. 3 — for $305,632 in May of 2014, according to property records. He later paid about $80,000 to erect a chain-link fence around the property.
After his arrest, in order to secure his cooperation in an investigation where he’d already confessed to killing four people in an infamous cold case from 2003, Kohlhepp was allowed to transfer an undisclosed amount of money to a friend to pay for a child’s education, according to Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright.