(Editor’s note: The name of the woman rescued was removed because The State doesn’t identify potential victims of sexual assault)
An Anderson woman who had been missing for two months was found alive, “chained like a dog” inside a storage container in a rural area near Woodruff on Thursday, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said.
The woman, 30, who was found restrained with a chain around her neck in a padlocked metal container, remained in an area hospital overnight. But her boyfriend, who went missing the same time as she did in late August, has yet to be found.
Todd Kohlhepp, 45, a real estate agent who lives in Moore and owns the property where the woman was found, was arrested and remains in custody. No charges had been filed by Thursday evening.
Wright said the woman told investigators Kohlhepp told her as many as four bodies might be buried on the 96-acre property. Hundreds of officers and volunteers searched the land until sundown, and will resume again Friday morning, Wright said.
“We’re in the baby stages of the investigation. … We have to find out what we have,” Wright said. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t have a serial killer on our hands.”
No bodies had been found, but the car the woman and her boyfriend were last seen in was found on the property during the search.
The woman was “obviously traumatized,” Wright said, but the extent of her of injuries was not immediately known.
“She was chained like a dog. … It’s only by the grace of God she’s alive,” Wright said.
Kohlhepp was taken to jail Thursday morning after he was found on the Woodruff property. He told deputies he wanted to speak with his lawyer, Wright said. Kohlhepp is expected to have a formal bond hearing Friday.
Kohlhepp is a registered sex offender in Arizona, and Wright said the hard work of his sex crimes investigator helped lead authorities to the Woodruff property.
Wright said “plenty” of weapons and ammunition were found on the site.
The woman told investigators she was fed during her imprisonment in the 30-by-15-foot container.
“It was pretty emotional, to say the least, when she was found,” Wright said.
Kohlhepp bought the Woodruff land within the past two years, residents who live nearby said. They said Kohlhepp erected a chain-link fence around the property and posted no trespassing signs shortly after the purchase. Neighbors said he told them he wanted to build a house on the land and live a peaceful, quiet life.
“It’s just a quiet old country road,” said Gwen Ravan, who lives across the street from Kohlhepp’s land. “I’m here a lot by myself, and that’s just scary to me.”
Jay D. Bagwell, another neighbor, said he was disturbed to find out a woman had been held on the property for as long as two months.
“This is a quiet community. Nothing like this has ever happened here,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody, except this guy.”
Resident Dale Durham said he found it strange that Kohlhepp put up a fence almost immediately after buying the property.
“If I had thought there was a girl down there, I would have busted through to come get her out,” he said. “You never know about people … Good God.”
Kohlhepp is the owner and broker in charge of TKA Real Estate in Spartanburg.
Deputies seized evidence inside Kohlhepp’s Moore home Thursday afternoon and removed two silver BMW vehicles from his garage.
Neighbors there said Kohlhepp frequently had women, who he said were employees, visit his home. A friend of the found woman said she began working for Kohlhepp cleaning houses a few weeks before she went missing.
Ron Owen, a next-door neighbor, described Kohlhepp as “cordial,” but said some of Kohlhepp’s more recent comments made him uneasy. He said Kohlhepp recently told him that his daughter was “a fox” and asked if she was married.
Owen said Kohlhepp blamed a woman for the case in Arizona that led to him being a registered sex offender. He said he never expected Kohlhepp to be involved in any criminal activity.
“I’ve got two granddaughters, and I’ll tell you, I’m emotional about this,” Owen said. “It’s one of those things where now you’ll be a little more cautious about your neighbors.”
Owen’s wife, Maurene, said she didn’t know Kohlhepp well but was disturbed to learn of the allegations.
“You’d just wave to him like you would to any other neighbor,” she said. “This is really scary to me.”
Wright asked anyone with information on Kohlhepp or anything else that might be related to the case to contact his office at 864-596-2222.
Herald-Journal staff writer Allison M. Roberts contributed to this report.