Those who know real estate agent Todd Kohlhepp say they are "mind-blown" and "in disbelief" over his connection to a missing woman who was found chained, alive in a locked container on Kohlhepp's 96-acre Woodruff property.
Real estate agents, some who have known Kohlhepp for a decade, referred to him as professional, hard-working, talkative and passionate about his "farm" in Woodruff.
They said 45-year-old Kohlhepp bought the land on Wofford Road within the past two years and had been developing it nightly with plans to have a garden, farm animals and other amenities.
A missing person case out of Anderson involving the 30 year-old rescued woman and boyfriend Charlie Carver on Thursday led Spartanburg County deputies to Kohlhepp's land, where they found the woman "chained like a dog" inside a locked metal container, Sheriff Chuck Wright said. (The State does not identify victims of sexual abuse.)
Carver remained missing Friday morning. A judge would not set bond for Kohlhepp on Friday and set a first court appearance for Jan. 19.
He remains in Spartanburg County jail on a kidnapping charge. Solicitor Barry Barnette told a magistrate judge that the woman saw Kohlhepp shoot Carver. Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger was called to the Woodruff property on Friday on the report that a body had been found.
Kohlhepp is the owner and broker in charge of TKA Real Estate, with offices in Greenville and Spartanburg.
Several real estate agents working for Kohlhepp said the business is now "defunct" in light of the kidnapping charge, and one woman said she is finding a new broker to work for this week.
"I'm leaving. I'm done," said real estate agent Irina Popov. "I can't work for a criminal. Can't work for a creep like that."
Popov said he would discuss his Woodruff property daily and would never be reachable after 6 p.m. He had plans to build a home on the property.
"This was his dream house," Popov said.
Several agents at Kohlhepp's firm said they were invited to his Woodruff property but never actually went.
"He worked on the business too much. When he started on the property, I thought it was a good thing for him," said TKA agent Cherry Laurens, who knew Kohlhepp while they went to school at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She said they were study partners in statistics class.
"He got mad at the hunters who tried to still hunt on his property, but that's why he put the fence up," Laurens said. "How in the world could he have done something like this, the person that I knew, or thought I knew? … It just doesn't seem right."
The co-workers who spoke with the Herald-Journal said they had never heard of the woman until now. At least two people close to her have said she stared cleaning houses for Kohlhepp shortly before she disappeared.
"I'm still in the denial phase. He's a very smart guy. Very business-like, very protective of us," said Pamela Lyda, another agent. She added that Kohlhepp was a private person.
"He didn't want people messing with him," she said. "He wanted to keep to himself."
Kohlepp's profile on real estate website Zillow.com indicates he had 16 sales within the past 12 months. He had a five-star ranking based on 10 written reviews on the site.
Kohlhepp is a registered sex offender based on a kidnaping conviction in Arizona. Co-workers said he was upfront about being a registered sex offender but disagreed with the ruling.
Along with Anderson police, Wright said the work of his sex crimes investigator was instrumental in this case. He said "plenty" of weapons and ammo were found on the Woodruff property.
Neighbors in Moore and Woodruff knew a side of Kohlhepp outside of the real estate industry, but they said they didn't know him well.
"He was cordial," said next-door neighbor Ron Owen.
Those in Woodruff said he was adamant that people stayed off his property.
"When he first bought the land I met him and told him I had hunted here before. He told me, 'Well, your hunting days are over,'" said Johnny Ravan, who lives in a home across the street that overlooks part of Kohlhepp's land.
Ravan said apart from that exchange, Kohlhepp seemed ordinary, and he would openly discuss his plans for a garden and for animals to graze on the property.
"It's unsettling knowing this is across the road from your house. It's a quiet neighborhood. Good friends, good neighbors around here," Ravan said. "But it don't surprise me. The world we live in today, nothing surpirses me. Can't trust people anymore."
Mack Lancaster owns land that borders Kohlhepp's property and came by the property this week to watch law enforcement officers work the scene.
"I just hate something like this has happened in our little town," Lancaster said. "I assumed he wanted to build a house over here and have animals, which is why he had a fence. … Keep your eyes open and ears open. … Not all the time people that seem to be real normal are what they appear to be."
Authorities continued their investigation through Friday afternoon.