Court records of Todd Kohlhepp’s conviction for the 1986 rape of a 14-year-old girl in Arizona when he was 15 paint him then as a severely disturbed adolescent who once threatened to kill his mother, used a hammer to destroy his newly remodeled bedroom, poured bleach into a goldfish bowl and locked a boy in a dog cage and rolled him around.
One neighbor described him in a pre-sentence report as “a devil on a chain.”
Kohlhepp pleaded guilty, according to the records, in a plea bargain to kidnapping and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He had originally been charged with sexual assault and kidnapping.
“Approximately six years of intervention in 15 years of life have resulted in abysmal failure,” Judge C. Kimball Rose wrote in transferring Kohlhepp’s case to adult court.
Hundreds of pages of court pages, including a presentence report, psychological evaluations and statements by police, probation officers and judges in the case portray Kohlhepp as an emotionally disturbed 15-year-old with explosive anger issues, no family support system and little remorse for his crime.
According to the records, Kohlhepp used his father’s handgun to force a 14-year-old neighbor to walk to his home, where he placed duct tape on her in his bedroom, tied her hands and then raped her.
When questioned about the crime, Kohlhepp told a probation officer that he wasn’t sure why he raped the girl but it could have been an act of rebellion because his father was out of town, according to the records. He said the gun did not work. He also said he used a knife to threaten her after placing the gun back where he found it, according to the records.
“When questioned how he thinks this offense has affected the victim, the defendant responded, ‘I have messed myself up too,’” a probation officer reported.
Kohlhepp told the officer, according to the records, while he knew what he did was wrong, he said he thought the girl was 16 at the time. He said he thought a 15-year sentence would be unfair. He wanted 12 years or less because he said that would allow him to get a job with the military, according to the pre-sentence report.
The parents of the girl told the officer that the rape had a “devastating effect on the entire family.” The girl cried and was unable to communicate during most of an interview with the probation officer and her parents said her grades and athletic ventures had deteriorated. They alleged that Kohlhepp was a “violent and vicious person” who shined a knife in the girl’s face during the assault, according to the records. They alleged that he knew her age at the time and “had no sense of reality.”
Kohlhepp was an only child whose parents divorced when he was 1-2, according to the records. His mother submitted a letter saying while the crime was wrong, “he is not a bad boy.” She pointed to the fact that he walked the girl home after the assault. “Does that sound like a dangerous criminal?” she asked.
But she informed a probation officer that he was repeatedly mean to other children growing up and both parents talked of his explosive anger. He Cloroxed a goldfish bowl once when he didn’t get a gerbil, shot a dog with a BB gun, and was dismissed from Boy Scouts because he was deemed disruptive, the mother said, according to the records. He also destroyed a remodeled bedroom with a hammer and wrecked other items in his childhood and adolescence, from other children’s projects, to models and a stereo that had been a gift. The mother said her son had experienced emotional and behavioral problems since he was 15 months old, according to a juvenile probation officer’s report. His father told a probation officer that the only emotion his son was capable of showing was anger. He told his mother once, according to the records, that he wanted to live with his natural father “and if he must kill her to get there, then that was what he was going to do.” He came to hate both his stepfather and his father, according to the records.
A neighbor reported that he once locked her son in a dog kennel cage and then rolled him over until her son was crying, according to the records. The woman said Kohlhepp just laughed, a probation officer reported.
Kohlhepp was admitted to a Georgia mental health facility in 1980, according to a juvenile probation officer’s report, because of his mother’s inability to enforce limits and his problem behaviors in school. He appeared preoccupied with sex during his early sessions, though that decreased in time, according to the records. He was described as intelligent in evaluations, with low motivation, poor self-esteem and anti-social personality characteristics. He once threatened suicide, according to a report, and experienced a hallucinatory episode.
“Behaviorally, he is demanding, self-centered and likely attempts to force others to do what he wants in order to meet his own needs,” one report stated.
An adult probation officer wrote in a pre-sentence report that allowing Kohlhepp to plead guilty to a non-sexual crime was a “travesty of justice.”
“It would appear that his behavior has been progressively worsening and now, it has escalated to the point where he has sexually assaulted an innocent child,” wrote Kim Otto, deputy adult probation officer. “One can only speculate as to where the defendant’s behavior will lead. It is this writer’s opinion that it is this type of individual, one with little or no conscience, who presents the greatest risk to the community.”