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Monday, November 7, 2016

Todd Kohlhepp

A new serial killer has been discovered and arrested in South Carolina. From ABC News:

A South Carolina man killed at least seven people in a hidden crime spree that lasted more than a decade and only was uncovered when police rescued a woman chained at the neck in a storage container, authorities said Saturday.

Todd Kohlhepp accepted responsibility for an unsolved 13-year-old massacre one day before the 13th anniversary of the deaths that stumped authorities, said Sheriff Chuck Wright, first elected a year after the murders.

Kohlhepp, 45, confessed to the deaths of the owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper of Superbike Motorsports, a motorcycle shop in Chesnee, in Spartanburg County....

Wright says Kohlhepp also showed law enforcement officers Saturday where he says he buried two of his other victims on his 95-acre property near Woodruff....

Kohlhepp was released from prison in Arizona in 2001. At 15 years old, he was convicted of raping a 14-year-old neighbor at gunpoint and threatening to kill her siblings if she called police. Kohlhepp had to register as a sex offender.

But that didn't stop him from getting a South Carolina real estate license in 2006 and building a firm.

Wright said "it's strange" that Kohlhepp managed the pretext of a normal life for so long.

Here's Kohlhepp's mug shot when he was arrested for rape at age 15:

(He doesn't exactly look wracked with guilt at having held that 14-year-old girl at gunpoint and raping her.)

Here is a picture of the advertisement for Kohlhepp's South Carolina real estate firm:

And here is picture of Kohlepp after his recent arrest --

-- proving, once again, that leanness is everything when it comes to looks. He now looks a little like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

In any case, we know that Kohlhepp is a sociopath, no mystery there. To me, the two most interesting things once you hear about a new serial killer are, first, what was his childhood like, and secondly, in what other ways did he express his sociopathy?

This local Fox News report gave a sense of what he'd been like as a child:

[Kohlhepp] pleaded guilty to kidnapping in the Arizona case and has been registered as a sex offender since then. His prison sentence started a year later in November of 1987 and continued until his release in 2001... 

Kohlhepp’s case was moved from juvenile to adult court. Dozens of pages of documents address his behavior as a young child through his teenage years. The judge who moved the case to adult court had a scathing summary of Kohlhepp and his behavior, calling Kohlhepp “behaviorally and emotionally dangerous.” He went on to write, “At less than the age of 9, this juvenile was impulsive, explosive, and preoccupied with sexual content. He has not changed. He has been unabatedly aggressive to others and destructive of property since nursery school. He destroys his own clothing, personal possessions and pets apparently on whim.”

That report includes a psychiatrist’s report that said he had “emotional difficulties and poor impulse control.” It said Kohlhepp underwent counseling for many years in South Carolina and Georgia, from the time he was 8 or 9 years old.

The report also included statements about Kohlhepp's relationship with his mother, who resided in Spartanburg at the time. Kohlhepp had lived with her until the he went to live with his father in the mid-1980s, when the kidnapping occurred: “Mrs. Kohlhepp states that Todd has experienced emotional, behavioral problems for as long as she can remember.” She said these problems went back to 15 months of age. She also mentioned that Kohlhepp had made several threats to harm her and to kill himself prior to the 1986 crime.

The report went on to say, “There is also mention made of Todd destroying his bedroom with a hammer; destroying other children’s projects; hitting other children; cloroxing a goldfish; shooting a dog with a BB gun; being dismissed from the Boy Scouts because he was too disruptive; shredding his own clothes.”

Family trouble was another common theme in the court document. It stated Kohlhepp did not have much of a relationship with his biological father until he went to live with him in the 1980s. His mother had re-married and there were also issues with his stepfather.

A quote from his father was also included in the report, stating "The only emotion Todd seems capable of showing is anger."

Kohlhepp also had problems in the classroom. The court documents mention an evaluation performed by Spartanburg County School District 3 in 1982 when Kohlhepp was a student there. The evaluation stated Kohlhepp talked out in class, destroyed material, had temper outbursts and was defiant. The evaluation said his intelligence appeared to be in the gifted range but that he had pronounced emotional difficulties.

The troubled youngster had even undergone psychological treatment. The documents state Kohlhepp was admitted to the Georgia Mental Health Institute in 1980 because of his hostile and aggressive behavior.

The judge’s report summed up his feelings about Kohlhepp and his behavior saying he was “extremely touchy and defensive" and that Kohlhepp "gets others extremely angry at him."

"He is extremely self-centered with high levels of anti-social personality functioning, and likely continuing aggressive behaviors toward others in the future,” said the judge. “Twenty-five months of the most intensive and expensive professional intervention, short of God’s, will provide no protection for the public and no rehabilitation of this juvenile by any services or facilities presently available to the Juvenile Court.”

All this shows the antecedents for his later murderous actions. But it doesn't explain why Kohlhepp was the way he was. If his problems started at fifteen months, as his mother stated, then they could well be be organic rather than environmentally-caused. The bit about killing animals is chilling; that is part of the triumvirate of childhood behaviors that psychologists say characterize later serial killers. (The other two behaviors are late stage bedwetting and pyromania.)

As far as the other ways he manifested his sociopathy, the ABC News article had a few clues: 

"I was the only one he let over there, I think because I laughed at his jokes and listened to him," [his neighbor Scott Waldrop] said....

Kohlhepp has a house about 9 miles away in Moore, where neighbor Ron Owen said Kohlhepp was very private, but when they did talk across the fence, he was a "big bragger."

Kohlhepp liked to talk about the money he made day trading online, for example, and about his two BMWs. He recently told Owen, 76, that he'd spent $80,000 on the chain link fence.

Sociopaths like to surround themselves with people who will laugh at their jokes, and act impressed by their exploits and money. They like yes men.

And they have no inhibitions. Not about boasting. Not about spending their money on flashy possessions. Not about destroying others' property. Not about torturing their pets. Not about eating so much food they turn into 300 pounders. And not about killing and kidnapping, either, should that be their inclination.


Anonymous said...

Well, it seems that Kohlhepp showed his true colors from an early age. How sad that he grew up to become a murderer. Scary individual.

- Susan

Runner Katy said...

Wow, I did not know all of this about this killer! How creepy! What are your thoughts on his sociopathic nature beginning at only 15 months? At that age, he didn't have an opportunity to be mentally anguished by parents, right?

John Craig said...

Runner Katy --
I was wondering about that myself. At 15 months, it's quite possible that he'd been semi-ignored by his mother and thus had failed to establish a bond with another human being, and it's actually the first year of life where that's most important. But I've never heard of a 15-month-old being a problem that way before, which makes me think it's something organic with him. That's just a guess, though.

Clara Oneill said...

Psychopathy can be strictly genetic IMO.

The Ambivalent Misanthrope said...

Sociopathy is a 'symptom' of the earliest failures of emotional development, going back, in fact, to much earlier than 15 months. At fifteen months old, a normal toddler is mastering emotional realities that are very sophisticated in comparison to those of a 6-month old. A six-month old is getting a handle on the fact that he is not the master of the universe, whereas a 15-month old is navigating very nuanced dynamics of separation and dependency.

I, too, am always very curious about the mother's role in sociopathy, because she (or her stand-in) is pretty much in charge of the transition from the 'omnipotent control' of the 6-month old to the ambivalent yet healthy dependency of the toddler. Granted, some babies may in fact have been compromised in their development even prior to birth --- either by environmental factors or trauma or exposure to toxins/drugs ---for their development to be permanently limited, no matter what a mother or surrogate does right.

John Craig said...

Ambivalent Misanthrope -
You know way more about early development than I do, so I'll defer to you.

Yes, it is hard not to believe that the mother didn't play a strong role here....but who knows.

Thank you for your expert opinion. (Sorry, I'm following the election closely at the moment.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised this guy started showing signs of sociopathy aged 15 months. As I've expressed before, I reckon sociopathy is similar to autism in that its origins lie in pre-natal hormone exposure and has little, if anything, to do with upbringing.

I'm hopeful that there'll eventually be a treatment for sociopathy. Imagine the budget cuts governments could make to police forces if here were! Sociopathy is biological in origin, which is why psychotherapy utterly fails as a treatment (as psychotherapy does with most psychological conditions, it being massively overrated). There is research undergoing into altering the brain function of an adult. They've managed to treat depression and induce self-confidence in shy people through transcranial magnetic stimulation. It appears it might work for impulsitivity too, offering a glimmer of hope for sociopaths:

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
What hormone would cause sociopathy? There's a correlation with high testosterone and sociopathy, witness the (3x) greater likelihood that males will be sociopaths than females (though I've always been little suspicious of that figure, I suspect more female sociopaths go undiagnosed simply because they're less likely to engage in violent behavior). But there are plenty of high testosterone males who are not sociopaths. So what other hormone would cause sociopathy?

That would be amazing if sociopathy could somehow be cured, but one thing that all psychologists agree on is that it can't be cured, or at least never has been, in the annals of psychiatry. You simply can't change character. The magnetic stimulation stuff is fascinating, that would be incredible if it could actually have an effect on sociopathy.

I agree with you completely about how psychotherapy is way overrated. Much of it appears to be the placebo effect dressed up with a clinical blessing.

Anonymous said...

That transcranial tech could also help treat aspergers/autism/schizophrenia/bipolar/adhd.

He was in for a rude awakening. He initially though that getting this treatment would make him see only a world of love and butterflies. What a surprise would be in store.

It actually made him suicidal and depressed for some time when he found out that he would mostly be seeing a world of pain, anxiety, fear, and sadness. He did several sessions but after a while decided not to go back for it, but it still changed him, he became more insightful and makes eye contact years after. If I were him, I would keep going back and doing it and face the world, man up. No official clinic offers it now though, only quack clinics do it. If you paid for it in an official one, they would use experimental techniques or only light levels of stimulation since this tech can cause seizures if done wrong.

If only insurance companies would cover this, but i suspect pharma companies would not like their customers using less of their anti depressants and other meds. They may get in the way of it. The world is better off using direct treatments if it means using less medication. They already have implants doing electric stimulations for parkinson's but they ought to make one for neurological disorders too, a brain chip that blasts magnetic waves into an individuals brain.

Didn't the movie Dr Strange passingly mention a brain chip that controls schizophrenia in one scene? Where are the researchers? Probably not motivated since anti-psychotics are a big industry worth billions, and even a 100,000 dollar implant is cheaper in the long run on society.

John Craig said...

Anon (I assume Gethin) --
Robison's is a fascinating story. I think I"d heard it once before, then forgotten about it. But yeah, it reminds me of those stories of blind people who somehow regain their sight, or giant for the first time, and are completely overwhelmed by it, so much so that they have a hard time functioning, and it's not 100% a positive thing, surprisingly enough.

If the transmagnetic stuff works, I agree completely that it's better than an endless regimen of meds. And you're right, the big pharma companies will throw roadblocks up if it would get in the way of their profits.

Haven't seen Dr. Strange.

Anonymous said...

Not Gethin, someone else.

Another factor to take into account Robison was 58 I think when he did it. It may have better results on younger people who wouldn't be as shocked, also they found TMS isn't as effective for those with IQs below 70 (obviously, lower IQ brains do not have the same morphology). Direct current stimulation may be best for the mentally retarded to ease symptoms.
Robison was a sound engineer who worked with the instruments for KISS, obviously such therapy would work for him since he must have at least average intelligence.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Ah, okay, apologies to both of you...

Yes, that makes sense about how it would work better for a younger person. Not only in the sense of there still being greater plasticity in the brain, but in terms of having it not be quite so bittersweet when it occurs, as there would be less of a sense of an entire lifetime spent unaware, or wasted somehow.

It did sound as if Robison also benefitted in a narrow way from his autism, judging from the way he described the way he perceived sound before and after the treatment. Though he did say immediately after the treatment that he was so moved by music that he was rendered incapable of doing anything else for a short while.

Anonymous said...

Another story. One session lasted an hour for her, but repeated usage would hammer in new connection and modify DNA methylation.

But, It is still in the experimental phase for autism, if they aren't careful they could cause a seizure and they need to find out how much and where and how often to do it like they did for reversing depression.

Imagine far lower dosages of ADHD or Bipolar drugs, you could just step into a local clinic with a prescription get a blast for 30 minutes like getting a haircut.

This woman was 54, another person who was a bit too old to fully absorb but it seems she handled it with less trauma than Robison but Robison was more insightful when he spoke about his experiences and figured out on his own he was missing out on many things regular people experienced while this woman seemed clueless her entire life.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Interesting, thank you. And interesting how the effects of the treatment were only temporary. Yeah, it would be efficient if people had only to step into a local clinic and get their treatment that way.

By the way, if you're going to post more than once, it would be better if you used a name (obviously it doesn't have to be your real name), just so I know I'm talking with the same person, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Okay last post as anonymous. My name is Josh. Ill sign with it until I get around to making a google account (I lost my phone at home)

The effects are only temporary FOR NOW. They had to the same problem with major lifelong depression but figured out the right places to blast for 6-8 weeks and bam rewired since it modifies gene expression and rewires synapses. A person would also maybe go in once every few weeks after that for check ups. But for the mentally retarded they need to do work with nootropics and direct current stimulation.

It really does target DNA methylation and protein expression which may prevent mutated genes from activating the same way in the brain, and the epigenome is partially heritable which means this will curb inheritance problems as well to some degree. Family members who has the same DNA methylation but no gene mutations for a brain disorder like ALS or alzheimers could benefit as they can also get it for that purpose I hypothesize.
Family members of genetic psychopaths can nip it in the bud if they are lucky. Liberals say its only environment but it partially is, the epigenome is affected by chemicals, malnutrition, and smoke.

This is also essentially not a cure but an insulin for the biggest symptoms of ADHD. Sure they may be have memory problems but they can live a normal life if they sit still. Donald Trump needs to open up about his ADHD and endorse this! Or at least get himself treated. (Do you think he saw the news articles suspecting him of having ADHD and decided to get treatment? He is a lot more calm in recent videos but still uses the word "absolutely" a lot.)

I have ADHD hyperactivity (which explains how I write and talkativeness) so I am super excited. Even if it is not a miracle at all, I won't look a gift horse in the mouth.

John Craig said...

Josh --
I'm starting to feel a little like an impostor, you're discussing stuff with me I know nothing about. I'm pretty good at recognizing sociopaths, and seeing how their sociopathy manifests itself, and I'm decent at recognizing Aspergers and its various signs too. But I know nothing about neurophysiology, and am eminently unqualified to discuss this stuff with you.

That said, I appreciate all your comments, and I share in your excitement about possible cures. We really are living in the Dark Ages as far as this stuff goes. electroshock therapy for depression has been around since the early part of the last century, but it was just a generalized shock, not aimed at a specific part of the brain, sort of like a surgeon wielding a saber instead of a scalpel.

And yeah, that would be amazing if they could "cure" sociopathy, even on a temporary basis, although I still think that most cases of sociopathy are a matter of upbringing and not brain chemistry. (Although it's quite possible that the former has an effect on the latter.)

I wonder: do you think Trump even knows he has ADHD? He's 70 now, and grew up in an era when ADD and ADHD were basically just not diagnosed. And he had enough success during his early adult life, and is a narcissistic enough personality, that it's hard to believe he would want to go to a psychologist to find out if something is wrong with him. (If you're narcissistic, you tend to put positive spins on all of your quirks.)

Anonymous said...

He could be narcissistic enough that he thinks "If I get me some adderall or Ritalin, I will be able to be even better at talking!"
If he had a private doctor sworn to secrecy, then he could do it. Hasn't he seen the numerous articles over the internet speculating he has ADHD? He obviously must google his name ten times a day! Also his narcissism could help him endorse a medicine to make profit and be seen as some sort of philanthropist by way of awareness.

Anonymous said...


John Craig said...

Josh --
I hadn't realized that there were a lot of sites beside this one that had speculated that he had ADHD (and I can't even claim credit for it, it was commenter Mark Caplan who suggested it)....Yes, that's possible, and he DID manage to stay on message for the last two weeks of his campaign. (Though I suspect that had more to do with his handlers reading the riot act to him.)

But it's also possible that even if he saw it suggested that he had ADD or ADHD, he would just dismiss it out of hand, since he'd be unwilling to admit there was anything "wrong" with him.