SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Two bodies found on the rural property of a South Carolina man linked to five other deaths were a couple who had a history of panhandling and had been buried there for nearly a year, authorities said Wednesday.
One of the victims was 25-year-old Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie of Spartanburg, who appears to have died from a gunshot wound to the head. The other was her husband, 29-year-old Johnny Joe Coxie, who was shot in his chest, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said.
Their families were told simultaneously that the couple was killed, and they’re grieving, he said.
“It’s bad news but also they have questions that we’re able to give them answers to. This isn’t a run of the mill case. It never has been,” Clevenger said.
The couple’s “extensive tattoos” helped identify them, he said. They have at least one child who is accounted for.
Authorities caught a break in the cold cases last week when investigators searching the property discovered a woman alive and chained by her neck and ankle in a large storage container, yelling for help. Her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charlie Carver, was found shot to death and in a shallow grave on the land. That couple had disappeared about two months earlier.
The property owner, Todd Kohlhepp, was arrested last Thursday at his suburban home about 10 miles from his 95-acre property. After his arrest, deputies say he confessed to killing four other people in the county at a motorcycle shop in 2003, leaving behind their bodies and a mystery the local sheriff thought he may never solve.
Kohlhepp acknowledged the grisly cold case after authorities granted him several requests, including letting him speak to his mother.
On Saturday, investigators brought Kohlhepp out to his land and he identified the gravesites, even calling the Coxies by name, authorities said. It wasn’t clear what the couple’s relationship with Kohlhepp was.
Authorities believe they’ve uncovered all the bodies on the land, Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Bobo said. Investigators were searching other properties Kohlhepp either currently or used to own, but Bobo declined to say where those are.
The FBI said Wednesday it was helping local authorities and conducting its own investigation to determine whether any federal laws were broken.
As a convicted felon, Kohlhepp could not legally purchase guns.
But multiple weapons, including an assault rifle and handguns with silencers, were confiscated from both his home and the rural property, where used practice targets showed he was “a very good shot,” Solicitor Barry Barnette said at a hearing Friday.
Investigators haven’t given a motive for the Coxies’ slaying or the killing of Carver. In the motorcycle shop slayings, the wife of the shop’s owner said detectives told her that Kohlhepp was a disgruntled customer.
Kohlhepp, 45, was denied bond Sunday on four murder charges in those slayings. He has chosen to represent himself. More charges are expected.
“There’s no reason to rush,” Bobo said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
As a teen, Kohlhepp was sentenced to 14 years in prison in Arizona for binding and raping a 14-year-old neighbor at gunpoint. Released in 2001, he managed to obtain a real estate license in South Carolina in 2006 and by most accounts, lived a very private and seemingly quiet life.
The Coxies were reported missing last December, after being released from jail earlier that month. McCraw-Coxie had told her mother she needed to be bonded out so she could go to a job, but then her mother lost contact, Bobo said. He did not specify why they were in jail, other than to say both had a history of panhandling around Interstate 26.
Both had outstanding arrest warrants on “various offenses” issued after they disappeared, Bobo said.
The two were buried roughly 11 months ago, Clevenger said.
“There’s no way of putting an exact time of death,” he said.
Also Wednesday, the metal container where the woman spent two months locked inside was removed from the property.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman because the suspect is a sex offender, though authorities have not said whether she was sexually assaulted.
Her boyfriend’s estranged wife, 35-year-old Nichole Ellen Carver, was arrested Tuesday after police said she posed as a detective when she called AT&T last month to try to track down Charlie Carver’s phone.
She was released from jail Wednesday. It was unclear if she had an attorney, and a phone listing for a Nichole Carver had been disconnected.
Police know of no connection between her and the killing. The couple married about three years ago and had not filed for divorce, The Anderson Independent-Mail reported.