Last year, Kala Brown spent two months chained at the neck and ankles in a metal storage crate as the prisoner of South Carolina real estate broker Todd Kohlhepp. When she was found in November, the Spartanburg County sheriff wondered aloud what kind of person would keep another person chained “like a dog.”
“This is just nonsense – that somebody could be that cold-hearted to do that to a human being,” he said.
Brown told police she did odd cleaning jobs for Kohlhepp, and that she and her boyfriend Charles Carver were on one of those jobs when Kohlhepp suddenly turned violent. One such job turned ugly quickly, Brown said. She told police the Realtor had shot her boyfriend, and then kept her captive for the following two months. Initially, police had limited information about what went on during that time as Brown recovered.
In the three months since, Kohlhepp has confessed to six other murderers, including an unsolved 2003 quadruple homicide known as the “Superbike murders.” The only explanation for his most recent crime came from an interview with his mother, who insisted her son had murdered Carver because “he got nasty and got smart-mouthed” and then locked up Brown because he was scared and didn’t want her to call the police.
This week, Brown relived the torture of those two months in an exclusive, two-part interview on Dr. Phil, offering a long look at her time on Kohlhepp’s property. In her first public appearance, Brown revealed Kohlhepp’s obsession with her, how he raped her daily, expected her to succumb to Stockholm syndrome and planned a future for the two of them.
Here, five things we learned from Kala Brown’s interview with Dr. Phil.
Kohlhepp planned to keep Brown indefinitely.
“I did what I had to do to stay alive and to keep him from abusing me,” Brown revealed on the show. She also said that Carver was shot so that she would be less likely to fight back. “He said it was easier to control someone if you took someone they loved,” Brown said.
That proved true. Brown said after the shooting Kohlhepp grabbed her from behind, telling her to follow him, “Or I’d join Charlie.” That’s when Kohlhepp forced Brown into the storage container, she told Dr. Phil, and immediately chained her neck, leaving her completely bound and gagged. The chain had a mere three feet of slack, she said. Inside the pitch black container were shelves with rations of food and bottles of water.
“He talked about some stuff … let me know that if I tried to run he’d kill me, if I tried to hurt him he would kill me, if I fought back he would kill me,” she said. “And then he raped me.”
Those rapes continued twice daily, Brown said. In response to Dr. Phil’s questioning, she confirmed Kohlhepp maintained his cool exterior even in those violent moments.
Kohlhepp bet on Stockholm Syndrome.
Brown said Kohlhepp bought her sports bras and underwear to wear in the late-summer heat. As it grew colder, her wardrobe expanded to include yoga pants and sweats. He let her use a toilet once a day, and bathe every other day, she said.
Though he repeatedly downplayed search efforts in an attempt to convince her she had no hope to be rescued, Brown said she knew authorities and her family would persist in their attempts to find her.
Kohlhepp certainly had no intention of letting Brown go voluntarily. He informed her that she was his property, she said, and that she would never get away. “He explained Stockholm Syndrome to me, and told me that it would kick in and we’d be happy together,” Brown said.
Brown eventually learned to play along with the charade so that she could stay alive in time for her family to find her. “I realized it was easier if he thought things were going his way,” she said.
Kohlhepp opened up to Brown.
Over time, Brown became Kohlhepp’s confidant. She said he often bragged about his killing prowess, and gave her intimate details about his crimes. His victims, she said, are like “objects” to him, but at the same time he admitted having being unable to kill someone facing him head on.
About a month into her kidnapping, Brown said she realized that Kohlhepp meant it when he said he would only kill her if she tried to hurt him or run away. That fact made her brave, she said.
“I told him he was nothing but a serial killer and he would pay for what he did,” Brown said.
Brown was occasionally taken out of the storage unit.
On a few occasions, Kohlhepp took Brown beyond her pitch-black prison. During two separate trips – one on foot and another she spent chained to a four-wheeler – Brown was able to familiarize herself with her surroundings.
Still, she was never afforded any opportunity for escape. If Kohlhepp ever unchained her neck, she said, other restraints had already replaced them. There were a few breaks in Kohlhepp’s fence, she noted, but she never had a chance to slip through them.
If Kohlhepp had his way, Brown would still be there. She said he had plans to build a house for the two of them to live in, complete with a soundproof room where she would’ve remained.
Throughout the ordeal, Brown stayed positive.
Dr. Phil asked if Brown ever considered committing suicide to escape her nightmare. Carver’s memory, and her desire to see her mother and other family, kept her from entertaining those thoughts.
When authorities finally found her in November, Brown said her first reaction was to suspect it was a setup designed by Kohlhepp. Her rescue didn’t become real until later in the hospital. “I didn’t feel safe until I had momma in my arms,” she said.
Despite losing Carver and going through that life-altering experience, Brown is committed to overcoming the nightmare. “I’ll recover from this,” Brown concluded. “I’ll always miss Charlie; I’ll always wonder what our life would’ve been like. But as far as what Todd did to me – I am not going to let that man rule my life.”