SPARTANBURG (The Greenville News, CBS) — Inside a tense courtroom, Todd Kohlhepp, the South Carolina real estate agent turned serial killer, answered "yes sir" and "no sir" whenever a Spartanburg County judge called upon him during two of three hearings Wednesday.
He was transported here from a state prison to hear how much money attorneys representing his victims are seeking based on personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Across the room from Kohlhepp, Kala Brown, the 32-year-old woman Kohlhepp sexually assaulted and held captive in a metal shipping container, explained to the courts the ongoing treatment she's received and will continue to receive in light of the trauma she suffered on Kohlhepp's 96-acre Woodruff property.
"Sixty-five days," she said, answering a question from her attorney about how long she was Kohlhepp's prisoner.
Before Brown spoke, psychiatrist Vina Jain testified to the treatment she gave Brown after her rescue. Jain's treatment lasted about six months, she said.
"She’s going to require medications for her whole life and intense psychotherapy," Jain said, adding that Brown will continue to require weekly visits with therapists.
On Nov. 3, 2016, Brown was found with chains around her ankles and neck inside a metal box that investigators used power tools on just to get through the padlocks. During a televised interview on the "Dr. Phil" show in February 2017, Brown said she was raped "every day, twice a day" and that Kohlhepp often bragged about the number of killings he had committed.
Wednesday marked the first time Brown and Kohlhepp were in the same room since Brown's rescue in 2016. Kohlhepp was arrested that same day at his Spartanburg County home, about eight miles from the expansive Woodruff property where Brown was discovered.
Wednesday in court brought to light Brown's recovery process and hopes for the future, told through her group of friends who came to the hearing to support her.
Kohlhepp has been convicted of killing seven people. His victims were Charlie David Carver, Brown's boyfriend; Spartanburg couple Johnny Coxie and Meagan McGraw Coxie; and four people at a Spartanburg County motorcycle shop from a shooting in 2003 — Brian Lucas, Scott Ponder, Beverly Guy and Chris Sherbert. Kohlhepp confessed to the cold case while in custody for Brown's kidnapping and the other three murders.
Though convicted and serving out life sentences in a state prison, several civil lawsuits against the serial killer are ongoing.
A foreclosure lawsuit concerning the Woodruff property, Brown's personal injury lawsuit and Johnny Coxie's wrongful death lawsuit were the only ones considered Wednesday.
Judge R. Keith Kelly agreed to consider the motions to award damages that collectively totaled nearly $400 million. Brown's attorneys alone requested more than $360 million in actual and punitive damages.
Inside the courtroom
Kohlhepp entered the courtroom wearing a beige prison jumpsuit, prison shackles and white New Balance gym shoes when he walked in. Already seated were relatives of his victims, court officials, friends and those with a general interest in the case. Members of the media had tripods and cameras set up along both sides of the room.
Kohlhepp remained quiet during the foreclosure hearing and the hearing for Brown's lawsuit, answering questions from the judge with brevity and without much emotion.
But rather than keep quiet for Cindy Coxie's hearing, he took the witness stand.
Cindy Coxie had explained the psychological damage done to Johnny Coxie's two children. She spoke highly of her son, showing the judge pictures of his childhood.
"He rode dirt bikes. We have a lot of trophies where he won first place," Cindy Coxie said. "He won so many trophies he would give some away to the younger ones."
Kohlhepp used the time in court to claim that Johnny Coxie had tried to rob him.
"Why so much money for one," Kohlhepp said. "And two, he was shot trying to rob me in which I killed him."
Judge Kelly declined to address Kohlhepp's claim and said he could only answer specific questions about the amount of damages.
Outside the courtroom, Cindy Coxie called Kohlhepp a liar.
"He wanted to make accusations and I don't believe him," Coxie said. "He's not going to care. He doesn't care. He doesn't care. I don't expect any sympathy from him."
Brown took time to address the media following the end of her hearing.
She thanked her friends, family and law enforcement for their ongoing help along with "anyone and everyone out there that ever said a prayer for me. Thank you."
"I'll be OK," she added.
Her friends were more forthcoming about their feelings toward Kohlhepp and hope for Brown's future.
"There was a part of me that wanted to issue my own justice on him," longtime friend Dan Herren said. "He is the evil incarnate. He is the devil. I hope none of us are near anyone like that ever again."
Kala Brown's recovery
Brown has spoken about moving forward from her trauma and working as a victims' advocate one day. She wants to inspire others to be strong and brave, Herren said.
He said Brown is "the strongest woman I know."
Therapy is ongoing and she continues to rely on the support of her friends daily. Her ordeal makes its way into daily discussions, but she also finds a way to have fun with her friends, Herren said.
"I'm relieved. Kala's relieved. We're relieved that he's not ever going to see the light of day again. He's not going to hurt anybody else," Herren said.
Herren said Brown continues to speak about some of the additional killings Kohlhepp claims to be behind. She said that he told her about additional unsolved slayings but did not provide details that could lead to another case closure. Herren said she will continue to work with law enforcement in the event that new leads are developed that may link another killing to Kohlhepp.
Following the money
If Kohlhepp finds a way to profit from his criminal fame while behind bars, those involved in the lawsuits could be entitled to those funds, Herren said.
He and other friends and family members of victims said no dollar amount could bring back their loved ones. Some are hoping for some monetary damages, but others are not expecting much.
"Just cause there's a figure on paper doesn't mean you're going to get that figure," said Chuck Carver, Charlie Carver's father.
Chuck Carver's wrongful death suit is still pending.
No matter how the courts decide on damage amounts, actual dollars paid out to those in the suits will be a different amount based on what assets are still tied to Kohlhepp, said David Standifer, Cindy Coxie's attorney.
Attorney Reid Sherard is the court-appointed receiver of Kohlhepp's assets and is determining how much value is still tied to Kohlhepp.
"You just don't know what the receiver is going to come out of it with, if anything," Standifer said. "These (damage amounts) reflect the severity of damages, but don't reflect how much everybody is going to get."