Rare S.C. Case: Mass Murder, Then ‘Cooling Off’ Period

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Could a serial killer have operated undetected in South Carolina for more than a decade? With the arrest of Todd Christopher Kohlhepp on murder charges stemming from the deaths of four people at a motorcycle store 13 years ago and the discovery of three bodies on his Spartanburg County property, some wonder how a killer could elude capture for years, reports the Greenville (S.C.) News. Experts say it is not uncommon for serial killers to go undetected, in part because they blend so well into their communities and sometimes take pauses from their crimes that can last months or years.

These “cooling off” periods used to be part of the definition of serial killers to distinguish them from mass murderers, which the FBI defines as the murder of at least four people in a single incident. Serial killers are those who kill at least two people in separate incidents, according to the agency. One body discovered on Kohlhepp’s 95-acre property was that of Charles Carver, missing since late August. Authorities have not identified the other two bodies or said when they might have been killed. Experts said it is highly unusual for a serial killer to begin with a mass murder. “This is one of a kind, extremely rare,” said Dr. Eric Hickey, who has studied serial killers for 35 years. Enzo Yaksic, who runs Northeastern University’s Murder Accountability Project and has built a database on serial killers for use by law enforcement, described that pattern as “incredibly uncommon.” He said, “I don’t think I’ve seen that in any other case before.” Experts said many serial killers appear so normal they don’t raise suspicions and sometimes cultivate that appearance in what amounts to be dual lives.

 

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