A woman who was held captive in chains on serial killer Todd Kohlhepp's property told a court Wednesday that she still suffers mentally and physically from her 65-day ordeal in 2016.
In a crowded Spartanburg County courtroom, Kala Brown faced Kohlhepp for the first time since her rescue as she testified in a hearing on her lawsuit against the convicted killer. Her lawyer asked a judge to award her more than $363 million to cover her future medical expenses and to compensate her for her suffering.
Circuit Judge Keith Kelly did not rule on that request or on a separate lawsuit related to another of Kohlhepp's victims.
Brown, 32, stared straight ahead from the witness stand while she answered questions from her attorney. Earlier, she turned to look at her former captor and fixed him with a steely glare, her lips pursed.
Vina Jain, a psychiatrist who has treated Brown, testified that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress. Brown will likely need years of therapy and a lifetime of medication as a result of the ordeal, Jain said.
Kohlhepp, representing himself, declined to ask Brown any questions when given the opportunity. When asked if he wanted to address her request for damages, Kohlhepp shrugged and said, "No, sir."
Kohlhepp, a former real estate agent, pleaded guilty last year to seven counts of murder in a series of killings that occurred over a decade's time in the Upstate. He is serving seven consecutive life terms in prison.
His grisly run came to an end when sheriff's deputies found Brown chained in a locked storage container on his sprawling Woodruff property in November 2016. Investigators later discovered three bodies on his land, and Kohlhepp confessed to killing four more people at the Superbike motorcycle shop in November 2003.
Brown and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Charlie Carver, were lured to Kohlhepp's property in August 2016 to help clear brush from the land. Kohlhepp then shot Carver and took Brown hostage. She told deputies that he raped her many times during her captivity.
Kohlhepp glanced over when Brown entered the courtroom but mainly watched the proceedings impassively, seated at the defense table in his tan S.C. Department of Corrections jumpsuit. He seemed unfazed as the judge moved to schedule his property for a foreclosure sale. Shackled at the waist, the burly killer answered questions with a simple "yes, sir" or "no, sir" and occasionally drummed his palms on his legs.
Two correctional officers in protective vests sat immediately behind Kohlhepp and led him from the room as soon as the hearing was over.
Brown paused at the end of the proceeding to thank her family, friends, law enforcement and "anyone out there who ever said a prayer for me" for their support along the way.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone for all the prayers and all the work you put into looking for me," she said. "If it wasn't for everyone out there, I don't think I would be here today."