The arrest of Todd Christopher Kohlepp for the murder charges that are linked to the deaths of four people at Superbike Motorsports 13 years ago, in addition to the uncovering of three bodies on his property in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, has caused officials to scratch their heads in confusion as to how he could have flown under their radar for so many years.
Experts state, according to USA Today, that it is normal in the case of serial killers to remain undetected due to their ability to blend well into society and their communities. Additionally they also take breaks from killings that can span months or even years.
The periods that are referred to as “cooling off” times by experts are typically what differentiates serial killers from mass murderers, who defined by members of the FBI as being the murder of at least four or more individuals in one single incident. A serial killer, on the other hand, is defined as an individual who kills at least two people in separate incidents. Experts also state that it is unlikely for a serial killer to start with a mass murder.
A body found on Todd Christopher Kohlhepp’s property was ID’d Saturday as a man he is accused of shooting https://t.co/Ch0eVuBRd9
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) November 6, 2016
One body discovered on the 95-acre property of Kohlhepp was Charles Carver, who had been missing since late August. The other two bodies have yet to be identified, and their time of death is unknown.
Dr. Eric Hickey, who has studied the acts of serial killers for more than 35 years and has assisted the FBI in the investigation, stated, “This is one of a kind, extremely rare.”
The director of Northeastern University’s Murder Accountability Project, Enzo Yaksic, has built a database on serial killers for law enforcement and shares that the pattern of the killer is “incredibly uncommon.”
In regard to the killer beginning his series of killings with a mass murder, Yaksic also stated, “I don’t think I’ve seen that in any other case before.”
Experts explain that serial killers often appear very normal, so much so that they don’t raise any suspicion. Often, they are also able to develop a persona that results in dual lives.
“These offenders remain undetected for large expanses of time due to a mixture of diligence on their part, a carefully constructed façade, the types of victims that they select and lucky breaks,” explained Yaksic, a technical consultant for the upcoming A&E show, The Killing Season.
Dr. Helen Morrison, who is also an expert on serial killers due to having interviewed 115 of them, also notes that it is due to their apparent normalcy that they often go undetected for so long.
“In fact, most people are shocked when they find the person who is finally arrested because they will say he is a very nice person, he didn’t cause any trouble. They are able to be chameleons. They can manage to live a life undetected.”
In 2005, a five-day symposium on serial killers hosted by the FBI was attended by 135 experts. The publication notes the summary of the discussion that was written by FBI members, which was meant to serve as a guide on serial killers and their tendencies.
“The majority of serial killers are not reclusive social misfits who live alone. They are not monsters and may not appear strange. Many serial killers hide in plain sight within their communities.”
The agency drew examples by pointing to several serial killers who have managed to avoid capture by authorities. One such example is the “Green River Killer,” Gary Ridgeway, who confessed to the killings of 48 women he committed over the span of 20 years in the Seattle region. FBI officials stated that he was married three times and was still married at the time of arrest.
Serial killers and their normal lives. pic.twitter.com/SveIVwTw4K
— Lost In History (@HistoryToLearn) November 9, 2016
Morrison notes that these killers appear “vanilla” so they do not stand out to the law.
“Every time I go into one of these people, I find myself saying, ‘Oh, he couldn’t possibly be a serial murderer. They seem utterly normal.”
However, a few hours of chatting with them results in this facade fading away. The publication notes more conclusions made by Morrison.
“Morrison said that the majority are males, but many lack advanced education and many have no criminal record as an adult, though they may have had brushes with the law as juveniles. They often sport a middle-class lifestyle, she said, and have few close friends but are not recluses and are expert manipulators.”