How a Suspected Serial Killer's Final Victim Escaped Him Alive: 'I Won'

During her two-plus months in captivity last year in South Carolina, Kala Brown realized she could survive by feeding her captor's affection for her

During her two-plus months in captivity last year, Kala Brown said she had a crucial realization: She could survive by feeding her captor’s affection for her.

“I had to stay alive in order to be found, and I realized that it was easier if he felt things were going his way,” Brown explained during an interview Tuesday on Dr. Phil, in her first media appearance since she was rescued in November.

“So I made him think whatever I had to to stay alive and to keep him from abusing me.”

Brown said her alleged abductor, Todd Kohlhepp, seemed “infatuated” with her, remarking on her beauty and intelligence. In the first part of her sit-down, on Monday, she claimed to host Phil McGraw how Kohlehpp allegedly shot her boyfriend in front of her on Aug. 31 before taking her prisoner on his nearly 100-acre property in Woodruff, South Carolina.

“I don’t think he wanted to kill me,” she said, adding, “He explained Stockholm Syndrome to me and told me that it would kick in and then we’d be happy together.”

In fact, Brown said, Kohlhepp allegedly described to her their fantasy future as he saw it.

“He was going to build a house on the property and I was going to have a soundproof room, and he’d let me have the run of the property eventually when he trusted me,” she said he told her. “He even said that he would let me go and give me some money if he ever got old and sick.”

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All the while, Brown said, she did not dissuade Kohlhepp about their relationship — and the longer she stayed alive, the more confident she became.

“He didn’t want to kill me, he wanted to keep me,” she told McGraw as she recounted how she began talking back.

“I told him he would pay for what he did to people and that it took a coward to kill other people,” she said.

Brown said she didn’t fear retaliation, as she hadn’t done the few things that Kohlhepp allegedly warned would cause her death, like attempting to escape or hurt him.

“According to the stories he told me, I’d already been alive longer than anyone else, so … I believed [my strategy] was working,” she said.

Kohlhepp allegedly detailed other crimes to her — including abducting another woman — and bizarrely claimed to have been an international assassin for the government while previously incarcerated, she said.

“He would brag about how many people he’s killed, how good he was at it. … He said he was near the three-digit mark [in total victims],” Brown alleged on Dr. Phil. (Investigators do suspect Kohlhepp is a serial killer and have accused him of seven murders.)

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Source: Kala Brown/Facebook; Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office via AP

Finally, on Nov. 3, Brown was saved: Authorities had been tipped off about a possible sex crime and were searching Kohlhepp’s property when they heard her banging and screaming for them from inside the storage container where she was kept.

She recalled the moment she was free on Dr. Phil.

“All I remember is it felt like a weight had been lifted,” she said, “and I was crying and they were holding me, and the sheriff prayed with me. A calm just washed over me. I was just there and I was free and I was just ready to get off that property.”

Kohlhepp was arrested soon after Brown was discovered and has been charged with kidnapping and murder, in connection with the deaths of Brown’s boyfriend and six others dating back to 2003. He has not entered a plea to his charges.

Brown, speaking out Tuesday, promised to recover from the trauma she endured.

“No matter what he did to me, he did not break me,” she said, “He could not destroy who I am, and I won. … He tried to crush me, but I’m not broken.”

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