SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – As the world watched, a now notorious serial killer was handed down seven consecutive life sentences and 60 years in prison.
“This was a death penalty case, no question about it,” 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette said after Todd Kohlhepp was sentenced.
So why wasn’t the case tried that way? The dozens of victims’ family members wanted swifter justice.
Dozens of inmates in South Carolina are waiting to receive a date for lethal injection as the state has run out of the drugs.
“The reality of the situation is our state doesn’t have a functioning death penalty,” Barnette said.
The last lethal injection was administered in 2011. A death penalty case Barnette tried with then-solicitor Trey Gowdy in 2001 is still awaiting a date as well.
“If the family was up for the challenge, we would have done it,” said Barnette.
That challenge comes with four murders Todd Kohlhepp was charged with in the murders at Superbike Motorsports.
Capital cases must be air tight to avoid appeals or post-conviction relief hearings that can take decades to proceed. Barnette admits there may have been challenges with the evidence in Superbike being 13 years old and the hundreds of rumors that swirled around the case.
Another hurdle would have been the death of Kohlhepp’s mother, Regina Tague. Kohlhepp first confessed about the murders to her, once in custody for the crimes on Wofford Road in Woodruff. Her testimony could not have been used posthumously because it could not be cross examined.
Kohlhepp admitted to investigators that he disassembled the 9-millimeter Beretta and put it in a dumpster at the Hunt Club Apartment complex the night of the murders.
As part of this plea agreement, Kohlhepp is not eligible for an appeal, parole, or post-conviction relief.
If Kohlhepp escapes prison, he will be re-sentenced and the death penalty will be presented.