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South Carolina

Store never should have sold guns to South Carolina serial killer, lawsuit says


Confessed serial killer Todd Kohlhepp used a Glock handgun to kill Johnny Coxie, who was found in a shallow grave on Dec. 19, 2015, according to a lawsuit. Now Coxie’s mother is suing the store that sold guns to Kohlhepp, a convicted felon.

Kohlhepp confessed to killing seven people and is serving seven life sentences. Coxie’s body was found on the 96-acre property where Kohlhepp was holding a woman prisoner in a shipping container, The State reports.

Investigators found the bodies of Meagan Leigh McCraw Coxie and Johnny Joe Coxie in November 2016, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. The couple, both in their 20s, had been missing for almost a year when investigators found their bodies on Kohlhepp’s property, according to the newspaper.

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Kala Brown was held captive by Kohlhepp for two months before Spartanburg County deputies rescued her in 2016. She was awarded $6.3 million last year in a separate lawsuit against her captor, The State reports.

Todd Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to seven murders.

Investigators found 31 guns on Kohlhepp’s property near Spartanburg, South Carolina, according to The State. Dustan Lawson pleaded guilty last year to charges connected to buying 12 of the guns for Kohlhepp.

The lawsuit names Lawson and the store where he bought many of the guns, Academy Sports and Outdoors, saying the store should never have sold the guns to Kohlhepp through a “straw purchaser.” The confessed serial killer was already a convicted felon and not allowed to buy or own guns when he killed Johnny Coxie, according to the lawsuit filed in December.

The Greenville News first reported on the lawsuit.

Dustan Lawson pleaded guilty to buying guns for Kohlhepp.

The store supplied “an arsenal of at least nine weapons to a ‘straw purchaser,’ the Defendant Lawson, and, thereby, arming a serial killer.” That included the Glock .40 used to kill Coxie, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit argues the store should have known Lawson was buying the guns for someone else because of his age, inexperience, use of cash and other reasons.

Academy Sports, in its motion to throw out the lawsuit, said it is not responsible because Lawson lied to the store when he bought the guns.

Additionally, the store’s lawyers argue in the court filing, federal law gives immunity to gun dealers for damage “resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm by a third party.”

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