The Superbike murders: A senseless crime solved 13 years later

On the morning of Nov. 6, 2003, someone walked into a motorcycle dealership called Superbike Motorsports in the small town of Chesnee, South Carolina, and shot the owner, his mother and two employees in the head.

The crime became known as “The Superbike Murders” and it seemed as senseless as it was cold-blooded. Nothing was taken. An envelope of cash was left lying in plain sight. The shop had been a success, even winning an award from Suzuki that year. But left dead were founder and owner Scott Ponder, 30, his mother, Beverly Guy, 52, shop mechanic Chris Sherbert, 26, and Ponder’s close friend and service manager, Brian Lucas, 30.

Police searched for leads and pursued a variety of theories, one of which compounded the tragedy of the crime by erroneously casting suspicion on Scott Ponder’s widow. But eventually, all the leads led to dead ends. It looked like the Superbike Murders might never be solved.

Then, 13 years later, a bizarre series of events involving four missing persons, Facebook posts and a serial killer would lead to the arrest of a man on murder and false imprisonment charges. After a few lengthy interrogations, the accused revealed he was a serial killer and confessed to previous crimes.

One of those crimes had taken place at a motorcycle dealership.

Superbike Motorsports

The good before the bad

Understanding the tragedy of the murders requires going back to January of 2001 when Scott Ponder, a passionate motorcycle enthusiast, opened a motorcycle and powersports dealership called Superbike Motorsports in his native South Carolina. Scott’s best friend, Brian, who shared his enthusiasm for all things two-wheeled, joined Scott at SBKMS as the shop’s service manager. Scott’s mom liked to spend time at the dealership, running errands for them and just generally enjoying the time with her son. Chris was the shop’s most recent hire and had only been wrenching there for a short time.

From the start, the dealership was a success. Scott used the internet (an innovative way to sell motorcycles in the early 2000s) and SBKMS saw more than $1 million in sales in the first year. Building on that success, Scott invested further in the business, remodeling and expanding their garage. Scott had a successful business, was surrounded by loving friends and family and was happily married to a woman he loved (whom he met at a motorcycle show). His wife, Melissa, was pregnant with their first child, a child Scott would never meet.

Scott Ponder

SBKMS became somewhat of a hub for local bike enthusiasts, so it was business as usual when a friend of SBKMS, Noel Lee, called the shop on a Thursday morning to ask if he could drop by and hang out for a while. When Noel arrived at the dealership less than 10 minutes later, he walked into a disturbing scene.

Brian LucasScott and Brian were lying in a pool of blood in the dealership’s parking lot near the entrance to the building. Noel initially thought the two were pranking him, telling them to get up and nudging Brian with his foot before realizing the situation was anything but a joke. Entering the dealership to call 911, Noel came upon two more bodies. Beverly was on the floor near the bathroom and Chris was slumped over a bike he appeared to have been working on. Within minutes, police were on the scene.

Misleading leads

Investigators began pursuing leads. A man and woman were seen near the dealership around the time of the murders and then shortly again after. Both were known drug users with shady reputations. But if two addicts looking for money committed the crime, why did they leave behind the cash and not take anything? The lead fizzled as quickly as it emerged.

Detectives looked into the lives of the victims to try to find a reason someone would want to kill them. Brian, Scott and Beverly didn’t seem to have any bad blood between them or anyone else. Small-town rumors swirled about Chris have connections to the drug world, but after thoroughly investigating those claims, police found nothing to it.

Police always examine a victim’s spouse and Melissa, Scott’s widow, was no exception. She was called into the station a handful of times in the months that followed the murders, including after her son, Scott Jr. (or Scotty) was born. During one visit to the police station, Melissa changed her baby’s diaper, which was subsequently taken by police and sent to a lab to test DNA, unbeknownst to Melissa. DNA samples had been taken from the four victims at the crime scene. Upon running the sample from the diaper against that of the samples collected at SBKMS, police determined that Brian was the baby’s father, not Scott. They confronted Melissa with this information and she flatly denied the possibility that anyone other than Scott could be the father. She requested the test be done a second time.

A second test returned the same findings. Melissa was confronted about the second test’s results. At that point, she opted to stop speaking to police without a lawyer, a choice that further raised the detectives’ suspicions.

Melissa and Scott Ponder wedding

Roughly 18 months passed and the cloud of suspicion surrounding a Melissa remained. Friends and family of the victims weren’t sure what to think. At some point, Beverly’s DNA was run against her son’s and there wasn’t a match. After examining what had happened, police realized Scott’s and Brian’s DNA samples had been mixed up, as they were found next to each other at the crime scene. Scott was indeed the father of Melissa’s son. Melissa had done absolutely nothing wrong. Sadly, Scott’s grandmother would never learn of the mixup and would go to her grave unsure of her great-grandson’s true identity.

Police interviewed the last person to see the four victims alive, a customer who was in the shop minutes before the shooting. This witness told the sheriff’s department that he saw a man in the dealership. He recalled how the unknown man in the shop had inquired about a motorcycle and spoke as if he had little knowledge about bikes, so much so that the customer found the guy’s behavior noticeably off-putting. Thirteen years would pass before that man’s identity and actions on that November day would become known. Until then, the Superbike Murders remained unsolved.

Brian Lucas

Missing persons and an unexpected connection

In August of 2016, Kala Brown and her boyfriend, Charles David Carver, vanished after heading to a property they were helping clean for a real estate agent. Their families grew concerned and tried to contact them. All they got in return were Facebook messages that claimed the couple were happy, had gotten married, bought a house and wanted to be left alone.

Their families said they would respect their wishes, but they demanded a phone call from them to hear their voices to verify that they really wrote those messages and that they were okay.  After more time passed without a phone call, the families made “Help find our loved ones” Facebook pages in an attempt to figure out where Charles and Kala were. Strangely, whoever was controlling their Facebook accounts began “liking” those pages. Even creepier were the bizarre, cryptic and morbid posts that followed.

Eventually, police tracked the last known whereabouts of the couple through their smartphones’ signals, leading them to the large property of a registered sex offender, Todd Kohlhepp, who had served 15 years for rape and kidnapping prior to moving to South Carolina in 2001. Charles and Kala had done odd jobs for Kohlhepp in the past, helping him prep homes for his real estate business. Upon entering the large semi-wooded property, police found a gruesome scene like something out of a horror film. Kala was chained inside a shipping container. When police rescued her, she told them Charles and at least two others had been killed and buried on the land. She told how she had witnessed Todd shoot and kill Charles over a verbal dispute, or as Kohlhepp put it, “for having a smart mouth.” That seemed to be a capital offense, in Kohlhepp’s eyes.

Fortunately, Kala was shaken up but ultimately unharmed. In addition to Charles, police found two more bodies on the property: 29-year-old Johnny Coxie and his 26-year-old wife, Meagan Coxie. The couple had been reported missing just before Christmas of 2015.

Coming full circle

After his arrest, Kohlhepp was subjected to extensive interrogation. It was during one of these interrogations that Kohlhepp confessed to the 2003 Superbike Murders. He claimed he attempted to return a bike and was given a hard time. Ultimately, he said he was mocked, and Kohlhepp took revenge. There are no other surviving witnesses to tell us what really happened that day.

Melissa and Scotty Ponder Jr.Though the Superbike Murders have been solved, it doesn’t change much. Parents buried their children, kids lost their fathers. The motorcycle community lost true friends who had dedicated their lives to the business and served countless customers across the Southeast.

I asked Brian’s dad to tell me about his son and what interested him other than bikes. He laughed before he replied.

“Well, he loved his family, obviously, but bikes were everything to him,” Brian’s father said. “They were his life.”

I know myself and likely many people reading this can identify with that.

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