Serial Killers have walked among South Carolina soil and left their dark history within the towns. Although they might not have committed all of their crimes there, they still stained the precious state with their evil acts. Here are 5 killers that have left their dark history in South Carolina.

Lady private agent looking at crime investigation board, chasing serial killer
Getty Images/iStockphoto

We’ll take a look at the crimes of:

  • Donald Gaskins
  • Lee Roy Martin
  • Todd Kohlhepp
  • Patrick Tracy Burris
  • Susan Smith

5.) Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins

The Cannibal Serial Killer Who Allegedly Murdered 90 People.

Mugshot of Gaskins
Mugshot of Gaskins

Donald Gaskins, born in 1933 in Southern Florence County, South Carolina, had a rough upbringing. Due to his small body frame, he was given his nickname "Pee Wee" at an early age. Unfortunately, violence was not absent from his life, as his stepfather beat him regularly.

At only 11 years old, he dropped out of school and began committing crimes such as burglary and rape of children. Consequently, he was sent to a reform school, where he experienced even more violence until the age of 18. His release from the institution was short-lived, as he was immediately imprisoned for attempted murder after smashing his employer's daughter's skull.

While incarcerated, Gaskins committed his first murder. Upon his release, he relocated to Cherokee County, North Carolina, where he continued his reign of terror. His victims ranged from females to males, including his 15-year-old niece and a pregnant mother of one.

Gaskins even served as a hitman in South Carolina, taking money to execute his victims. By 1976, he had been found guilty of eight murders and was sentenced to death. To avoid execution, he confessed to other killings. Nevertheless, he was executed in a South Carolina prison in September 1991.

At least 14 victims aged between 2 and 45 years old were murdered by Gaskins, which possibly makes him the United States' most prolific serial killer.

4.) Lee Roy Martin

The Gaffney Strangler.

Anonymous person portrait silhouette in black and white on patterned background
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Born in 1937 in Gaffney, South Carolina, Lee Roy Martin's early years remain largely unknown. However, his first conviction for assaulting a young girl in the woods took place in 1957, which earned him a hard labor sentence. Following his release, Martin secured a job at a textile factory in South Carolina, married, and became a father to three sons.

In 1967, the body of a woman was discovered in Gaffney, South Carolina, strangled and naked. Her husband was wrongfully convicted of the crime, but a year later, a phone call claiming responsibility for her murder and two others was made to the media by Lee Roy Martin.

Martin was quickly dubbed the Gaffney Strangler by the media and later referred to himself as a "psycho" in one of the numerous phone calls. A manhunt ensued, with investigators tailing and putting his car under constant surveillance.

Eventually, Martin was arrested and charged with four murders. He received four life sentences in prison in South Carolina and later confessed to his mother that his violent alter ego was responsible for his victims' deaths. However, his time in prison came to a violent end when a fellow inmate stabbed him to death in 1972.

3.) Todd Kohlhepp

Devil on a Chain.
Kohlhepp’s SCDC Inmate Photo, 201
Kohlhepp’s SCDC Inmate Photo, 201

Todd Kohlhepp was raised in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in an unhealthy home environment after his parents divorced. Early signs of violent tendencies included his cruelty towards animals and other children, resulting in his confinement to a mental institution.

By the age of 14, Kohlhepp had been sentenced to 14 years in a South Carolina prison for violent crimes, including sexual assault and kidnapping. Following his release, he murdered a man who had been hired to work on his property. The victim's partner was found chained inside a shipping container where she’d been kept for 65 days.

During his arrest, Kohlhepp admitted to the murder of a missing couple whose bodies were discovered on his property in shallow graves. He also confessed to killing four individuals at Superbike Motorsports, claiming that he was provoked by teasing about a motorcycle he had recently purchased.

Kohlhepp was found guilty of all murders and sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences as a convicted serial killer.

2.) Patrick Tracy Burris

The South Carolina Town Terrorizer.

Henry County Sheriff’s Office.
Henry County Sheriff’s

Born in Maryland in 1967, Patrick Burris had a notorious reputation for his erratic behavior and propensity for violence from a young age. Over the years, his criminal record had grown to a staggering 25 pages, and he spent most of his life behind bars.

In June 2009, Burris unleashed his fury on the Gaffney community in South Carolina, going on a killing spree that lasted six days and claimed the lives of five innocent people aged between 15 and 83. With random shootings and his terrifying presence, he terrorized the entire town during that time.

Finally, on July 6, 2009, authorities got a breakthrough when they received a burglary call that led them to Burris' car. When police attempted to apprehend him, he drew his weapon and opened fire, triggering a brutal exchange of gunfire between him and the police that eventually resulted in his demise. Despite his death, the investigators believe there may still be other victims of Burris' reign of terror out there.

1.) Susan Smith

Child Killer.

Susan Smith Mugshot

Susan Smith, born in 1971 in Union, South Carolina, had a difficult childhood marked by sexual abuse and the suicide of her father.

Her life made headlines on October 25, 1994, when she claimed that a black man had hijacked her car and taken her sons, who were still strapped into their seats. She pleaded for their safe return, but it was later revealed that her story was a fabrication.

In reality, she had locked her three-year-old and fourteen-month-old children in the car and let it roll into a lake, all because her boyfriend did not want to have children.

The female serial killer from South Carolina was found guilty of two counts of murder and given a life sentence.

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