Academy Sports pays out $2.5m in case against man who bought guns for Todd Kohlhepp


Academy Sports and Outdoors will pay $2.5 million in a civil settlement this week for selling guns to a man who provided them to Spartanburg County serial killer Todd Kohlhepp. The money will be split among the families of three of Kohlhepp’s victims.

Dustan Lawson, 38, of Pauline pled guilty in May 2018 to 36 charges and was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison for supplying guns to Kohlhepp after buying them from several Academy stores in the area.

Kohlhepp was convicted of kidnapping relating to a rape he committed when he was 15 years old living in Arizona. He was on the sex offender registry and could not legally own firearms.

Lawson purchased the guns as part of a “straw sale” transaction, where one person purchases a gun for someone else, despite falsely representing that they are actual purchaser of the firearm, the lawsuit alleged. It also claims that Academy, as a federally licensed gun dealer, knew or should have known that Lawson was purchasing the gun for Kohlhepp.

Plaintiff attorney Dave Standeffer said that in some cases, Kohlhepp stood near Lawson in the stores picking out the guns. Standeffer said he hopes this case brings more attention to “red flag” questions that employees selling firearms should ask to possibly identify potential straw sale purchasers.

Red flag laws in SC?: Advocates continue push despite Republican opposition

Potential indicators that Lawson was a straw sale purchaser were his repeated purchases of the same or similar firearms, collection of a large arsenal in a short amount of time and use of cash, the lawsuit claimed.

In November 2016, authorities found three bodies buried in graves and a woman chained in a shipping container were found on Kohlhepp’s property in Woodruff.

The estates of the three found deceased – Johnny Joe Coxie, his wife Megan Leigh Coxie and Charles David Carver – were awarded $2.5 million, split three ways. The lawsuits were consolidated into one case.

Previously: Bodies at crime scene identified as Spartanburg couple

According to the original complaint, filed in December 2018, Lawson bought at least nine guns for Kohlhepp from Academy between Nov. 2012 to July 2016. The fourth of those firearms, a Glock .40, was the gun used to kill Johnny Coxie roughly one year prior to when he was found buried on Kohlhepp’s property.

Nominally, all three estates will receive $833,333.33 each. After attorney’s fees, each of Johnny Coxie’s two children – one of which is shared with Megan Coxie – will receive just under $120,000 from his estate. The remaining $240,000 from his estate will go to Megan Coxie’s estate, as he left no will, Standeffer explained.

Meghan Coxie is survived by an additional child from the one she shared with Johnny Coxie, Standeffer said. As of Wednesday afternoon, the details of her settlement had not posted to online public court records, but her estate will also receive one third of the $2.5 million settlement.

Melissa Brackman, the widow of Scott Ponder, was in court with a civil suit against Todd Kohlhepp on Friday at the Spartanburg County Courthouse. Her husband, Scott Ponder, was one of the Superbike Motorsports victims killed on Nov. 6, 2003. Several other families also testified in their civil action case against Kohlhepp.  [ALEX HICKS JR/Spartanburg Herald-Journal]

Carver is survived by his wife and has no children. His estate will receive just over $425,000 after attorney’s fees.

Standeffer represented plaintiff Cindy Coxie, mother of victim Johnny Coxie, and called her “an amazing person.”

He said the family is glad for the lengthy legal ordeal to be over. Johnny and Meghan Coxie were reported missing in December 2015 and were not found until Nov. 4, 2016. The civil lawsuit was filed in December 2018.

“The children went a whole year thinking their dad had just run off,” Standeffer said about Johnny Coxie’s children.

A motion by Academy to keep the settlement amount sealed was denied by Judge Mark Hayes II due to the high-profile nature of the three killings.

More: Families reflect, focus grief one year after Todd Kohlhepp pleads guilty

Kohlhepp pled guilty and received seven consecutive life sentences in May 2017 after confessing to the murders, as well as a quadruple homicide in November 2003 at Superbike Motorsports in Chesnee. He is currently serving his time in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Kala Brown, the Anderson woman found in the shipping container on Kohlhepp’s property, was awarded $6.3 million in August 2018. Brown had been missing for two months before she was found on Kohlhepp’s property.

Chalmers Rogland covers public safety for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and USA Today Network. Reach him via email at crogland@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Academy Sports pays $2.5m for man who bought guns for Todd Kohlhepp



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