Crime & Public Safety

After an hour, a jury convicted him in Bluffton restaurateur’s death. Here’s how long he’ll be in prison.

Video: Sam Collins denied bond in Bluffton restaurateur's murder

Sean Thornton, deputy solicitor with the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office, speaks about possible motives during Sam Collins' bond hearing on Jan. 21, 2016. Collins is charged with the October 2015 murder of Bluffton's Johnathan Cherol.
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Sean Thornton, deputy solicitor with the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office, speaks about possible motives during Sam Collins' bond hearing on Jan. 21, 2016. Collins is charged with the October 2015 murder of Bluffton's Johnathan Cherol.

A Bluffton man was convicted of murder on Wednesday at the Beaufort County Courthouse in connection with the October 2015 shooting death of a Bluffton restaurateur.

After about an hour of jury deliberation, Samuel Collins, 39, was found guilty of murdering Johnathan Cherol and sentenced to 50 years in prison, according to a 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office news release.

Cherol, 33, was killed on the back porch of his 39 Pinecrest Way home on Oct. 28, 2015. Collins was not charged until Dec. 3, 2015. He was additionally charged with possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Collins fired two shotgun shots from Cherol’s backyard shortly after midnight, striking a neighbor’s home with the first shot and Cherol with his second, according to the Solicitor’s Office. Surveillance video in the neighborhood, DNA, interviews and text messages linked Collins to the murder.

Collins’ wife, Collette Collins, was also charged with murder in connection with Cherol’s death, though her case is still pending, according to Beaufort County Court records.

During Collins’ bond hearing, Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton revealed two possible motives in the case:

▪  anger over a home robbery Collins may have believed Cherol set up,

▪  and jealousy over an alleged flirtation between Collins’ wife and Cherol.

“The forensic evidence in this case was really overwhelming,” said Kimberly Smith of the Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case.

Cherol was an active member of the local restaurant scene and co-owner of Pepper’s Old Town in Bluffton.

Caitlin Turner: 843-706-8184, @Cait_E_Turner

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