Crime & Public Safety

Slaying of restaurateur Johnathan Cherol leaves a community in shock

Shooting death in Bluffton: Deputy chief talks investigation

Maj. Joseph Manning, deputy chief of the Bluffton Police Department, says multiple law enforcement agencies are involved in the search for a suspect in the shooting death of 33-year-old Johnathan Cherol sometime late Oct. 27 or early Oct. 28.
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Maj. Joseph Manning, deputy chief of the Bluffton Police Department, says multiple law enforcement agencies are involved in the search for a suspect in the shooting death of 33-year-old Johnathan Cherol sometime late Oct. 27 or early Oct. 28.

The death of Johnathan Cherol, 33, the victim of an early morning shooting Wednesday in Bluffton, shocked those who knew him.



"It's a really sad situation and he's going to be missed," said Mary Vaux Bell, who was Cherol's business partner at Pepper's Old Town in Bluffton. "He was a great person and one of my best friends."



Bluffton police found Cherol's body at 39 Pinecrest Way around 12:45 a.m. when officers were sent to the residence after a report of gunfire. He had a single gunshot wound, Lt. Joseph Babkiewicz said in a department news release.

Little is known about the circumstances of his death. Neighbors and acquaintances were being questioned by investigators.



No suspects or motive have been identified, according to Maj. Joseph Manning of the Bluffton department. 



Manning said a murder weapon has not been found. He declined to answer when asked by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette if Cherol was inside the home or alone at the time of the shooting, citing the on-going investigation. Anyone with information on the shooting can contact the Bluffton Police Department at 843-706-4560. 



Cherol and Vaux Bell shared ownership of Pepper's Old Town for a little less than a year, she said, but she knew him personally for a couple of years before that. Pepper's closed the second week of September.



Tyler Goldsmith, a former partner at Pepper's Old Town, echoed Vaux Bell's sentiment, remembering Cherol as a "visionary."



"He was really good at what he did," Goldsmith said. "He had a big heart. He did well. It's sad, and I'm shocked."



Cherol was active in the local restaurant scene.



In addition to Pepper's, he operated Jack's Old Town -- at the same address as Pepper's -- with Lori Bogda for three months last year before it was converted to Pepper's Old Town. The restaurant was the subject of a lawsuit filed Oct. 2 that claimed a business loan agreement between New York-based CAN Capital Asset Servicing and Bogda and Cherol was violated.



Cherol was also previously a partner at Charbar Co. on Hilton Head Island and an employee at area restaurants, including NEO in Bluffton.



"I feel very saddened by the events that have happened today," said Christy Pinski, owner of The Sippin Cow cafe. "My thoughts and prayers go to the family."



Pinski said she knew Cherol for seven weeks, when her restaurant was a part of Pepper's Old Town.



That business -- The Sippin Cow at Pepper's Old Town -- operated for seven weeks until Pinski announced on the restaurant's Facebook page in September that she was pulling out of the partnership. The Sippin Cow previously operated down the street at 1230 May River Road for 14 years.



Chris Broome, a Bluffton musician, knew Cherol from working at Pepper's. In the two and a half years they knew each other, Broome and Cherol became close friends.



"He had a jocular way about him that brought you in, and, no matter how his day was going, (he) always asked how you were," Broome said in an email. "... It's hard to think of him in the past tense."



He said many other employees also became Cherol's friend.



"He had many people that liked him and many people that know he cared about them as well," Broome said. "I'm just happy that I got to be one of those people."



Ashley Fahey can be reached at 843-706-8137. Caitlin Turner can be reached 843-706-8184.

Follow Caitlin Turner on Twitter at twitter.com/Cait_E_Turner.

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