Crime & Public Safety

Police patrols stepped up as slain man's friend seeks answers on investigation

Bluffton Police, Thursday: Cherol investigation 'our top priority'; understand public's frustration

Deputy Chief Maj. Joseph Manning said Thursday in lieu of a known witness in the shooting death of Johnathan Cherol, 33, in Bluffton on Oct. 28, investigators are hopeful evidence collected at the scene and being analyzed at a crime lab will yield
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Deputy Chief Maj. Joseph Manning said Thursday in lieu of a known witness in the shooting death of Johnathan Cherol, 33, in Bluffton on Oct. 28, investigators are hopeful evidence collected at the scene and being analyzed at a crime lab will yield

While Bluffton police remain tight lipped about their investigation into the death of restaurateur Johnathan Cherol, they have increased patrols in the Pinecrest Way area where his body was found in an effort to calm anxious residents.

Maj. Joseph Manning said Thursday the patrols are designed to let neighbors know the police are nearby should they be needed.

"... , we are conducting numerous directed patrols in the area both day and night," Manning said. "We encourage anyone to report any suspicious activity to us right away."

He said neighbors had not requested the extra patrols.

A visit to the neighborhood by a Island Packet reporter Thursday morning found neighbors unwilling to talk about the shooting. The house at 39 Pinecreast Way where Cherol's body was found -- a tan, one-story cottage -- is similar to many others in the area with a small front porch, a one-car garage and a tiny yard.

Cherol's body was found Oct. 28 with a single gunshot wound. Bluffton Police department investigators and County Coroner Ed Allen, who has seen the autopsy results from the Medical University of South Carolina, have declined to offer details, citing the ongoing investigation.

That lack of public information has left one Cherol friend frustrated.

"We need answers," Brendan Downey said. "I have friends in Pinecrest who feel unsafe."

Downey, who lost a bid for Bluffton Town Council on Tuesday, said he and Cherol, 33, became friends while they worked together. His credit card processing company did business with Cherol's restaurants.

"I went to the funeral and saw Mr. and Mrs. Cherol," Downey said. "When I saw his mother, the look on her face was 'What do I do? I lost my son.'"

"He was taken so quickly from us at 33," Downey said. "I've never had someone in my life get murdered."

He wants to know more about how and why his friend died.

"Where are you (with the investigation)?" Downey asked. "If it is SLED we are waiting on, hold a press conference and say that."

The Bluffton department is working with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.

Manning said Thursday the police department is "vetting everything we get," and that officers continue to interview people who knew Cherol. He again declined to provide specifics on the investigation.

When asked by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette where in the home Cherol's body was found, Manning said the department would not release that information.

"That is a key part of our investigation since it could be key to interviewing a suspect," he said.

Manning said earlier that a murder weapon has not been found and investigators do not know if Cherol knew his attacker. Manning has also declined to say whether Cherol lived in the house alone.

Cherol co-owned the recently closed Pepper's Old Town in Bluffton.

The May River Road restaurant had opened in early 2015 as a revamp of the original Pepper's Porch, replacing another restaurant that was also co-owned by Cherol, Jack's Old Town.

Anyone with information can contact the Bluffton Police Department at 843-706-4560.

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

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