BEAUFORT, SC (Oct. 18, 2017) – A man who ambushed a Bluffton restaurateur with a shotgun blast to the head as he sat on his back porch has been convicted of murder.
A Beaufort County jury on Wednesday found Samuel Thompson Collins, 39, guilty of the slaying of Jonathan Cherol, who was killed shortly after midnight on Oct. 27, 2015, as he sat with a friend on the porch in the Pinecrest subdivision of Bluffton.
Cloaked in darkness and standing in Cherol’s back yard, Collins twice fired a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun that he had borrowed from a friend. One shot hit a neighboring house; another struck Cherol in the head.
Collins also was convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Surveillance video from the Pinecrest subdivision, interviews with the suspects and cellphone text messages connected the Collinses to the incident. Samuel Collins’ DNA was discovered on the Mossberg shotgun, which Collins returned to its owner in the early-morning hours following Cherol’s murder, along with articles of clothing that also contained his DNA.
“The forensic evidence in this case was really overwhelming” said Kimberly Smith of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case.
Smith called 16 witnesses during the two-day trial. Among them was S.C. State Law Enforcement Division firearms expert Tracy Thrower, who testified that a shotgun shell found at the crime scene was fired by the Mossberg shotgun.
The jury deliberated about an hour hour before reaching its verdicts. Circuit Court Judge Brooks P. Goldsmith handed down the sentence.
Smith is a member of the Solicitor’s Office Career Criminal Unit, which handles cases involving the circuit’s most habitual and serious offenders. With Collins’ conviction, the unit has secured guilty verdicts against 36 of the 38 defendants it has prosecuted in 2017.