BEAUFORT, S.C. (Jan. 24, 2018) — The wife of a convicted murderer has been found guilty as an accessory to the crime, the 2015 shooting death of a Bluffton restaurateur.
Colette Adrienne Collins, 36, was found guilty Wednesday in Beaufort County General Sessions Court of aiding husband Samuel Collins after he killed Jonathan Cherol. Colette Collins was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty for the offense.
Both Colette and Samuel Collins were prosecuted by Kimberly Smith of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. Collins was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison this past October.
“Colette Collins continued to act like she didn’t do anything wrong after she knew Sam Collins shot and killed Jonathan Cherol. She didn’t call the police,” Smith told the jury in her closing argument. “It’s time for her lies to stop.”
On the night Cherol was killed, Colette Collins came home two hours late and slurring her speech, according to her estranged husband, who testified during her two-day trial at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Samuel Collins also told jurors he suspected his wife might be having an affair with Cherol.
“I became very angry and grabbed the shotgun,” he said. “I told her I wanted her to drive me over there. … I wanted to scare him.”
Together, the couple drove to Pinecrest, driving by Cherol’s house, and finally stopping on Masters Way. Samuel Collins got out and walked down a path to Cherol’s backyard. Standing in the darkness, Samuel 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.
After firing the gun, Samuel Collins testified, “I panicked, and I left as fast as I could. I went back to the vehicle.” He got into a 2007 Toyota Camry, driven by his wife.
“I shot him, let’s go,” Samuel Collins testified.
Together, they drove to the friend’s house and dropped off the shotgun. The couple returned home and the next morning, Colette Collins went to work.
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.
Neighborhood surveillance footage showed Colette’s 2007 Toyota Camry parked in Cherol’s driveway and later showed her returning to the neighborhood.
Smith called 19 witnesses during the two-day trial. Among them was S.C. State Law Enforcement Division firearms expert Michelle Eichenmiller who testified that a shotgun shell found at the crime scene was fired by the Mossberg shotgun.
“She didn’t ask questions because she knew what happened,” Smith said. “She knew Sam shot Jon. Colette didn’t call Jon to check on him. The reason was because he was already dead.”
The jury deliberated about 2 ½ hours before reaching its verdict. Circuit Court Judge Doyet A. Early III 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. That team has earned convictions in both of its trials in 2018.