BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - A 39-year-old man was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison in a Beaufort County court on Wednesday.
A jury found Samuel Thompson Collins guilty of the slaying of Bluffton restauranteur, Jonathan Cherol, who was killed with a shotgun blast to the head as he sat with a friend on his back porch. It happened shortly after midnight on Oct. 27, 2015, in the Pinecrest subdivision.
The Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office says while standing in Cherol's backyard, Collins fired twice a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun that he had borrowed from a friend. One shot hit a neighboring house; the other hit Cherol in the head.
Officials say Collins was also convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
Surveillance video from the Pinecrest subdivision, interviews with the suspects, and cellphone text messages connected Collins to the incident. Collins' DNA was found on the Mossberg shotgun, which he returned to its owner in the early morning hours following the murder, along with articles of clothing that also contained his DNA.
'The forensic evidence in this case was really overwhelming,' Kimberly Smith of the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office, said in a release.
Smith was the prosecutor in the case. She called 16 witnesses during the two-day trial. Among them was SC State Law Enforcement Divisions Firearm Expert, Tracy Thrower, who testified that a shotgun shell found at the crime scene was fired by the Mossberg shotgun.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before reaching the verdict.
Circuit Court Judge Brooks P. Goldsmith handed down the sentence.