Wife of convicted Beaufort Co. murderer found guilty of accessory charges

Wife of convicted Beaufort Co. murderer found guilty of accessory charges
(L to R: Colette Collins, Samuel Collins) (Source: Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office)

BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - The Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office says the wife of a convicted murderer has been found guilty as an accessory to the 2015 shooting death of a Bluffton restauranteur.

Officials say 36-year-old Colette Collins was found guilty Wednesday in Beaufort County General Sessions Court of aiding husband Samuel Collins after he killed Jonathan Cherol. Collins was sentenced to 15 years in prison - the maximum penalty for the offense.

Both Colette and Samuels 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 said in court, according to a release. 'It's time for her lies to stop.'

Officials say on the night Cherol was killed, Colette Collins came home two hours late and was 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.

According to the Solicitor's Office release, Collins said, 'I became very angry and grabbed the shotgun. I told her I wanted her to drive me over there...I wanted to scare him.'

Together, the couple drove to Pinecrest, past Cherol's house, and finally stopped on Masters Way. Samuel Collins got out and walked down a path to Cherol's backyard. Standing in the darkness, officials say he fired a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun that he had borrowed from a friend. One shot hit a neighboring house, and other struck Cherol in the head.

Officials say after firing, Samuel Collins testified, 'I panicked, and I left as fast as I could. I went back to the vehicle.' He then got into a 2007 Toyota Camry, driven by his wife.

The couple then drove to the friend's house to drop off the gun. They returned home and the next morning, Colette Collins went to work.

Interviews with the suspects and text messages connected the Collins' to the incident. Samuel Collins' DNA was discovered on the shotgun and articles of clothing.

Neighboring surveillance footage showed Colette's 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 South Carolina 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.

According to the release, Smith said, 'She didn't ask questions because she knew what happened. 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 for about two-and-a-half hours before reaching its verdict. Circuit Court Judge Doyet A. Early III handed down the sentence.

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