NEWBERRY, S.C. — A law enforcement official said there is no evidence romantically linking a black murder victim and a white man in a brutal case local and federal officials are investigating as a hate crime.
Gregory Ashton Collins, 19, was charged with murder Wednesday, June 2 after evidence led investigators to his home. Officials say Collins shot Anthony Lamont Hill, 30, in the back of the head and then used a nylon rope to drag Hill’s body behind his truck for 10.7 miles along Highway 34 and Highway 176. The rope eventually broke and Collins returned to his home.
Hill’s body was found by a passing driver around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. A trail of blood led law enforcement to Collins’ mobile home, where he refused to come out for several hours. Sheriff’s deputies were eventually forced to fire tear gas into the home and Collins surrendered.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division director Reggie Lloyd told The State that the case was being investigated as a hate crime. A motive is unknown at the time, but Lloyd said there was other evidence linking the two men but declined to discuss that evidence with the Columbia paper.
“We don’t want to attribute something to Collins that isn’t necessarily true,” Lloyd told The State. “But out of precaution, given the circumstances, we are investigating the racial angle.”
Lloyd was not readily available for comment, but Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster told qnotes there was no evidence indicating a romantic or sexual relationship between the men. Foster said the two men were acquaintances and worked together. Collins and Hill had spent most of the day and evening together at Collins’ home on Tuesday and into early Wednesday morning.
Foster said the case and its details continue to “remain a mystery.”
The investigation of the case is being assisted by officials at the FBI. Foster said investigators were looking into every angle of the case. “We will leave no stone unturned in assuring the victim’s family and community are assured that every effort has been made in the case and that they are safe in their homes and community,” Foster said at a press conference.