Gaston woman says jealous ex-boyfriend killed her fiancé

George Tronco, Jr. (Source: Lexington County Detention Center)
George Tronco, Jr. (Source: Lexington County Detention Center)

By Stephen Hooker - email

GASTON, SC (WIS) - A Gaston man is dead after he was shot late Sunday night with a high powered rifle. Lexington County deputies say the shooting was over a woman, and now the victim's fiancé is telling her story.

Major John Allard says 39-year old Stephen Swihart was shot and killed while standing outside a home on Fish Hatchery road shortly before midnight Sunday. Deputies arrested 34-year old George Tronco, Jr, of West Columbia Monday and charged him with murder.

Tronco's ex-girlfriend says she never thought he would take things this far. "I trusted that he'd leave me alone, I thought I knew him better," said Stacy Phillips, who saw her fiance shot dead right in front of her eyes.

Investigators say Tronco shot Swihart with a 30.06 rifle one time in the chest. They say Tronco was wearing camouflage when he shot Swihart from about 25 yards away. Swihart and Phillips had just returned home with Phillips' three children. "My kids saw [Tronco shoot Swihart]," said Phillips. "They seen everything. He did it right in front of them."

Phillips told investigators she and Tronco had a three-year relationship that ended in August. "He was really sweet and everything at the beginning, and at the very end he just had to be distanced and so I called it off," said Phillips.

She told investigators that Tronco never accepted that the relationship was over. "He wouldn't accept it," said Phillips. "He kept on coming by, calling, so I changed my number and he kept on calling my mom and coming by here at my grandmother's house."

Stacy then met Swihart, and fell in love. "He was in love with the kids," said Phillips. "The kids loved him so much and my youngest son just called him Daddy."

Stacy and Steven became engaged, but Stacy says Tronco had not let go. "I thought he was going to beat my door in, begging me, 'I need you, I want you, I gotta have you as my wife,'" said Phillips. "Crying, and I just told him to leave and leave me alone."

"He couldn't accept it so he took the only thing that did make me happy," said Phillips. "I trusted him that he said he'd leave me alone. I thought I knew him better."

Stacy didn't understand the signs. "Just be aware," she said. "Just watch who you're dating and if you have anything, you know, like I went through, just make sure somebody knows. Don't wait like I did."

Lexington County deputies encourage anyone who is being harassed or feels threatened by someone they're in a relationship with, or a former partner, to call police and file a report.

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