Nearly 10 months after an elderly Sumter man’s murder, deputies still searching for his killer

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Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT

SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - Almost 10 months after an elderly Sumter man was murdered inside his home, deputies are still searching for his killer.

81-year-old Stephen Collins was shot and killed on July 7, 2022 at some time between 10 and 10:30 P.M., according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

Employees of Collins arrived to his home the following morning, and discovered that he had been shot several times.

Collins lived alone on his 18-acre property, located off Edgehill Road in Sumter County, which is off Peach Orchard Road.

“It’s just unfortunate that someone would do something like that,” Rett Summerville, who manages Collins’ estate, said.

Summerville had known Collins for 40 years. He suspects that Collins knew his murderer because that person had to understand his patterns.

“I personally think it might be someone he knew because they knew that his back door was always left open, unlocked,” he said.

The log cabin where Collins was found dead is about half a mile from the main road.

Summerville put the property up for sale earlier this month.

WIS asked the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office about that suspicion on Monday.

“There are multiple theories pending on this investigation, but one of them is that the offender was known to the victim,” Major Randall Steward with the Sheriff’s Office said. “We believe one of the main theories may be that this was a personal situation.”

Robert White, Collins’ former pastor at Shaw Heights Baptist Church, said he is asked multiple times a week about what happened to Collins.

“It’s been a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “A lot of ‘Why did this happen, who would do this to Steve?’ And it’s left us a big hole because he was a guy who served us so well and did a lot of things here for us.”

Collins was a deacon at his church and owned Collins’ Tree Service, which he operated out of his home.

He also taught Sunday school at the church, and was a 20-year veteran of the Air Force.

“He was just a wonderful human being that loved this church, loved our community and he loved the Lord,” White said.

A portrait of Collins hangs in the room where he used to teach Sunday school, White said.

Summerville said Collins was a generous man.

He donated all of his money in his will to charity.

Some of it went to his place of worship, while other portions went to his high school alma mater, Shady Spring High School in West Virginia, and his college alma mater, Virginia Tech.

“I think that’s typical of Steve Collins,” Summerville said. “He’d help people out, and if you needed anything done, he’d be the first one to help you out. I remember I was at my house and we had a really rough rainstorm, and the ceiling fell down. And this was about 11 o’clock at night. And the first one I called was Steve and he just came on over there and we helped put a tarp on the roof. So he was like that.”

The Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help as it continues to investigate this case.

Deputies have followed all leads, but there been no arrest to date.

There is currently a reward being offered for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Collins’ death.

Anyone with information about what happened to Collins is urged to reach out to the Sheriff’s Office directly at 803-436-2000, or contact Crimestoppers. Tips can be given anonymously at, or can be made using the P3 mobile app.

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