The killing of an African-American man whose body was dragged on a rope for more than 10 miles behind a truck on rural Newberry County roads is being investigated as a possible federal hate crime, SLED director Reggie Lloyd said Wednesday night.
The FBI was in Newberry County, located about 40 miles northwest of Columbia, looking for possible hate-crime-related evidence in the “bizarre” killing of Anthony Hill, 30, of Winnsboro, Lloyd said.
But Lloyd cautioned that state, local and federal officials have made no final determination in the case and are still gathering and processing evidence.
“We don’t yet have a definitive motive for all this,” Lloyd said.
After the Wednesday morning discovery on Hill’s battered body on U.S. 176 by a passing motorist, Newberry County deputies followed a 10-mile trail of blood and gore left on several roads
leading to the rural home of Gregory Collins
of Newberry County, Lloyd said.
Then, for three hours, Collins — a white man about 30 years old — refused to come out.
A SLED SWAT team finally fired tear gas into the home, forcing Collins to surrender. He was arrested and charged with murder, Lloyd said.
Hill died from a single gunshot wound to the head and was apparently dead before his body was dragged and mangled
, said Newberry County Coroner Craig Newton. The body apparently came to rest on U.S. 176 after the rope snapped, authorities said.
Lloyd said the victim and the suspect were co-workers at the Louis Rich chicken-processing plant in Newberry. The two, who both had girlfriends, had been spending a lot of time “just hanging out” with each other recently, Lloyd said. No drugs were believed to have been involved, and neither man has a serious criminal record, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said elements of the killing that raised the possibility of a hate crime included:
The victim’s body being dragged by a rope and left on a public road.
The suspect is white, and the victim, black.
Some “other issues” — evidence linked to Collins — that Lloyd did not want to divulge.
“We are being careful. We don’t want to attribute something to Collins that isn’t necessarily true,” Lloyd said. “But out of precaution, given the circumstances, we are investigating the racial angle.”
Lloyd did say authorities are trying to ascertain whether Collins has any ties to white-supremacist groups. He said in cases like this, authorities typically look into computer and phone records.
“On the one hand, you have this relationship between the two of them,” said Lloyd, “and on the other, these kinds of bizarre circumstances — dragging the body and that sort of stuff. And it’s way too early for us to say one way or the other what this is.”