Sheriffs hope 22 drug suspects can assist in solving homicide

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. - Twenty-two drug suspects are off the streets of Chester County, but that's not the only reason they were arrested.

Chester County Sheriff Richard Smith said Tuesday that he's not giving up on solving the slaying of 57-year-old Alfreda Hinson.

Hinson was shot and killed inside her home on Old Winnsboro Road in Great Falls on Nov. 28. Deputies hope that some of the suspects they just arrested may have information about her death.

"Drug dealers aren't usually helpful to us, but if we have something to hold over their heads we might get more information out of them," said Smith.

Smith said so far, the arrests have turned up a few new leads, but he declined to give specifics.

Robert Wertz, Hinson's brother, told Channel 9 anything the sheriff can do, he's grateful for.

"I'll support him in this. If this is what it takes, then this is what it takes," he said.

When Hinson was found shot in the head in her home, the door had been forced open, but nothing was stolen from the house. Hinson ran a convenience store on Highway 21 with her husband of 12 years, Larry Hinson. She left early that night and had gone home, while he stayed to close up.

Larry Hinson has never spoken publicly to reporters. However, on Tuesday he told Channel 9 off camera that he hasn't slept in his own house since his wife's slaying, staying with a friend instead.

He also said he plans to sell his convenience store, retire, and move out of state.

Hinson said his attorney advised him not to do interviews.

In the days after the killing, Larry Hinson was arrested and charged with filing a false police report and a false insurance claim.

Deputies said he reported that some of his wife's jewelry had been stolen from the house, and filed a claim with his insurance company to recover the loss. However, after executing a search warrant, deputies found the missing jewelry at the home.

Hinson bonded out of jail, and went back to running his store. That case against him is still pending.

Last spring, the Sheriff's Office got funding to put up a billboard near the crime scene. It shows a picture of Alfreda Hinson's face and asks the public for help solving the killing.

Deputies have also brought in South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents to assist on the case, as well as canvassing neighborhoods and handing out fliers to get information.

Smith said it's still a priority case to him.

"You want to solve the case and give closure to the family, and you feel helpless when you can't," he said.

Wertz said he still misses his sister every day, and can only hope that her killer will be brought to justice.

"We tried the billboard, we tried the reward money, and that doesn't seem to be working. It brought leads in, but they weren't the right ones," he said. "I just think somebody will come forward and tell what happened."