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Man gets life in killing of popular minister

Aug 11, 2011 12:14:00 AM - thestate.com
The killer of an 87-year-old, highly respected Columbia minister will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of murder.

Frankie Lee McGee, 45, was sentenced to life without parole for the beating death of the Rev. Tryon Eichelberger, an AME church pastor who lived in the Greenview community, said 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson. Eichelberger was beaten with a winch May 3, 2009, and died three months later from the injuries.

The brutal beating shocked the community where Eichelberger was known for his generosity to his neighbors. And his killer remained at large until March 2010. That’s when the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s crime lab was able to scrape a DNA sample from socks the assailant wore as gloves during the beating. The sheriff’s department tested the socks at the request of the Columbia Police Department.

“To be honest, the police work on this case on the whole was dogged,” Johnson said. “They worked hard to find the killer.”

Eichelberger was well-known in north Columbia where he was a minister at Cedar Creek AME Church for years. After retiring from the church, he took on a new ministry called the Trinity House of Help and Mercy. Through that ministry, he would give food and money to people who needed help. He had a large family, was well-known as a singer and was a part owner of the Blue Ribbon cab company.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)