Man charged with murder in connection to decomposing body found in Little River closet

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Leon Edward Collier
Leon Edward Collier

Horry County police charged one man with murder in connection with the death of a 29-year-old woman whose body was found Tuesday in a closet in Little River several days after her death, officials said.

Leon Edward Collier, 45, of Little River, is charged with murder and two counts of unlawful neglect of a child by legal custodian, according to Lt. Raul Denis with Horry County police.

Collier is being held at J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

The body of Christian Hope Phipps, 29, of Little River was found Tuesday morning, and the cause of death is still under investigation, although the case has been ruled a homicide, according to Darris Fowler, Horry County deputy coroner.

Horry County police officers responded to a third-person call of a suicidal man at 4250 Pinehurst Circle around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The caller reported that the man at the residence was threatening to harm himself and making comments that he “may have hurt his girlfriend,” according to a police report.

Police knocked on doors and windows of the residence but didn’t get an answer, so officers removed the screen of a front bedroom window and entered the residence, the report said.

Officers found Collier hiding in the master bedroom behind a closed door and detained him due to him “possibly having a gun and a box cutter,” the report said.

Officers asked Collier where his girlfriend was, and Collier told police she went out shopping “earlier in the morning” and that she “didn’t have a cellphone to verify that,” police said.

Officers, who reported a “foul odor” coming from the house, then found her decomposing body in a closet, according to the report.

The victim’s body had items “piled on it” and her arm was “cold to the touch,” the report said.

Detectives and crime scene investigators deemed the case a homicide and suspected Collier was responsible.

According to police warrants, Collier caused the death of Phipps “without cause or adequate provocation, and with malice aforethought” on or around Nov. 23. Phipp’s body was found Tuesday.

Collier is also charged with two counts of unlawful neglect of a child regarding a 6- and 10-year old, according to warrants. As a guardian of the children, Collier placed them in “unreasonable risk of harm” due to unsanitary home conditions and lack of food in the residence, warrants said.

The children were taken into Department of Social Services custody and placed with a family member – possibly a grandmother – according to Denis, with Horry County police.

Fowler said that he is awaiting preliminary autopsy findings to determine the cause of death.

Reach Weaver: 843-444-1722; @TSNEmily