Around Gaston in lower Lexington County, Robert "Bob" McKillips was known as a survivalist and gun enthusiast.
Only after his death Saturday at 65 did people find out just how much of an enthusiast.
His house in the 4400 block of Fish Hatchery Road was an arsenal, full of live grenades, black powder and a "large amount" of ammunition and chemicals, authorities said.
McKillips' nephew, fearful of what might happen with so many explosive devices, went to the house Wednesday, loaded a small amount of the deadly stuff into his truck and drove 80 miles to Union County.
That's where Union County Sheriff David Taylor said the nephew - who was not identified - surrendered the materials to authorities. The man was fearful the materials might blow up, officials said.
"When he discovered the items that he had, he said, 'I'm going to take this to the sheriff; he'll know what to do with it,"' Taylor said. He said the man brought the materials to him because the two know each other.
After learning what was in the man's truck, Taylor said deputies closed off streets near the Union County courthouse and called in the State Law Enforcement Division. SLED's bomb squad removed the materials and took them to be destroyed at the agency's Columbia headquarters.
But what was in the truck wasn't everything.
Bomb technicians from SLED and the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, meanwhile, had begun removing enough explosives to equip a militia from the Fish Hatchery Road home.
Explosives were inside the house and in storage buildings outside, said Lexington County sheriff's spokesman Maj. John Allard.
The deadly store included:
- Seven live hand grenades
- Two live German World War II-era hand grenades
- One live Japanese World War II-era hand grenade
- 40 hand grenade fuses
- 100 rounds of .223-caliber tracer rounds
- One pound of black rifle powder
- 4,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition
- Three kits that could be used to convert AR-15 assault rifles into fully automatic weapons
- 60 practice grenades that can't be detonated
Authorities also found various trip wires, two 4-pound bags of sulfur, two ammunition canisters and a thermos containing an unidentified chemical.
Bomb squads were "certainly cautious," Allard said.
Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said McKillips, who died of natural causes and was buried Wednesday, had lived at the home for 39 years with his wife, Edith McKillips. The phone number to their residence is unpublished.
While it was illegal for Bob McKillips to possess live hand grenades and improvised explosive devices, investigators found no evidence he intended to use the live hand grenades or improvised explosive devices to harm anyone, Metts said.
McKillips was a survivalist and military enthusiast who collected the items over a long period, Metts said. He had converted several of the live hand grenades into improvised explosive devices, Metts said.
Edith McKillips gave investigators permission to search her home and property, the sheriff said.
All explosives were destroyed by the bomb squads, Metts said.
Allard said deputies searched for but could not find a criminal record for McKillips, who never gave law enforcement any trouble.
Taylor said it wasn't a good idea for the nephew to transport the materials.
"He would have probably been better off to call us," the sheriff said. "Transporting that kind of stuff, if it was unstable, it could have been very explosive."
Since Bob McKillips is deceased, no criminal charges will be filed in the case, Metts said.