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94-year-old former professor killed, Columbia Police searching for help in case

Robbie Atkinson was a professor at Allen University for over 30 years.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Police are seeking the public's help to find who killed a respected longtime educator in the Columbia area.

Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford, standing alongside Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrooke, confirmed Thursday 94-year-old Robbie Atkinson's death was a homicide. Atkinson was found dead in her home on Calhoun Street last Saturday. 

But after an autopsy, the coroner determined the death was not natural causes. Rutherford did not say how she thought the woman died. 

According to Historic Columbia, she had a long career as an educator in the city. Allen University told News19 that Ms. Atkinson earned her bachelor’s degree the school in 1946. She then eventually became a professor at Allen where she taught English from 1952 to 1985.

Atkinson was also a descendent of activist Celia Mann and was instrumental in helping preserve the historic Mann-Simons House on Richland Street.

The neighborhood she lived in is near the BullStreet District. Those who lived near there were stunned to learn of the crime. 

“She was a nice lady, I’m sad about what happened to her," said Tony Deloach. 

“She was the one neighbor around here that we were really hoping to meet but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance," said Keiran McBride. "But we heard lovely things about her.”

Police have not said if they have any indication who may have be responsible for her death.

“She was a respected educator for many decades in our community and we’re asking that if you saw anyone again near the home or on the premises that you reach out," Rutherford said. "The area near this address is a well-traveled area by foot and by car and we’re just asking that if you know anything, please reach out.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.