Father charged with Barway Collins' murder

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, center, announced second-degree murder charges against Pierre Collins in the death of his 10-year-old son Barway Collins at a news conference at the Hennepin County Government Center.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News
Barway Collins
Barway Collins, 10
Courtesy of Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Updated 4:30 p.m. | Posted 11:22 a.m.

Hennepin County prosecutors on Tuesday charged Pierre Collins, the father of Barway Collins, with second-degree murder in Barway's death.

"We think it's a strong circumstantial case," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at an afternoon press conference unveiling the charges.

Freeman said the motive wasn't known yet but that authorities suspect the murder was tied to a $30,000 life insurance policy the father had taken out on Barway.

A premium on the policy had been paid two days before the boy disappeared, and Pierre Collins had sought to raise the value to $50,000, Freeman said. He added that Barway's family was in financial difficulty and that his father did not have a job.

"We believe the father took him to the river and dumped him in a waste water cistern" where the body remained underwater for 24 days, Freeman said. Authorities said the boy was found with his feet and torso bound with duct tape. It's still not clear yet how he died.

A vigil for Barway Collins
The parents of Barway Collins, Pierre and Yamah Collins, stood with supporters at a vigil Monday, March 23, 2015, in Crystal, Minn. Police say the 10-year-old Collins, missing for several days, may be with someone he knows. He was last seen after school Wednesday near his apartment complex. On Sunday, Crystal police asked for help identifying two people shown on surveillance video in the lobby of the complex.
Jeff Wheeler | Star Tribune via AP

Pierre Collins, 33, is expected to make his first court appearance on the murder charge Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors believe he acted alone.

Freeman said he may go to a grand jury to seek a first-degree murder indictment.

"This is a tragedy," Freeman told reporters. "From every report, this was a fine, precocious, exciting young man whose life was snuffed out. There's no reason for it."

Pierre Collins has said he is innocent.

Minnesota court records show Collins had a child support hearing on March 18 in Hennepin County. Court records dating back to 2008 show cases against Collins by creditors and one auto and home insurance company.

Police had previously called Pierre Collins a "primary suspect" in the disappearance of Barway, a 10-year-old who was missing for nearly a month.

They said they have electronic evidence putting him near the river the day of Barway's disappearance. On Tuesday, prosecutors said the evidence included cell phone pings that placed Pierre Collins near the stretch of river where his son's body was found, before and after the boy disappeared.

Bank records show Collins checked an account balance at a Cub Foods ATM about an hour after Barway was last seen. Prosecutors say he reported his son missing about an hour after that.

Pastor Harding Smith speaks
Pastor Harding Smith, left, stood beside two sisters of Pierre Collins on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Freeman said Collins is not talking to authorities. Freeman also said he was not certain Pierre was Barway's biological father, but that the question was irrelevant.

Authorities said Barway's body was found Saturday, about 10 feet from the river's edge in Brooklyn Center.

A pastor who met with Pierre Collins over the weekend asked people on Tuesday to withhold judgment on his case.

"I was able to go to the Hennepin County jail, pray with him. Mr. Collins maintains his innocence," Harding Smith said prior to the charges being announced. "He asks the community to please withhold judgment and let the criminal justice system work its course."

Smith said the family is trying to make funeral arrangements for Barway. The family and supporters are also planning a vigil for the boy in Crystal on Saturday afternoon.

"Mr. Collins, his spirit is high," Smith said. "He is looking forward to his day in court."

According to the charges, Collins was defiant on Monday, telling police "if they had enough (evidence) they should come and get him."

He was arrested that day.

Read the complaint

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