Dad pleads guilty in Barway Collins' death, gets 40 years

Louise Karluah
Louis Karluah, the mother of Barway Collins, spoke in Minneapolis after the boy's father was sentenced to 40 years for killing him in March. Karluah lived in Liberia when Barway disappeared.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: 1:21 p.m. | Posted: 8:38 a.m.

Pierre Collins pleaded guilty to killing his son at a hearing Monday morning, four months after the boy's body was recovered from the Mississippi River.

Barway Collins, 10, went missing March 18. His family said he disappeared after getting off the school bus outside the home he shared with his father in Crystal. His body was found in the water April 11, his feet and torso wrapped in duct tape.

Barway Collins
Barway Collins
Courtesy of Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Pierre Collins was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing his son. He briefly addressed the court as he entered his plea.

"I saw him out playing... I was angry. I hit him," Collins told Hennepin County District Court Judge Tanya Bransford. "He fell... I took him to the river. I duct taped him and threw him in the water."

Collins didn't address the allegations that he was in dire financial straights, and stood to collect tens of thousands of dollars of life insurance benefits if Barway died.

A vigil for Barway Collins
Pierre Collins, 33, pleaded guilty to killing his son at a hearing Monday morning. Here, Collins, at left, and his wife, Yamah, stood with supporters at a March vigil in Crystal, Minn.
Jeff Wheeler | The Star Tribune via AP file

"We don't absolutely know" the motive, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "The only person that knows is Pierre Collins, and he's not sharing," he said, adding that he felt justice was done.

Barway's mother and step mother both said they didn't think Collins was telling the whole truth about the killing.

Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering said authorities are confident Pierre Collins acted alone in the killing.

Police tracked the elder Collins' cell phone to an area in Brooklyn Center, near a riverside park close to where Barway's body was found. Authorities said his phone had registered on a Wi-Fi access point there on the morning Barway disappeared, and again 20 minutes after Barway was last seen.

Collins, 33, reported his son missing about two hours after Barway had been seen getting off his bus, coming home from school that day.

His disappearance prompted a weeks-long hunt for the boy, and rallied the Liberian community in the Twin Cities. Collins and his son were Liberian immigrants. The boy's mother, Louise Karluah, lived in Liberia when Barway disappeared.

Investigators subsequently found that Collins and his wife, Yamah, had been having financial difficulties and that Collins had two life insurance policies on his son. Records indicated Collins had paid a premium on that policy just two days before his son disappeared and also called the insurance company to inquire about raising the amount of coverage from $30,000 to $50,000.

The charges against Collins also say that he was also in court the morning of Barway's disappearance regarding child support for four children from another marriage. Authorities say he'd been unemployed "for some time."

Collins was arrested on April 14, and charged with second degree murder. A Hennepin County grand jury indicted him in June.