Kathleen teen accused of killing sister denies she did it, lawyer says

bpurser@macon.comSeptember 13, 2012 

PERRY -- Bond was denied Thursday in Houston County Superior Court for a Kathleen teen accused of killing her 12-year-old sister and setting the family’s house on fire.

Carmen Collins, 17, was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, arson and possession of a handgun during the commission of a crime in connection with the July 3 shooting of India Ja’Nai Collins, a seventh-grader at Mossy Creek Middle School.

Judge Katherine K. Lumsden found that Carmen Collins was a significant risk to re-offend.

The judge noted the teenager had only been on bond a few days for an unrelated burglary charge when she was arrested in connection with her sister’s slaying.

Also a factor in the judge’s decision was that Collins was arrested in Columbus, and the gun used in the slaying was also recovered there.

Lumsden also expressed empathy for the girls’ parents, John and Angela Collins, who were in the courtroom and had written a three-page letter in support of the teen. Other family members of the sisters were also present.

Lumsden said she could not think of a worse situation for the parents to find themselves in than to have lost a child and for another to be charged with her murder.

Collins is accused of shooting her sister to death with their father’s .40-caliber handgun in the foyer-living room area of their home and fleeing to Columbus with the family dog.

It is unclear whether the fire inside the home was set before or after the sister was shot. The gasoline used to set the fire was stored in a shed where it was kept to power the lawn mower.

Public Defender Nick White told the judge Collins denies she killed her sister and said she did not leave willingly.

He argued for bond on electronic monitoring under house arrest with her parents or at the residence of another family member in Montezuma where she grew up.

White told the judge he believed the electronic monitoring and the support of the family would ensure Collins would meet all bond requirements and make all court appearances.

But prosecutor Daniel P. Bibler argued Collins had bonded out of jail Feb. 26 on a burglary charge. She also was subsequently indicted on a charge of theft by taking a motor vehicle.

The slaying of her sister was only a few days later after Collins posted bond, Bibler noted. Also, Collins has a history of curfew violations and running away from home, he said.

Additionally, Collins is accused of selling the gun in Columbus where she was arrested July 5, Bibler said. The gun was recovered in a trash can outside a Columbus barbecue restaurant.

Her parents declined comment as they were leaving the courthouse after the hearing.

White has said he believes he has information that will lead to Collins being exonerated in her sister’s slaying.

“It’s her claim that she did not shoot her sister, that there were other people involved and that she did not go to Columbus willingly,” White said by telephone after Thursday’s hearing. He declined to elaborate.

A memorial for India Collins is scheduled for Monday morning at Mossy Creek Middle School in which the Collins family is expected to be presented with a few gifts and shown a stone memorial for students who have died. India’s name has been added to the stone, and a Weeping Willow has been planted in her memory.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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