Updated: April 15, 2015 06:25 PM
Created: April 14, 2015 12:00 AM
The father of a Crystal boy whose body was found in the Mississippi River was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder and made his first court appearance Wednesday.
Bail has been set at $2 million, and Pierre Collins' next court appearance is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, May 14.
Police say Collins has been a primary suspect in the disappearance of 10-year-old Barway Collins and that electronic evidence shows he was near the river at the time the boy disappeared.
“We don’t know the motive, although we have some suspicion,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
The criminal complaint says Collins had two life insurance policies on Barway. One has coverage of $30,000, and Collins made a payment on that policy two days before Barway was last seen. That day he also asked about raising the amount of coverage from $30,000 to $50,000.
The second policy is through a different company and covers Collins for $100,000 and each of his dependents for $20,000 each.
According to the criminal complaint, Collins and Barway’s stepmother have “considerable financial obligations, debt and no current income.” Prosecutors say Collins was offered a temporary job on March 17 that was supposed to start at 4 p.m. March 18, but Collins turned it down because he said he couldn’t report at that time.
Barway was reported missing on March 18 after he was last seen getting out of his school transportation van near the 5400 block of Douglas Drive North. Video surveillance from his apartment complex shows he was about to go inside, but then turned around as if he was called over to the parking lot by someone he knew, and he walked away.
On the day Barway disappeared, Collins told a woman identified as Barway’s stepmother that he was going to work. She believed he worked as a home health care aide, but in reality he hadn’t been employed for some time and has no apparent income, according to the complaint. Instead, prosecutors say he was attending a hearing in Hennepin County Family Court about his child support obligation to kids from a prior relationship.
After his court appearance that morning, Collins’ cellphone records show he was in the area along the river where Barway’s body was later recovered. Later, at 4:42 p.m. that day, Collins’ phone again showed that he was in the exact area by the river that he had been that morning.
When Barway came home from school that day, Collins’ car was parked in front of the apartment building. Freeman said Barway ended up in that car, and no one ever saw him alive again.
Freeman said, "We believe the father took him to the river and dumped him in the wastewater storm water system; he remained underwater for 24 days." Barway was found near North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon by searchers from a Boy Scout troop. Officials said the body was discovered about 10 feet from the river's edge in Brooklyn Center.
According to the criminal complaint, Barway's feet were bound together with duct tape, and a piece of duct tape was wrapped around his torso too.
Freeman said they were able to track Collins’ movements through his cell phone signal. He went to that spot of the Mississippi River, where no one has a reason to be unless they are fishing. Freeman said Collins doesn’t own any fishing equipment.
Law Enforcement Reaction
Freeman said that the evidence may require them to go to a grand jury to seek a first-degree premeditated charge.
“Although we are pleased that Pierre is being charged in this matter, we can’t forget the tragic manner of how Barway spent his last few hours,” Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering said. “It’s always sad when a young person dies, but it’s devastating when those that he trusted caused his death.”
Crystal police say they don’t believe Collins has been truthful during the investigation, but Collins told KSTP that he “had nothing to do with the disappearance of Barway.”
Collins family spokesman Rev. Harding Smith said Tuesday that Collins is maintaining his innocence and “asks the community to withhold judgment and let the criminal justice system work its course.” Smith also said Collins is separated from the other inmates for his own safety.
On Monday, April 13, Collins also told police that “if they had enough, they should come and get him,” according to the complaint.
Smith gave the statement from the family Tuesday morning after Collins' arrest Monday’s. The family said they are "deeply saddened" by the loss of Barway.
Smith says Barway’s body is ready to be released to the funeral home, and Collins has turned over all the funeral arrangements to Smith. A family vigil is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Barway Collins' school, Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School in Brooklyn Center, sent a letter to students' parents and guardians about Barway's death and brought in social workers Monday to talk to students.
Principal Sheryl Ray said she remembers Barway as a "very friendly student" with "a broad smile" and many friends. On the last day he was seen alive, Barway held the door open for students leaving school before he got on the van, Ray said.
“This is a tragedy,” Freeman said. “The people here are all hardened, tough law enforcement veterans, and every one of us is shocked.”
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek offered his “sincere condolences” to Barway’s loved ones and thanked the searchers.
“We hoped for the best, we really did,” Stanek said. “We wanted to bring Barway back … We can’t say enough about the countless community members who, out of concern for Barway, dedicated hundreds and hundreds of hours to bring Barway home.”
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