McKinley Collins

Dad's dead, mom's in jail, kids want her charges dropped

Posted: Monday, 28 September 2009 8:34AM

HAMMOND, Ind. (STNG) -- Their father is dead, their mother is in jail, and the children of McKinley and Athena Collins feel like justice is not forthcoming.

"We just feel like our mother has been railroaded," Natasha Collins said during an interview where her pain and that of her brother, McKinley Collins Jr., was palpable.

"I pray every single day that the Lord would spare any other family from what we're going through," Natasha Collins said as tears streamed down her face. "We haven't had time just to grieve our dad.''

The siblings said they'd like to see charges against their mother dropped.

Athena Yevette Collins, 51, of Hammond, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of their father, McKinley Collins, 54, had tried to reconcile with their father after she moved from Chicago to Hammond without him more than a decade earlier.

On Aug. 5, 2008, a violent argument ensued at the Collins' home. Athena Collins, who had been the victim of domestic violence in the past, told officers who showed up at the White Oak Avenue home that her husband had tried to kill her.

A knife lay near her husband's right hand. Eight hair extensions ripped from Athena Collins' head lay on the kitchen floor, and an iron with bloodstains sat in the kitchen. The gun Athena Collins admitted she fired at her husband was on the kitchen table.

Athena Collins had a large knot on her head and several knife wounds on her body, but investigators said in court records they felt the knife wounds may have been self-inflicted. She also told police her husband tried to kill her. He choked her, punched her, hit her with the iron and ripped out her hair extensions, according to court records.

Defense attorney Catherine Lake, who is seeking to suppress statements her client made, said the notion that Athena Collins would cut herself badly enough to require surgery is preposterous.

Athena Collins had a gun because the man who shot her son, leaving him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair, had been seen a few doors down in the neighborhood.

Prior to the shooting, Natasha Collins said her mother was trying to see if the couple could make their marriage work. Athena Collins allowed him into the home, but didn't let him move all his belongings from Chicago.

After the shooting, their mom, a certified nursing assistant, traveled to Nebraska and stayed with her sister. Collins and the family were still grieving the loss of their maternal grandmother. "She was totally distraught, depressed," her daughter said. She had attempted suicide and was hospitalized.

Natasha and McKinley Collins said they have been unable to convince the Prosecutor's Office to drop the charges against their mother. In fact, beyond being told of court dates, there has been little communication between the Prosecutor's Office and Natasha and McKinley Collins.

"We were told they would take it to a grand jury, but they never did,'' Natasha Collins said of the nine months between the shooting and charges being filed.

"She always stood up for what is right," Natasha Collins said of her mother.

"This isn't justice for her. This isn't justice for us. What about the truth?"

Diane Poulton, a spokeswoman for Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, said: "Whenever a family has to deal with the fallout of a violent crime committed against a loved one it is a highly stressful time. Added to that stress is having to deal with the criminal justice system, which tends to move slowly and often in ways that do not make sense to someone unfamiliar with the system.

"The emotional turmoil caused by having a family member charged with killing another rarely ends with all of the surviving family members being satisfied with the outcome in the courts. It requires a delicate balance from the Prosecutor's Office of being sensitive to the family's needs and those of the case.''

Meanwhile, Lake and Trial Supervisor Mary Ryan will be back in court to continue with evidence in the motion to suppress Collins' statements. They have had six days of hearings thus far before Magistrate Natalie Bokota.


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