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Collins gets 15 years for murder

Dereck A.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Dereck A. Collins, accused of killing 3-year-old Brooklyn Hope Peters last year, will spend 15 years to life in prison.

Collins, 23, of 25 Township Road 1067, South Point, entered a guilty plea Friday to a reduced charge of murder. Collins had been charged with aggravated murder for causing the death of the girl by shaking and hitting her on Sept. 13, 2001.

"This is not a slap on the wrist," Lawrence County prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said Friday, commenting on Collins’ prison sentence.

"This is a substantial sentence for an inexcusable, heinous crime," Collier said. "We and the family felt it was a just resolution."

During pre-trial proceedings Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, attorneys indicated a plea was possible. The situation was discussed with the victim’s family, Collier said. On Friday, before the girl’s mother and other family, the state agreed to amend the indictment, and Collins entered a guilty plea, he said.

Although the case had been set for trial this month, it would not have been a death penalty case; and the current penalty is not significantly different than what could have been given under the aggravated charge, Collier said.

And, a jury could have considered an even lesser charge of manslaughter, he added.

Under Collins’ sentence of 15 years to life, he must serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole.

"But, our experience is that, with something this heinous, parole is very seldom granted the first time around," Collier said.

Although Collins’ punishment puts closure to the case, the state was prepared to give the "shaken baby" case serious attention, he said.

"It’s inexcusable," Collier said. "Here, he’s angry because he can’t watch TV and she’s making too much noise In a civilized world, people do not discipline children like this."

In this day and age, people know shaking and hitting children can cause their deaths, he said.

"From our standpoint, we were prepared to go to trial on this."

Collins has been in jail since his arrest shortly after the September 2001 incident

The night before his arrest, he had flagged down a sheriff’s deputy at a Burlington gas station, saying Brooklyn – the daughter of his girlfriend, Tisha McCoy – was having trouble breathing, according to sheriff’s reports. The deputy and EMS tried to revive the child, but she was pronounced dead at a West Virginia hospital.

Officers felt there was obvious signs of injury to the girl, especially facial injuries, that prompted charges, reports stated.

Autopsy results show the cause of death as "shaken baby syndrome."