The father of a 10-year-old boy whose body was found in the Mississippi River on Saturday was officially charged with murder Tuesday.
Pierre Collins, 33, has been charged with second-degree murder, with intent but not premeditated in his son Barway Collins' death. His bail has been set at $2 million.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that while Collins, of Crystal, Minn., is charged with second-degree murder, he believes that they have enough evidence for a grand jury to indict him for first-degree murder.
Barway, who was last seen March 18, had been missing for nearly four weeks when his body was found by Boy Scouts who were taking part in a search for him.
According to the criminal complaint, when Barway's body was recovered from the Mississippi River on Saturday, his feet were bound together with duct tape and a piece of duct tape also was wrapped around his torso.
The investigation into Barway's death revealed Collins had two life insurance policies on his son — one with a coverage of $30,000. On March 16, two days before Barway was last seen, Collins made a payment on that life insurance policy and also made a call to the company, asking about raising the amount of coverage from $30,000 to $50,000. A second policy, through a different company, covers Collins for $100,000 and each of his dependents at $20,000 each.
The criminal complaint states Collins and his wife, Yamah, have "considerable financial obligations, debt and no current income." Still, charges state Collins was offered a temporary job March 17 and was supposed to report at 4 p.m. on March 18 for his first day. He allegedly turned down the job, saying he was not able to come in on that date and time.
Freeman believes Collins acted alone but they still haven't identified the "uncle" Barway referenced on the day he disappeared.
The cause of Barway's death has not yet been determined.
The complaint lays out a timeline of events that led to Collins' arrest Monday.
On March 18, the day of Barway's disappearance, Collins attended a hearing that morning regarding his child support for children from a prior relationship. Later that morning, cellphone records indicate Collins was in the area where Barway's body was eventually recovered.
Collins returns to his apartment and three hours later at 4:17 p.m., Barway is seen returning home on school bus video.
Barway said, "There's my dad." And then adds, "Oh, my uncle's here." The bus dropped him off and Barway is seen standing outside. Collins' silver Volkswagen Jetta is seen in the parking lot. Authorities say Collins was in the car at that time.
Minutes later, Collins' car is seen leaving the parking lot. His cellphone connects to the same Wi-Fi as it did earlier that morning near where Barway's body was found.
Police believe that for about an hour, Collins' phone was turned off or in "airplane mode." His phone is turned back on and at 5:41 p.m., he calls his wife, who told him Barway never came home from school.
“This is a tragedy. From every report, this was a fine, precocious, exciting young man whose life was snuffed out.”
At 6:27 p.m., Collins called 911 to report Barway as missing. He told police Barway never returned home after school, that he called the bus company and the operator told him the bus driver heard Barway say his uncle was at the home when he was getting off the bus. Collins said he didn't know of any uncle and that he had no idea who Barway would be referring to. He also told police he was not present when the bus dropped Barway home from school.
Criminal charges state during several interviews with police, Collins maintained he was never at the river and had no explanation for why his phone was tracked there. Police indicated in the charges there were several inconsistencies with Collins' story.
"Mr. Collins has given several statements to police, which are contradictory in nature in terms of almost every factual aspect of the case," Freeman said Tuesday during a news conference.
In an interview with police, Collins' wife, Yamah, said at 4:15 p.m. on March 18, Collins was watching TV when he got up suddenly saying he had to go to the bank and the store. He left the apartment and did not return until after she told him Barway was missing.
Crystal Police focused on Pierre Collins as their prime suspect in the case, ever since Barway disappeared.
Collins is currently being held at the Hennepin County Jail.
"This is a tragedy," Freeman said. "From every report, this was a fine, precocious, exciting young man whose life was snuffed out. There's no reason for it."
At a news conference Tuesday, family spokesperson Pastor Harding Smith pleaded with the community to let the criminal justice system work its course — he asked for prayers for the family during this difficult time, while they mourn the loss of their child.
Smith said during a visit with Collins in jail, "tears ran down his face," and that Collins continued to say he was innocent and was "excited for his day in court."
A vigil is planned for Saturday to celebrate Barway's life, Smith said.