Tony De La Torre said he found the infant lying in the yard at 205 S. Cedar St.
“I think I was the first one, or one of the first ones, at the scene, and the child was laying in the front yard,” De La Torre said of that April day 33 years ago in Ottawa.
It was a crime scene De La Torre said he still remembers. And the former Ottawa police lieutenant said he has not forgotten about the man who was convicted of beating 5-month-old Satrina Marie’s head on the floor “three or four times” because the baby — the man’s step-daughter — wouldn’t stop crying. Nor could De La Torre forget the same man who bit the infant’s back, buttocks and feet and later tried to make law enforcement officers think the family’s dog had dragged the child into the yard while he was napping.
That man is Thomas K. Collins.
Collins, now 59, is eligible for parole in May. Collins was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery and sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison for murdering his step-daughter April 22, 1980. He is incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility, Lansing.
‘Sad set of facts’
Former police detective De La Torre, who was in charge of the 1980 murder investigation, said he met with Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, earlier this week to review the case. Both men said Collins should remain behind bars.
“I have reviewed the case file, and there’s a sad set of facts surrounding this case,” Hunting said. “Due to the nature of the crime, I do not believe it would be appropriate for Mr. Collins to be granted parole at this time.”
Those facts include Collins lying to police that the family’s pet, a German Shepard and Doberman Pinscher mix, drug the baby into the yard while he was taking a nap.
“It was clear to us at the scene that the bites were not made by a dog,” De La Torre said. “It was obvious the child had suffered severe head trauma.”
Jim Malson, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s special agent assigned to Ottawa at that time, also assisted with the investigation. Malson went on to serve as KBI director from 1989 to 1992.
A Topeka dentist was called in to take impressions of Collins’ teeth and compare them to the bite marks on the baby, Malson, who still resides in Franklin County, said
“They were made by Collins,” Malson said.
An autopsy showed the baby died of a skull fracture.
Cynthia Collins, Satrina’s mother, was not at home when her daughter was killed. She soon filed divorce proceedings against Collins, according to Herald archives. She told police officers that her husband also had told her the family dog was responsible for the baby’s death.
During the jury trial in November 1980, De La Torre said he extracted a confession from Collins the day after the murder.
Collins confessed after he was advised bite marks found on the baby were human and not made by a dog, De La Torre told the jury of nine women and three men in Anderson County District Court. The trial was moved to Garnett on a change of venue from Franklin County.
Collins pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
In describing the murder for the jury, De La Torre said Collins put his hand over the baby’s nose and mouth after she began crying while he was babysitting the infant. When she passed out, Collins said he rubbed her back in an attempt to revive her, De La Torre testified.
“Then he put a karate chop to her back, and that didn’t work, so he began to bite the baby on the back, buttocks and feet,” the detective said.
Collins said the baby revived and began crying again, De La Torre told the jury.
“He got upset because the baby wouldn’t be quiet,” De La Torre testified, according to Herald archives. “And, as he stated, he got on his knees on the living room floor, grabbed the baby by the shoulders and knocked her head to the floor, I believe he stated, three or four times.”
Collins’ court-appointed attorney Thomas Sachse, now a district judge, told the jury in his opening remarks that the defense would not ignore the fact that Collins was responsible for the baby’s death, but would try to prove that Collins was mentally ill when the death occurred. Sachse said his client suffered from a mental illness known as an “explosive disorder.”
“Our evidence will attempt to show why Tom Collins killed a 5-month-old baby,” Sachse told the jury. “That’s a hard thing to grasp, but our evidence will show that Tom suffers from mental illness, and has suffered from mental illness for years.”
The jury, however, found Collins, then 27, guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. In March 1981, Judge John J. Smith sentenced Collins to 25 years to life on the second-degree murder charge and 15 to 40 years on the aggravated battery charge. The sentences were to run concurrently.
Citing Kansas Department of Corrections policy, a spokesman at Lansing state prison denied The Herald’s request to conduct a phone interview with Collins, but said a reporter could write a letter to the inmate.
In addition to lodging his objections to Collins’ parole in writing, Hunting said he planned to attend a parole hearing April 26 in Topeka to recommend to the state Prisoner Review Board that Collins’ parole be denied.
The public comment sessions on his possible parole are planned for:
• 10 a.m. to noon April 22, City Hall, One McDowell Plaza, Kansas City, Kan.
• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 24, Finney State Office Building, Wichita.
• 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. April 26, Landon State Office Building, Topeka.
Collins is one of 21 Kansas inmates eligible for parole in May.
Former KBI agent Malson said he too was opposed to Collins being paroled.
“He’s right where he needs to be the rest of his life,” Malson said.
De La Torre agreed with Malson and Hunting that Collins needed to remain locked up — even after 33 years.
“This was a violent crime. It wasn’t accidental,” De La Torre said. “He took someone’s life — a defenseless child.”