PETE COLLINS DIES

BY LEESHA FAULKNER AND SHEENA BARRETT

Daily Journal

JACKSON – A former Mississippi State trooper and motivational speaker hanged himself in prison Sunday after receiving a 10-year sentence in Lee County for conviction of fondling a child.

Pete Collins, 62, was found in cell about 2:44 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility near Pearl, according to state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps’ statement.

Epps said Collins was housed in the “reception and diagnostic unit, where he had passed the agency medical screening.”

Epps said the investigation was continuing and offered no other details.

A Friday conviction

Collins was convicted on Thursday in circuit court of Lee County of the molestation charge. He was sentenced about 9 a.m. Friday, said Lee County sheriff Jim Johnson, and taken to Jackson at 10:30 a.m.

“I was notified after 3:30 p.m. that he had died,” said Johnson, who referred other questions to MDOC officials.

Prosecutors Clay Joyner and Heather Emerson handled the case for the district attorney’s office. Joyner said Sunday that he feels “terribly sorry for this family. Whatever he’s done still, I’m sure for them, it’s a loss.”

The victim’s father said he heard of Collins’ death about 6 p.m. Sunday from “estranged members of the Collins family.” The father said he called the chaplain at the prison to confirm the news.

Collins was a highly awarded state trooper by his supervisors and even by President Clinton, who in 1994 gave Collins the Presidential Citation for an Outstanding Enforcement Officer.

Collins became a captain the highway patrol in 1997 after the Legislature mandated his promotion. He retired the next year after being named Statewide Trooper of the Year.

The former trooper became a popular motivational speaker on the dangers of teenagers driving drunk.

Collins was indicted by a Lee County grand jury in 2005. He previously was tried in August 2006, but a mistrial was declared after a jury couldn’t reach an unanimous decision.

Contact Daily Journal reporter Leesha Faulkner at 678-1590 or Sheena Barnett at 678-1580.