Judith Collins (Courtesy photo)
WHITNEY (July 24, 2013)—Dozens gathered Wednesday night at the grave site of Judith Collins, 15, of Whitney, who was shot and killed exactly one year ago to honor her memory.
Family and friends released balloons and shared memories of the teen, whose death may finally be approaching closure.
Last week, nearly a year after the shooting, Hill County’s district attorney finally received the case and wants a special prosecutor to handle it.
The girl's father, Edwin Odell Collins, 41, was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the deadly July 24, 2012 shooting, and was later freed on $500,000 bond.
The Hill County Sheriff’s Office, however, didn’t forward the results of its investigation to the District Attorney’s Office until last Thursday because it was waiting for results from evidence processed by the Department of Public Safety crime lab.
Hill County District Attorney Mark Pratt, who took office in January, said Tuesday that a judge appointed Waco lawyers Bill and Susan Johnston to handle the case in response to his request for a special prosecutor.
Bill Johnston said he hasn't yet received the case file.
"Once I have the materials, I will review them and move forward with the case as the facts merit," he said.
Pratt said he sought the special prosecutor because he handled a civil protective order against Edwin Collins while serving as county attorney.
An updated autopsy report sent to a Hill County justice of the peace in August 2012 confirmed the girl died of a shotgun wound to the back, but authorities said then that a ruling on the manner of death—whether accidental or intentional—was still pending.
Collins told deputies he shot and killed his daughter with a 12 gauge shotgun while he and his three children were trying to elude someone he claimed was chasing them in predawn darkness early in the morning on July 24, 2012.
Collins told deputies that he and his children eventually ended up running through a dense wooded area while trying to escape their pursuers, an arrest warrant affidavit said.
At some point Judith screamed and Collins said he fired a shot in the direction of the noise, according to the affidavit.
He said he was standing about 10 feet away from Judith when he fired the shotgun, the affidavit said.
The blast struck her in the back.
The affidavit says Collins knew he had killed his daughter, but says he and the other two children remained hidden in the woods until daylight.
Collins' teenage son eventually led deputies to his sister's body in the wooded area beside a cultivated field at FM 933 and FM 1713.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Judith Collins participated in one-act play, track and field, and choir at Whitney Middle School and was about to enter Whitney High School.