Judith Collins (Courtesy photo)
HILLSBORO (August 15, 2012)--An updated autopsy report sent to a Hill County justice of the peace confirms that the cause of the death of a teenage girl who was shot by her father was a shotgun wound to the back, but Hill County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon said a ruling on the manner of death—whether accidental or intentional—is still pending.
Edwin Odell Collins, 40, was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the July 24 shooting death of his daughter Judith Collins, 15, but later that week posted $500,000 bond in late July and was released from the Hill County Jail.
Collins, whose family owns the Hitchin' Post store north of Whitney on FM 933, told deputies he shot and killed his daughter while he and his three children were trying to elude someone he claimed was chasing them in pre-dawn darkness early in the morning on July 24.
Hill County authorities released a recording of a brief, but curious 911 call that was placed early on the morning of July 24 from Collins' cell phone.
In the 911 call received at around 4:30 a.m. July 24 at the emergency call center in neighboring Bosque County, a man says, 'Hey we're down here at the Hitchin' Post and we have a bunch of cars…driving all over the property…(and) we don't know what's going on."
The call was dropped as a Bosque County dispatcher was transferring it to Hill County and in a second recording released Friday, the two dispatchers can be heard discussing it.
An automatic system identified the number of the cell phone from which the call was placed as Collins' and a second system identified the towers through which the call was routed, Hill County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon said.
A Hill County deputy was dispatched to the Hitchin' Post, which is open 24 hours a day, but when he arrived, the store's owner, Ed Collins, told him there was no need for police, Lyon said.
Lyon said Edwin Collins' cell phone was later recovered near where deputies found Judith Collins' body.
There wasn't a battery in the phone however, and a cell phone found with the girl also was missing its battery, Lyon said.
Neither of the batteries was found in a search of the area, he said.
Collins later that day showed up at the Hill County Sheriff's Office and told authorities he shot his daughter to death with a 12-gauge shotgun while he and his children fled from an unknown pursuer.
Edwin Collins told deputies he believed someone was trying to "get him" early Tuesday morning at his residence, at 186 Private Road 122, just north of Whitney, an arrest warrant affidavit said.
Collins, who's divorced, Judith, and his other two children Alex, 17, and Logan, 11, left the residence in the family's minivan, armed with a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun, the affidavit said.
They drove to the Hitchin' Post where Collins said they got out and walked to the rear of the store, but before they could go inside, they heard a long bang, which he believed to be a gunshot, the affidavit says.
Fearing there might be someone inside the store, Collins told deputies he and his children hid behind a large concrete block where he used his cell phone to make what evidently was the 911 call that was routed to the Bosque County Sheriff's Office at around 4:30 a.m.
Collins told deputies he then saw what he thought were two flashlights and said he fired several shots from the shotgun in the direction of the lights, the affidavit says.
Collins told deputies that he and his children eventually ended up running through a dense wooded area in the predawn darkness while trying to escape their pursuers.
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 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 said he left the area at sunrise and went to the store, where he asked his father if any deputies had responded to his 911 call, but authorities say he did not tell his father about the shooting and did not call for an ambulance.
"There is a telephone at his home and a telephone at the store and at no time did he call for an ambulance or police," Lyon said.
"He didn't talk with his mother about the shooting and didn't mention to his father that (the girl) was lying dead in a field across the highway," Lyon said.
Collins' 17-year-old son led deputies to his sister's body in the wooded area beside a cultivated field at FM 933 and FM 1713 close to the family's store.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Judith Collins participated in one-act play, track and field, and choir at Whitney Middle School and would have entered Whitney High School this fall.