Murder of Suzanne Marie Collins
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Suzanne Marie Collins
|Born||June 8, 1966|
|Died||July 12, 1985 (aged 19)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1984 - 1985|
|Unit||Naval Air Station, Memphis|
Suzanne Marie Collins was a U. S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal who was tortured, raped and murdered by Sedley Alley in 1985. At the time of her murder she was stationed at Naval Air Station Memphis in Millington, Tennessee. Collins was a student undergoing training at the base, and was scheduled to graduate from avionics training on the day of her murder. She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Abduction and murder
Sedley Alley (August 16, 1955 - June 28, 2006), a civilian married to an enlisted member of the military, abducted Collins late in the evening of July 11, 1985 while she was jogging on the base. He took her to nearby Edmund Orgill Park. Once there he beat her multiple times, fracturing her skull, before repeatedly shoving a tree limb up her vagina with enough force to penetrate her abdomen and tear one of her lungs. The autopsy would state that Collins died from blunt force trauma to the head and internal hemorrhaging from the tree limb. He then ditched the body and fled the scene.
Two Marines jogging near where Collins was abducted heard her scream and ran toward the sound. However, as they reached the scene, they saw Alley's car leaving the area. They reported to base security and accompanied officers on a tour of the base, looking for the car. Unsuccessful, they returned to their barracks, but soon the Marines were called back to the security office. There they identified Alley's car, which had been stopped by officers. Alley and his wife gave statements to the base security personnel accounting for their whereabouts. The security personnel were satisfied with Alley's story, and Alley and his wife returned to their on-base housing. The two Marine witnesses returned to the security office shortly after Alley and his wife departed. The Marines disputed the couple's version of events, citing that the loud, distinct sounds made by the muffler on Alley's car matched those sounds they had heard prior to and during Collins' abduction. The security personnel indicated that since no one had yet been reported missing, there was nothing more that could be done. The Marines were thanked for their assistance and told to return to their barracks.
Collins' body was discovered the next morning by sheriff's deputies, after her roommate reported her missing. When word got to the base of the murder, Alley was immediately arrested by military police. He voluntarily gave a statement to the police, admitting to having killed Collins but giving a substantially false account of the circumstances of the killing. He claimed that his wife Lynne went to a Tupperware party which had angered him. He drank two six-packs of beer and a bottle of wine. He told authorities that he had gone out for more liquor when his car accidentally hit Collins as she jogged near the air base. He also claimed he accidentally killed the young woman when she fell on a screwdriver he was holding as he was trying to help her. However, an autopsy revealed that her skull had been fractured with repeated beatings, there were no screwdriver wounds, and no wounds consistent with being hit by a car.
Trial and execution of Alley
In spite of his attempt to convince a jury that he had multiple personality disorder, Alley was convicted on March 18, 1987 of murder in the first degree and on May 17, 1987, was sentenced to death. He was also convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape, for which he received consecutive forty-year sentences. He was scheduled to die by electrocution May 2, 1990, but was reprieved indefinitely by the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
A Shelby County judge denied Alley's initial request for state-funded DNA testing of 11 samples of physical evidence, saying he hadn't shown "reasonable probability" that he wouldn't have been prosecuted or convicted if the tests were in his favor.
After numerous appeals, Alley was executed by lethal injection at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee, on the morning of June 28, 2006; he was pronounced dead at 2:12 a.m. The length of Alley's appeals process caused Collins' family to successfully work for limitations on groundless habeas corpus appeals. The amount of time between the murder and Alley's execution (20 years, 11 months, 14 days) was actually longer than Suzanne Collins had been alive (19 years, one month, four days old) when she was killed. On April 30, 2019, Alley's daughter petitioned the Criminal Court for Shelby County for the DNA test that was denied prior to his execution. A judge denied the request on November 18, 2019.
The books Journey Into Darkness and Law & Disorder by John E. Douglas dedicate three chapters to the life and murder of Suzanne Collins and to the advocacy work of her parents following the murder.
Advocacy of Jack and Trudy Collins
After the murder, the Collinses dealt with their grief in part by joining a Fairfax County support group for surviving members of homicide victims led by Carroll Ellis and Sandra Witt. Due to involvement with the group, the Collinses got more involved in attending the hearings and criminal proceedings of the killers of their loved ones. With the appeals of Alley stretching into years, the Collinses became frustrated with the long habeas corpus appeals and continuing delay of Alley's sentence. Both Collinses then became deeply involved with activism and reform work.
In March 1991, Jack Collins addressed delegates at the Crime Summit in Washington, D.C., convened by then Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. Collins's statement was about the lack of finality with criminal convictions and pressing for reform. In the early 1990s, both Collinses became Eastern Regional Directors of Citizens for Law and Order, based in Oakland, California. Jack Collins continued with opportunities presented to the couple and worked with Executive Director Lee Chancellor of the Judicial Reform Foundation to create a pamphlet on habeas corpus abuses and history of the judicial process. On May 7, 1991, Jack Collins testified before Congress on habeas corpus reform and the endless appeals that Alley was requesting. Trudy Collins was in attendance in support of her husband.
The Collinses have also established a scholarship named the Suzanne Marie Collins Perpetual Scholarship, first awarded in 1996.
- Douglas, John E. (1997). Journey Into Darkness. New York: Lisa Drew Book/Schribner. ISBN 0684833042.
- Tennessee, State of. "RESPONSE OF THE STATE TO PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR DNA TESTING PURSUANT TO T.C.A. §40-30-301 ET SEQ.". Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Tennessee State Courts. Retrieved 07/05/2013.
- Wood, E. Thomas. "Sedley Alley put to death at Riverbend Prison". Nashville Post. SouthComm Inc. Retrieved 07/05/2013.
- Dwyer, Jim (1 May 2019). "Her Father Was Executed for Murder. She Still Wants to Know if He Did It". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
- "Family of Sedley Alley, Executed in 2006, Petitions Court for DNA Testing of Evidence in Tennessee Case". Innocence Project. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
- reports, staff and wire. "Memphis judge denies DNA testing in Sedley Alley case; A setback in probe into St. Louis connection". stltoday.com. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
- Douglas, John E. (1997). Journey Into Darkness. New York: Lisa Drew Book/Schribner. pp. 261–262. ISBN 0684833042.
- Thornburgh, Richard. "CLOSING REMARKS of • ATTORNEY GENERAL RICHARD THORNBURGH". United States Department of Justice. United States Dept of Justice. Retrieved 07/06/2013.
- Douglas, John E. (1997). Journey Into Darkness. New York: Lisa Drew Book/Schribner. p. 268. ISBN 0684833042
- Douglas, John E. (1997). Journey Into Darkness. New York: Lisa Drew Book/Schribner. p. 269. ISBN 0684833042.
- Douglas, John E. (1997). Journey Into Darkness. New York: Lisa Drew Book/Schribner. p. 270. ISBN 0684833042.
- "Spotlight on Donors: Financial Aid". American Foreign Service Association. American Foreign Service Association. Retrieved 07/06/2013.