Trial set in Wheaton killing
A trial date has been set for a man accused of killing a 14-month-old girl with a baseball bat in a self-admitted fit of rage last fall in a Wheaton, Minn., church.
David Eric Collins, 50, of Wheaton, is set to stand trial starting May 14 in Traverse County District Court on charges of murder, attempted murder and assault. The trial is scheduled to last 15 days.
Authorities think Collins swung the baseball bat that killed Aundrea Brownlow, the toddler who died of a traumatic head injury after being hit above the right ear during a fight Sept. 3 at Thy Kingdom Come World Ministry.
Investigators believe Collins was upset about $20 he said Brownlow's father, Claude Hankins, owed him, as well as a request by the church that Collins give a used washing machine and dryer to Hankins' family.
Traverse County Attorney Matt Franzese said he thinks Collins was trying to kill Hankins when he allegedly swung at his head during a prayer service, a blow numerous witnesses say hit Brownlow instead.
"That's what the trial will be about; whether or not Mr. Collins swung the baseball bat with the intent to cause Mr. Hankins' death," Franzese said.
Collins later told investigators he was in a "fit of rage" at the time, according to court records.
Carter Greiner, Collins' attorney, didn't return a phone message.
The trial date was set just a week after Darryl Glenn Kennedy, 43, of Wheaton, pleaded guilty on Dec. 30 to charges of second-degree manslaughter and assault.
Kennedy had also been charged with murder in connection with Brownlow's death. Court records state that Kennedy lent Collins the baseball bat allegedly used in the attack, and later went to the church and swung a 2-by-4 board at Hankins.
Given Kennedy's level of involvement, manslaughter "was probably the right charge," Franzese said. He wasn't at the church during the fatal attack, and testified during his guilty plea that he allowed Collins to take the bat instead of actively lending it to him, the prosecutor said.
Kennedy, who will also be sentenced in a burglary case in Big Stone County, Minn., on Feb. 2, was sentenced to a prison term of six years and three months.
Though it wasn't a major factor in the cutting a plea deal, Kennedy has agreed to testify against Collins if the case goes to trial, Franzese said.
Neil Tangen, attorney for Kennedy, didn't return a phone message.