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Ex-trooper, motivational speaker commits suicide

8-26-2007 Mississippi

Former state trooper Pete Collins, sentenced to 10 years on Friday after being convicted of fondling a 13-year-old girl, hanged himself in his cell today at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.

He was discovered at 2:44 p.m. by a correctional officer during a security check and pronounced dead by medical staff at 3:16 p.m., according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

A then-13-year-old girl said Collins fondled her during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2004 while she was spending the night at a home where Collins was visiting in Lee County.

Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner III sentenced Collins, 62, of Madison to 15 years with five years suspended. Because fondling is a sex crime, Collins was required by law to serve the 10 years.

Collins had been a motivational speaker as well as a decorated trooper. During his law enforcement career, he had been named Statewide Trooper of the Year, and President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Citation for an Outstanding Enforcement Officer in 1994. He made captain in 1997 when the state Legislature honored him and mandated his promotion. He retired a year later/

State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Johnny Stringer, who is among the supporters listed on Collins’ Web site, had told The Clarion-Ledger on Friday that he didn't believe Collins was guilty.

However, former Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jim Ingram, who was in office during Collins' time as a state trooper, had said Collins was dishonest. Ingram had testified for the prosecution during Collins' trial last week.

Collins was housed at the reception and diagnostic unit at Central Mississippi, where he had passed the agency medical screening, according to MDOC.

Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps said initial findings reveal no foul play in Collins' suicide, but an investigation is under way. ..more.. by The Clarion-Ledger

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