CRYSTAL, Minn. (WCCO) — A boy steps off his school bus never to be seen again.
Barway Collins’ disappearance captured a community’s attention for weeks last spring. His father is now in prison after he confessed to killing his son.
Barway’s murder rocked the Twin Cities and a suburban police department. For the first time, we’re hearing from the officers who put Pierre Collins behind bars.
They told WCCO about the web of lies they say he told them from the beginning.
Three words thrust a 10-year old boy into the spotlight.
“There’s my dad,” Barway Collins said riding in his school bus.
For the first time, we’re learning why he said it. There is video of him walking over to his father’s car.
Investigator Julie Severson, Lt. Derrick Hacker and Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering were the first to begin piecing together Barway’s disappearance on March 18.
“What we were able to see of his final moments. He had no idea what was going to happen,” Severson said.
They say Pierre Collins became their focus from the beginning.
“There were some indicators and some red flags right from the start,” Hacker said.
By the next day, investigators were already suspicious of Pierre Collins when he turned over his iPad. His top web searches pertained to family insurance policies.
By day three, Pierre Collins was given a polygraph test and failed.
“The agent said, ‘Pierre, your chewing gum, can you spit out the gum?’ He’d say, ‘I’m not chewing gum.’ So he’s lying about chewing gum during the polygraph test,'” Hacker said.
Investigators noted how he didn’t even answer his age truthfully.
“The date of birth he gives is mid-30s, when in fact I think we’ve got him at mid-to-late 40s,” Hacker said.
Pierre would maintain that the evening his son went missing he drove to Cub Foods in Brooklyn Park.
“We had people that would watch video all day long,” Severson said.
It’s a trip security cameras would capture. It showed Pierre in and out of the store within seven minutes, leaving more than an hour and a half before that shopping trip unaccounted for.
Cell phone records would fill in that blank.
By day five, authorities learned Pierre Collins’ cell phone was pinging off in an area near the Mississippi riverfront twice the day Barway went missing.
It’s the moment the department says all hope disappeared that Barway was still alive.
“It was just after that it was going to be a matter of when we get that phone call that he’s found in the river,” Hacker said.
“We had the sheriff’s department searching the river every day,” Revering, the Crystal police chief, added.
More than 80 members of law enforcement worked Barway’s case alongside Crystal police. They included Hennepin County officials, the BCA and the FBI.
The case file would grow to more than a thousand pages. Some 150 people would be interviewed.
Most were family, friends and former contacts calling police eager to share information about Pierre Collins’ past.
“The more we learned about Pierre, the more it backed up our suspicions about him,” Hacker said.
An attorney representing an insurance company said Pierre made “four claims in four years,” saying he suffered from “severe injuries from “minor impact accidents.”
A former apartment manager reported a suspicious fire in Pierre Collins’ old apartment, which she knew he collected money from. A man even called him a “psychopath” after he knew Collins collected $80,000 from his mother’s life insurance policy.
“We found extensive lies, extensive fraud and accidents that never happened,” Severson said. “We found things out there he should have been in jail for.’
Twenty-four days after Barway got off his school bus, search crews found his duct-taped body floating in the river.
“In 17 years in law enforcement, you definitely see some horrific crime, but this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Revering said. “The main reason is it was a 10-year-old boy.”
There is no question his murder has left a lasting mark on the Crystal Police Department.
Those who led up the investigation keep pictures of Barway in their office.
“He’s on my computer, right in front of me every day,” Severson said.
Officers are choosing not to focus on the senseless crime, but that they did their best for Barway.
“It’s tough to comprehend, because I don’t think I’ll ever understand why this happened,” Severson said.
Crystal police were able to find that Pierre Collins had as many as 10 life insurance policies out on different family members. Some of them had expired. In the end, there were two active life insurance policies on Barway totaling $50,000.
They also found Pierre had $65,000 in student loan debt, his credit cards were maxed out, and his bank accounts were all overdrawn.