Husband of homicide victim objects to boy's plea agreement

PHOENIX (AP) — The husband of a woman who was shot and killed during a burglary in rural eastern Arizona objected Tuesday to a proposed plea agreement for the now 16-year-old defendant.

Ernest Collins Jr. said the proposed agreement submitted to a judge would allow the suspect to plead guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in the killing of Terrilynne Collins two years ago.

Ernest Collins said he agreed during an October settlement conference to a version of the agreement that would have had the suspect plead guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated assault. It called for a possible sentence of five to 25 years.

“It was really quite disappointing for us as a family where they went from a felony murder where he basically executed my wife ... to a reckless manslaughter,” said Collins, an attorney in Mesa. “There’s no justice in this.”

Authorities say Terrilynne Collins, 54, was killed during a struggle with a masked intruder after she went to a trailer on the family property in Concho in response to a text for help from the couple’s daughter, who was there with another young woman.

Authorities later arrested the teen in the Show Low area of Navajo County after a manhunt. He was charged as an adult with first-degree felony murder and other crimes. The Associated Press is withholding his name because of his age.

Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting did not immediately return a call about the plea agreement. Defense attorney Cindy Castillo declined to discuss her client’s case.

“I really care about my juveniles,” she said.

Collins said a prosecutor told him the second-degree murder charge in the initial plea agreement was changed because it would have required a minimum sentence longer than specified in the plea agreement.

“Obviously I objected because a manslaughter charge for a case where it’s first-degree murder without a defense is just unacceptable,” he said.

Online court records don’t spell out further terms of the plea agreement or list future proceedings.

Collins said the agreement was submitted to an Apache County judge, but a Navajo County judge who oversaw the settlement conference is expected to conduct a status conference and will eventually decide whether to accept or reject the proposed plea agreement.

Collins said the boy could have faced up to 65 years in prison if convicted of the crimes he initially faced.

Concho is in Apache County about 160 miles (257 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.