What was the search for Barway Collins like

Pierre Collins being consoled by a relative shortly before search began

Pierre Collins being consoled by a relative shortly before search began

If the Mississippi River that runs through Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis could speak, it would tell a tale of horror for it was along the banks of the Mississippi, near Regional Park off 53RD and Lyndale Aves., that the killer(s) of 10 year-old Barway Edwin Collins dumped his lifeless body; writes James Kokulo Fasuekoi. 

His body was found Saturday, April 11th by members of a community volunteered search team searching the area near Regional Park. It is reported that the site had been previously canvassed by law enforcement officers with the help of K-9 dogs but they found no traces of the body or any of Barway’s belongings at the time. 

Two days later after the discovery of the boy’s corpse, his father Pierre Collins was arrested and charged with a 2nd degree murder, a charge that could keep Collins in prison for up to 40 years under Minnesota law if convicted. Collins, however, has continued to maintain he’s innocent. 

Within hours after Barway was reported missing by father Pierre Collins, Crystal Police complained that Collins was “uncooperative” during police interrogation and as a result, the police became suspicious of him playing a key role in Barway’s disappearance. Report said Collins failed a polygraph exam and refused to provide an alibi during the day Barway disappeared. 

Meanwhile, a bail was set at 2 million dollars for Collins as he made his initial court appearance last Wednesday at the Hennepin County District Court here in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Yarmah Collins walks away from the Mississippi to check residents' backyards for any trace of her stepson Barway

Yarmah Collins walks away from the Mississippi to check residents’ backyards for any trace of her stepson Barway

According to Crystal Police Department, Collins who police said has been “jobless” for a long period, placed multiple life insurances (one at $30, 000, and the other, a $100.000), on Barway shortly before the 4th grader went missing March 18, 2015. 

Police said Collins made a payment on one and was even trying to increase the lowest to $50,000.00; a situation they believed created a ground for “probable cause” for the murder. This was backed by a video footage and electronic evidence police said they gathered that linked 33-years-old Collins to his son’s killing. 

Now, exactly one month today after Barway’s sudden disappearance followed by his brutal murder, the Minnesota African-Liberian immigrant community, together with mainstream Americans and child rights advocacy groups that joined the search efforts will be meeting at 1: PM Minnesota time to hold a vigil at the park where Barway’s body was found. 

As sympathizers for  the victim gather today for the remembrance of this innocent lost soul, this correspondent thought it is necessary to take a quick view at what the search for little Barway was like particularly on the last day, Saturday April 11th before the teen’s body was found in the Mississippi River. I had teamed up with the Brooklyn Center searched team, the same group Pierre Collins and wife Yamah Collins joined. 

At 11: AM Minnesota time those wishing to participate in the search and rescue efforts had gathered in the courtyard of the Cedarwood Apartment complex where the Collins live and were awaiting instructions from community leaders and missing child advocacy groups concerning how the search would be done before  proceeding to designated sites within cities’ limits. 

Pierre Collins struggles to maintain his balance as he climbed up hail along the Mississippi

Pierre Collins struggles to maintain his balance as he climbed up hail along the Mississippi

After prayers had been offered, dozens of balloons were let into the morning blue sky in remembrance of little Barway amid shouts of love. Volunteers then had their names registered before heading for the search. Experienced volunteer-searchers in child missing cases were also at hand and they advised participants to stick together with peers when out doing the search.    

On this day ,community leaders had chosen four zones to be focus points for the search and rescue exercises; they were Crystal City, Brooklyn Center, New Hope and Brooklyn Park. Mr. Seyon Nyanwleh, a staunch Minnesota Human Rights Association advocate led the New Hope team while Shelia Bradley Smith, who has 14 years of experience searching for missing kids, led another group. 

Smith told this writer in an interview that the missing of her two little nieces in the city of Chicago some 14 years ago drew her into the search for missing children. She cried as she appealed to volunteers to put more effort at finding Braway. “Unless we find out who kidnapped Barway, the kidnapper will be coming near where you live,” she said. 

At 12: PM, volunteers dispersed the courtyard and headed to their designated search areas. Our team, responsible for the Brooklyn Center area, congregated at the UMC Cinema parking lot off I-694 and Highway 252 in order to plan strategy as to how the search would be conducted. Volunteers were then given sandwiches and bottles of spring water.   

By now it was exactly 12:30PM and shortly before the search started, our Brooklyn Center group had split into two units when everyone arrived to the Mississippi River Bridge where the I-694 Interstate crosses the river. One group would go to the north while the other would head southward and volunteers would focus their search on the west banks of the Mississippi, leaving the east side that had been searched previously. 

Volunteers assist one another in climbing down a terrible slop along the Mississippi

Volunteers assist one another in climbing down a terrible slop along the Mississippi

Except perhaps, for Barway’s father Pierre, no one knew that Barway’s remains had actually been deposited in a reservoir not too far from where both teams had parted. Barway’s killer(s) may have dumped his body in the reservoir thinking the water pressure would suck it down into nearby massive underground drainages which meant there would be no hope at all of ever tracing his barway’s whereabouts. 

That wasn’t the case. The reservoir regurgitated and Barway’s lifeless body became visible.   

As searchers turned toward the direction of Regional Park, Barway’s father who barely made eye contact with fellow searchers except his wife, quickly headed north with his wife and some volunteers. But it would be less than an hour when someone would stumble upon the shocking reality near Mississippi Regional Park. 

The upper north of the Mississippi heading toward the direction of Coon Rapid is a rough terrain, often dotted with small cliffs along the edges of the river thus making search efforts in this area challenging. In certain areas along the river banks, volunteers had to sliding along small slops, sometime giving a hand to each other just to avoid injuries.  

Perhaps, what posed the most serious hurdles in any ground search endeavors there are private fences erected by the residents of the area which often run right into the Mississippi to prevent an intruder from entering their properties. 

However, none of these obstacles ever deterred Pierre Collins, his wife Yamah, or any of the volunteers during the search. Members of the team were able to make their way through residents’ backyards without any of the neighbors raising alarm. 

Correspondent James Kokulo Fasuekoi (forefront) and a group of journalists waiting to hear a statement from the Police-FBI searched crew at North Mississippi Regional Park Saturday after barway's body was found.

Correspondent James Kokulo Fasuekoi (forefront) and a group of journalists waiting to hear a statement from the Police-FBI searched crew at North Mississippi Regional Park Saturday after barway’s body was found.

They peeled into backyard sheds and debris along the river banks in hope they would find signs of anything that belongs to Barway but found nothing. 

The search was later called off when the group reached a huge fence that stretched into the Mississippi with no means to go around it. And after moments of trying to figure out how everyone would get passed that dangerous spot, our Brooklyn Center community police escort decided the team return to the cinema parking lot. 

By then the time was pushing toward 1:30 PM and as this writer drove toward Cedarwood Apartment a call came in from colleague Lassana Bamba of The Bamba1News hinting that there was unconfirmed rumor that said the body of a “Child” had been discovered at Regional Park off I-94 East. Soon the news spread across the four cities and beyond. 

As police units and FBI investigators hurried to the location, the local media too moved in.

But in all, Pierre Collins managed to maintain a fair demeanor during the search, behaving like a grieving father of a lost child and no one will ever be able to tell whether he actually feigned it all in order to possibly escape justice in the murder of his son except him, or his God.        

Photo credits: James Kokulo Fasuekoi                                 

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