911 calls replayed, detectives questioned on witness stand

 Murder trial continues Tuesday

By Kevin Spradlin

Previous coverage

* 3/30: Victim’s wife of defendant: ‘He was our friend’
* 3/27: Alternates selected, opening statements set for Monday
* 3/26: Medical emergency delays murder trial
* 3/25: ‘At a particular place at a particular time’
* 3/25: Jury set in murder trial of Norman General Store owner
* 3/25: Prospective juror caught up in gambling ring
* 3/24: Race becomes an issue in jury selection
* 3/24: Defense works from “presumption of innocence”
* 3/23: Jury selection begins in murder trial

ROCKINGHAM — In five hours and 17 minutes of testimony on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton introduced more than three dozen exhibits, questioned the wife of the victim, two emergency dispatchers and three law enforcement officers.

The state’s exhibits are piling up in the trial against Alexander Ingram, charged in the beating death of former Norman General Store owner Michael Leverne Collins Sr. So far, however, and as presented, not any of them — nor in the whole — point directly and decisively to Ingram’s guilt.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton

That could change in the coming days, of course. Meanwhile, defense attorneys Stephen Freedman and Frank Wells are coming to convince one of the 12 jurors there is, in fact, reasonable doubt as to who killed Collins.

In his opening statement on Monday to jurors, Freedman noted that two to three weeks prior to the murder, Barbara Baldwin entered Norman General Store drunk and abusive. Tonia Collins confirmed on the stand that her late husband had asked Baldwin to leave.

“She was drunk and very disruptive,” Tonia Collins said.

After being kicked out of the store, Baldwin’s son J.J. entered the store, said a few choice words and then left. The Baldwin family is well known to the Collins family; another of Barbara Baldwin’s sons was convicted of armed robbery of the country store and was sent to prison for the crime.

About a week later after Baldwin was thrown out of the store, Collins said, her son Michael Jr. was working in the store when he answered the phone. On the other end of the line was a man with a warning: “‘You better hug your grandchildren tonight,'” Collins recalled.

Collins and her husband were out running and errand when Michael Jr. called them with the information. Michael Sr., Tonia said, said it was nothing to worry about. This threatening phone call was received one to two weeks before the murder, Freedman noted.

Freedman asked if Alexander Ingram, who is related to Baldwin, came into the store anytime after the threatening phone call. Yes, she said. Was he a problem? No, she said of the man named Alexander Ingram, a man who earlier in the day Tonia Collins called a “trusted … friend.”

Throughout jury selection last week and into today, Freedman has reiterated the legal principle that simply because someone is present at the scene of a crime while the crime is taking place does not make that person guilty of the crime.

As expected, Layton rolled out a series of “gruesome” and “disturbing” photographs depicting the crime scene and the manner in which Michael Collins Jr. discovered his father’s body before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Missing was his father’s wallet with an estimated $400 to $500 in it. With his body was a bloody camouflage ball cap, his new boots and “a little pill bottle with a little marijuana in it,” said Det. Terri Childers.

Childers noted that the person responsible for the crimes of robbery and murder had “more or less ransacked” the front counter, including the cash register machine and the video recording machine — which, incidentally, was not in functioning order the night of the murder.

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