Defendant’s nephew: My uncle did it

Trial in murder of Michael Collins Sr. continues

By Kevin Spradlin

Previous coverage

* 3/30: 911 calls replayed, detectives questioned
* 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 — Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram took the stand late Tuesday morning and indicated his uncle, Alexander Ingram, was the only man alive inside Norman General Store who could have killed Michael Collins Sr.

Kevin Spradlin | Alexander Ingram's nephew, 53-year-old Henry Thomas "Pete" Ingram, said his uncle was the only man alive inside the store who could have killed Michael Collins Sr. on Nov. 26, 2012.

Kevin Spradlin |
Alexander Ingram’s nephew, 53-year-old Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram, said his uncle was the only man alive inside the store who could have killed Michael Collins Sr. on Nov. 26, 2012.

Pete Ingram is a co-defendant in the murder of Collins, who was killed Nov. 26, 2012 after dying from injuries sustained by being beaten with a hammer nearly a dozen times. On Tuesday, though, he said he was standing outside in the Norman General Store parking lot while his uncle allegedly went inside the store to get some meat.

The two had arrived right at the normal closing time of the store at 11 p.m., Pete Ingram said. Collins was already on his way out but Pete Ingram said his uncle asked if Collins could cut him some meat. Sure, Collins allegedly said.

Pete Ingram testified as a witness for Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton. The co-defendant said he was diagnosed on June 19, 2009 with an inoperable brain tumor that sometimes affects his memory and causes numbness on the left side of his body.

But Pete Ingram’s memory seemed to be in fine working order before jurors recessed for lunch. Ingram said the two had been driving around northern Richmond County, first to the home of Charles Cooper, who Pete Ingram said owned them money for baling pine straw, and then to the home of Ryan Williams. Neither individual came either Alexander or Pete money, Pete said.

The two returned to Norman General Store at about 11 p.m.

In previous conversations with Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown, Layton insisted a deal with Pete Ingram had neither been discussed nor offered. It wasn’t mentioned if that remained the case before he took the stand on Tuesday.

Earlier on Nov. 26, 2012, Pete Ingram said he had helped  his uncle rake pine straw for Charles Cooper and baled it. Then Alexander took Pete back to the home in Candor that Pete shared with his mother. Alexander left, but later came back around 9 p.m. and picked Pete up again.

They first when to the Jackson Springs home, which Alexander shared with his mother, Pete said.

“We sat there for a minute,” Pete said. “He said, ‘let’s ride to Norman.'”

Layton almost put the cart before the horse, because her next question skipped a few key hours. What did you do at the store?

Pete didn’t hesitate.

“I didn’t do nothin’,” Pete said.

Layton backtracked and managed to get Pete to tell his side of the story, that he stood outside while Alexander went inside to play the video gaming machine. After a period of time, Pete said, Alexander came out and said, “‘aw man, I lost.'”

Pete said the two then traveled to Cooper’s house to collect some money owed them. Cooper wasn’t home. Then they went “riding around” and ended up at Ryan Williams’ home. Pete said he was not sure whether or not Alexander obtained money from Williams. The two again drover to Cooper’s house, but he was still not home.

At that point, Pete said, “I assumed we was going back home.”

But the pair ran out of gas. The two returned towards Cooper’s house — presumably on foot — to get some gas. They spotted Cooper driving along the road. Cooper said he didn’t have money on him.

Somehow, Pete said the two made their way back to Norman. Across the street from the Norman General Store, Pete said Alexander asked Leroy Capel, at Matt’s Convenience Store, if he could borrow money. No, Pete said Capel replied. The two then focus their attention on the Norman General Store.

“My uncle gets out (of the vehicle),” Pete said. “Then Mike, the owner, was coming out of the store.”

Pete said Alexander then asked Collins to cut some meat. Pete said he walked in behind Collins and Alexander and noticed in the back of his uncle’s shirt that “he had a bulge.”

“I turned around and walked out,” said Pete, who in the last 10 years has been convicted of kidnapping (May 2007), two misdemeanor counts of larceny (2006), two charges of resisting a public officer (2006) and possession of drug paraphernalia (2011).

The next thing Pete said he recalled was hearing is a loud grunt, and in open court made a sound as if someone was reacting to being struck.

Earlier in the morning, Layton continued questioning Det. Terri Childers of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of the murder, Childers was tasked with overseeing all evidence collection of a crime scene and it was her job to protect the integrity of the crime said.

Defense attorney Frank Wells suggested the possibility of contamination when he asked Childers, after confirming she had placed plastic covers over her footwear when arriving on scene Nov. 27, 2012. Childers said she couldn’t confirm whether or not Det. Robert Heaton or Agent Chad Barefoot, of the State Bureau of Investigation, had worn them.

Wells also questioned the completeness and accuracy of Childers’ notes, which Childers acknowledged she maintained in an effort to keep track of all things scene-related that morning. Wells also questioned why Childers had not taken swabs of fluid that appeared to be blood from any place other than where the body had been found in one of the aisles.

The importance of a pair of gloves was not explained, but the gloves were logged into evidence. Where’d they come from, Wells wanted to know. Childers explained the gloves have been given to her and she simply logged them as evidence. The precise location of the place they were found couldn’t be verified.

“You don’t have any way of knowing … you don’t know where they were found,” Well inquired.

“I just put ’em into evidence,” Childers said.

For the second straight day, defense attorneys emphasized that no search was ever conducted by Richmond County Sheriff’s Office personnel on the home of Pete Ingram.

“You don’t know what kind of clothing might have been found if anybody had looked (there),” Wells asked while Deputy Chris Bynum was on the stand.

“No Sir, I don’t,” Bynum replied.

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