Scanner picked up plot, say couple

Neighbor sentenced in assault, but charge linked to calls dropped

Phone death threat reported

August 27, 1999|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

From the police scanner in their kitchen, the Baltimore County couple -- a police officer and a correctional officer -- overheard a frightening phone conversation. Their next-door neighbor, they said, was plotting their murder.

That intercepted call, and a police investigation, led yesterday to the neighbor's conviction for assault, in what Assistant State's Attorney Andy Alperstein called "one of the most unusual cases I've prosecuted."

Michelle L. Collins, 27, of the 4000 block of Rustico Road in eastern Baltimore County, was convicted of assault and another charge in the incident in May. She received a suspended 10-year sentence and five years of probation.

The problems apparently began when Dorothy Dupree, a county police officer, called police May 22 to report that Collins had left her disabled 4-year-old son alone in their Carroll Crest townhouse.

Collins brandished a steak knife later that day at Dupree and another neighbor, according to court records.

Four days later, Dorothy and Frank Dupree, a county correctional officer, were listening to their scanner. They heard Collins telling her sister over a portable phone that she had bought duct tape and surgical gloves and had asked local teen-agers to spray the Duprees' house with bullets so Dorothy Dupree could not testify against her, according to court records.

The Duprees recognized Collins' voice, they told police.

During the phone calls, Collins repeatedly used foul language and a racial epithet to describe Dorothy Dupree, according to a police report. Dupree is white, and her husband is African-American.

Collins was also accused of telling her sister over the phone that she intended to poison the Duprees' dog and kill another neighbor -- Deputy Sheriff Thomas Myers -- as well as Collins' estranged husband, Kevin Collins, court records say.

Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. convicted Collins yesterday of leaving a child unattended and assault charges involving the steak knife and gave her a suspended 10-year sentence and five years of probation instead of prison, at the request of Dorothy Dupree.

Alperstein said he agreed to recommend the suspended sentence and to drop charges of solicitation to commit murder because Dorothy Dupree said Collins should stay out of prison so she could raise her son, who has Down syndrome.

As part of the agreement, Collins, who has been in the county Detention Center since May, has promised to move from the community and get psychological and drug counseling. She also agreed to have no unlawful contact with her in-laws, whom court records say she assaulted the day police were called about her son.

Yesterday, Collins, 27, said only, "I want to go home to my family."

Her lawyer, T. Wray McCurdy, described her phone conversations with her sister as a way to "vent, to let some steam off" and said Collins is determined to raise her son.

After the hearing, Frank Dupree said he and his wife listen to their scanner to monitor police calls in their community.

Although the interception of Collins' portable phone calls shocked them -- and prompted them to send their three children to live with relatives for four days -- they were glad they heard them, they said.

"Otherwise, we would have never known what was going on and couldn't have taken precautions," he said.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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