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Man who says he accidentally killed daughter is charged with murder

By Danielle Skinner, Brandon Hartman and Christine McCarthy

HILL COUNTY- The man who admitted to shooting and killing his 14-year-old daughter early Tuesday morning claims the shooting was an accident, but the Hill County Sheriff's Office had enough suspicion to charge him with murder.

Edwin Odell Collins, Jr., 40, was in court on Wednesday morning for his arraignment on the charge of murder of his daughter Judith, before deputies returned him to Hill County Jail on $500,000 bond.

According to an affidavit for his arrest, Collins told sheriff's deputies that the night he shot his daughter, he had been trying to run away from people with flashlights who were pursuing him at his house on a private road near the family-owned store, Collins Hitching Post, on F.M. 933, just north of Whitney. Collins said he armed himself with a shotgun and took his three children with him while he ran from those people who were supposedly pursuing him.

The family is well known in the Whitney area and daughter Judith attended Whitney High School.

Collins claimed he and his kids ended up running through thick fields and, at one point, he tried to keep his three children back while he went to kill the intruders. But, Collins said, when Judith screamed in the dark field, he turned and accidentally shot her in the back from 10 feet away.

Collins said he had tried to dial 9-1-1 around 4:30 a.m., before the incident when he heard a loud bang but that the cell phone call dropped. Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon confirmed that a 9-1-1 call was placed to the Bosque County Sheriff's Office, but, because of the weak signal, the call did, in fact, drop after about nine seconds.

Collins admitted to leaving Judith's body face-down in a field while he and his two other children, 11- and 17-years-old, hid until daylight. He then saw at least one of his parents at the family store but didn't tell them about the shooting; he also didn't use their land line phone to alert authorities. Instead, Lyon says, Collins made the 12-mile trip to Hillsboro and asked to make a report, only explaining that he had killed his daughter after a few minutes of talking.

"He intended to kill someone. Unfortunately the person that is dead right now is his daughter. We just don't know if it is mistaken identity," Lyon said, emphasizing that investigators just aren't sure of Lyon's intention.

Judith's older brother led investigators to his sister's body along a fence line south of Collins Hitching Post. Investigators are interviewing both children, along with their mother, who is no longer married to Edwin Collins, Jr. The children are currently living with their mother.

"They're in shock, obviously," Lyon said of the kids' attempts to cope with what they witnessed. "They've been traumatized."

Sheriff's records also state that Collins was wearing ripped clothing and had scratches on his body when he reported the shooting, but Sheriff Lyon says running through the thick brush could have easily torn his clothing and scratched his body.

Judith's body was sent to Dallas for an autopsy.

Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon said Collins didn't provide any names or any information to suggest someone had been threatening his life, and investigators don't have any leads as to who could have been chasing Collins.

Investigators are still seeking more information and more witnesses.

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