ELYRIA — The attorney for James “Jamie” Collins pleaded for mercy — asking a judge Thursday to let Collins head home and serve probation after pleading guilty in connection with the repeated abuse of a 3-year-old little girl.
But Common Pleas Court Judge James Miraldi wouldn’t comply and sent the stunned woman to prison for 26 years — prompting her family to erupt in tears at his pronouncement.
In October, Collins, 35, of North Ridgeville, pleaded guilty to the counts in two indictments — one filed in November 2016 and another in December 2017. Collins faced four counts of second-degree felony felonious assault, seven counts of second-degree felony endangering children and four counts of first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence, according to court records.
Collins was accused of abusing the 3-year-old daughter of her boyfriend and co-defendant in the case, David Hickin, 36, also of North Ridgeville.
Prior to Miraldi sentencing Collins, Racheal Cambarare, a Lorain County Children Services caseworker, spoke of the abuse inflicted on the girl by Collins.
“This is the worst case I’ve ever experienced of physical abuse in my 14½ years at Lorain County Children Services and in my over 20 years working in the field,” Cambarare said. “Usually when we get severe physical abuse cases, it’s from one incident. This was done over a period of months.”
Assistant County Prosecutor Donna Freeman spoke at length about the abuse to the 3-year-old, including how Collins picked the child up by her hair until clumps of her hair were pulled out, dragged the child around the house by her hair, slammed the child’s face into a table with so much force that it knocked a tooth out, holding the girl’s head under water during baths until the child would flail her arms as she struggled for breath and a broken arm that doctors said could have been caused only by someone twisting it.
“Before James Collins entered that little girl’s life, she was a normal, healthy little girl,” Freeman said. “Now she’s a broken, scared little girl who has post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares. She wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, ‘She’s hitting me. She’s hitting me. She’s hurting me.’”
When family members questioned why the 3-year-old was missing hair and was covered in bruises, Collins and Hickin would tell them that the girl was injuring herself.
Collins’ own daughters, who were between the ages of 8 and 11 at the time of the abuse, though, told police they witnessed their mother abuse the child “on almost a daily basis” for nearly six months, Freeman said. One daughter even told police Collins forced her to hold the 3-year-old down while Collins beat her.
“Almost daily, for six months, she abused this little girl,” Freeman said. “There’s no reason for it, other than whatever sick satisfaction she was deriving from it.”
Collins’ defense attorney, Michael Doyle, asked Miraldi to show leniency to his client and give her a sentence of community control.
“Jamie has done very well since you’ve let her out of jail, after she served about 80 days initially on this case,” Doyle said prior to sentencing. “She’s completed several programs and counseling. She’s taken responsibility and is remorseful. I think if you give her the opportunity to continue to be a productive member of the community, she will.”
Freeman and Cambarare, though, both said Collins hasn’t shown remorse and has convinced her own family that the 3-year-old caused the injuries to herself, something Collins still claims.
When Collins was given the opportunity to speak, she didn’t apologize about the abuse suffered by the 3-year-old. She only mentioned the child by name one time in her statement.
“I’m so sorry for us even having to be here today. … Nothing will ever be the same, for anyone. All of our lives have been ruined,” Collins said. “I beg for everybody’s forgiveness. I just hope that everything is going to be OK for everyone, all the kids, the families. I’m hoping that everybody will find peace and healing and everything. I just can’t say I’m sorry enough.”
Miraldi said he felt a prison sentence was necessary.
“The picture that the court has of what happened to this child is no different than had this child been tortured,” he said during the sentencing. “That’s how this court summarizes the experiences this innocent child went through.”