OAKLAND — A 59-year-old man who is accused of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl 40 years ago, when he was 19, has been ordered to stand trial, court records show.
Jewel Collins, who was serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual assault in Nevada at the time of his arrest, faces special-circumstances murder charges in the killing of 16-year-old Ameenah “Meenah” Scott. Collins was linked to the crime in 2019, after Nevada authorities entered his DNA into a national database and Oakland investigators linked it to semen found on Scott’s body, according to police testimony.
The charges make Collins eligible for a death sentence, but Alameda County prosecutors will not seek one, according to a minute order filed in court late last month. Collins’ trial date has not been set.
During Collins’ preliminary hearing last August, prosecutors called several retired Oakland homicide investigators, as well as the current criminologist, who extracted DNA from swabs taken during Scott’s autopsy. The autopsy showed evidence that Scott was violently raped and stabbed to death, according to authorities, though Collins’ attorney argued that prosecutors hadn’t definitively proven Collins was responsible for either crime.
Scott was killed sometime after leaving her home in the afternoon of Dec. 23, 1981, a day she spent wrapping Christmas presents with her mother. Her body was found around 8 a.m. Dec. 24 in a parking lot between Lowell Middle School and Lowell Park in West Oakland. When her mother cautioned her about taking a walk that day, Scott said, “You worry about me too much. God has me,” this newspaper reported at the time.
The one-day preliminary hearing did not reveal whether Collins had any prior contact with Scott, or if authorities suspect he merely happened upon her that day and decided to attack her. Most of the prosecution’s presentation was spent establishing the DNA link.
At the end of the hearing, Collins’ attorney, deputy public defender Christina Moore, said prosecutors had failed to prove a connection between Collins’ DNA and either of the charged crimes. She suggested the true rapist and killer could have used a condom after Scott and Collins had consensual sex.
“Simply put these could be two distinct acts. There simply could have been consensual sex and then a stabbing, we don’t know anything about the timeline,” Moore said.
Deputy district attorney Stacie Pettigrew, who is prosecuting the case, said the extent of Scott’s injuries, combined with the presence of Collins’ DNA proved that the rape and homicide within the same short time frame.
“Consensual sex doesn’t end in being violently stabbed to death,” she said.
Judge C. Don Clay said prosecutors had met the burden of advancing the case beyond a preliminary hearing, which requires a demonstration of probable cause, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but added, “I’m not saying from the standpoint of this evidence here that this is sufficient for a conviction.”
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Author: Nate Gartrell