The disappearance of Barway Collins shifted Sunday from a missing person case to an active homicide investigation, with police calling the 10-year-old boy’s father, Pierre Collins, “the primary suspect.”
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner confirmed Sunday afternoon that the body found in the Mississippi River in Brooklyn Center on Saturday was Barway Collins, the fourth-grader who disappeared from in front of his home in Crystal on March 18.
A little more than an hour later, Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering said that law enforcement has “electronic evidence that places Pierre Collins in the immediate vicinity” where the search for Barway centered.
The medical examiner has begun an autopsy but said “the manner and cause of death are pending further investigation.”
Crystal police moved the case to a homicide “based on the autopsy and what the medical examiner is telling us,” Revering said.
Asked whether Pierre Collins, 33, was cooperating with the investigation, Revering said, “I wouldn’t call it true cooperation.” She added that police continue to believe Pierre Collins has not been truthful with investigators.
Revering didn’t indicate if an arrest would be made but said police have taken Pierre Collins’ passport to ensure that he can’t leave the United States.
As of late Sunday afternoon, police cars were stationed outside the apartment building on the 5400 block of Douglas Drive N. in Crystal where Pierre Collins lives with his wife, Yamah Collins, and their two children.
Also gathered in front of the Cedarwood Apartments were leaders of the Liberian immigrant community, who said they are working with the family to plan a funeral service for the boy, who emigrated to the U.S. from Liberia in 2011 to be with his father.
“We want to give a decent home-going for our son,” said Alexander Collins, executive director of the Liberian Ministers Association, who is unrelated to Barway’s family.
“We also want to make it clear to the perpetrator to this tragedy: wherever you are, you will be brought to justice,” Collins said. “We want to make sure this never happens again in our community.”
Pastor Harding Smith, a spokesman for the family of Barway Collins, addressed media after a church service in Robbinsdale midday Sunday and again, later, at the family’s home in Crystal. “There were a lot of tears, a lot of screams,” Smith said of the family. “There’s a deep sense of loss that entered that home.”
Barway Collins, a student at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School, was last seen jumping out of his school van outside his apartment building in Crystal on March 18.
Search efforts had been underway for several weeks. On Saturday, several search parties were looking along the Mississippi.
Members of a Boy Scout troop searching for the missing boy spotted the body Saturday afternoon in the water not far from the river’s edge near North Mississippi Regional Park in Brooklyn Center and alerted authorities.
Gayle Nelson, who was part of earlier searches Saturday, said the Scouts were doing their own search.
Hours after the discovery of the body, throngs of neighbors and onlookers stood in scattered groups outside the Collins’ building.
A community activist who was with the Collins family Saturday night said police were at the home to protect the family, who had received several threats after the body was found.
Police questioned Pierre Collins shortly after the disappearance. They said he flunked a lie-detector test and that they don’t believe he has been telling them everything he knows about the case.
According to court reports, Pierre Collins has had a previous accusation of violence.
In early 2013, Jennifer Beaver, his ex-wife who now lives in Wisconsin, filed an order-for-protection petition against him, public records show. She alleges that Pierre abused her and their children. Under the order of protection, which expired March 14, he was not to visit his children’s schools.
In a previous interview, Pierre Collins said that he brought Barway here from Liberia to seek better education and a better life. Barway’s biological mother, Mami Momo, still lives in Liberia, according to Pierre.