Collins pleads guilty to accessory to murder, sentenced to 30 years

Lawton_Larry Collins, Jr., was to go to trial this month, charged with the first-degree murder of Michael Poe in a gang-related slaying in June, 2007.  On Monday, however, he pled guilty to a lesser charge of accessory to murder in Comanche County District Court.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Riley says that even though the case didn't go to trial, it was a tough case since it was gang-related.  Riley says they had a hard time identifying and finding witnesses, and had difficulty getting them to cooperate.  Because of that, Riley says a plea of accessory to murder was the best and most reasonable option for Collins' punishment.

Judge Mark Smith handed down a sentence of 30 years in prison, and Collins' parents say they're thankful for the lesser charge.  "At least he ain't gonna be there for the rest of his life, and it hurts," says Larry Collins.  "But I know God is gonna bless him and bless me to live long enough.  [God] ain't gonna take me out before he gets to make it out," he said.  "Hey, I'm so happy," said Collins' mother, Tammy Mahsetky.  "I've been praying to God for this moment, and I thank the Lord.  I knew my baby was coming out of there off of that."

Collins' father admits his son was wrong in knowing about the crime and not coming forward.  "Like I said he did wrong, for hiding something, for trying to help somebody out," says Larry.  "He knew about the murder, but he didn't do it."

As 7News reported last year, Michael Poe was shot several times over a gang territory dispute in a field near the Sanders Heights Apartments located at Southwest 15th and Tennessee in Lawton.  The original affidavit stated that Collins told Poe he was in a rival neighborhood.  The statement caused a fight and ended with Poe dying from gunshot wounds to his back.  He was shot at several times as he fled.  Witnesses say Collins bragged about that night, but Collins' father says the witnesses are friends that his son shouldn't trust.

Authorities say security at the courthouse was high on Monday because the shooting had been between rival gangs.  Both the Lawton Police and the Comanche County Sheriff had officers on hand.