WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – A jury found defendant Anthony Collins not guilty on all four counts, including murder, on Thursday afternoon. The jury deliberated for a about two hours, according to the Mingo County Prosecutor’s office.
Collins had been accused of the murder of 70 year old Roland Stafford of Taylorville, W.Va., in December of 2014. The other charges Collins faced were first degree robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy.
“The State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Collins had anything to do with the Roland Stafford murder,” said defense attorney Susan Van Zant. She was his court appointed attorney in the case.
Van Zant said there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence that linked Collins to the scene of the crime.
In Wednesday’s proceedings, Defense Attorney Susan Van Zant called expert witness Stephen King from the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) Forensic Laboratory.
King has been participating in finger print exams for 37 years and has 3700 hours of FBI training. King became involved in the investigation when evidence from crime scene analysis was submitted to his office on Dec. 23 2014. “That was my initial contact with the investigation,” King stated.
“Mr. Collins was very thankful about the jury’s verdict,” Van Zant added. “Justice was served when Mr. Collins was found not guilty.”
The murder trial started this past Monday in Mingo County Circuit Court. The jury was selected on Monday morning and opening statements were made that afternoon. The trial continued until Thursday when the closing arguments were given.
Mingo County Assistant Prosecutors Josh Ferrell and Nathan Brown represented the state. The presiding Judge was Roger Perry of Logan County.
More than 40 witnesses were called by both sides. The prosecutors also showed crime scene photos that depicted Stafford’s brutal murder. The photos showed that the victim was allegedly tied and beaten to death.
Investigators stated in 2014 that Stafford died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. The elderly man was discovered dead by a neighbor on Dec. 22, 2014 at his home in Taylorville. His death was investigated by the Williamson Detachment of the West Virginia State Police (WVSP).
Initial evidence submitted to King on Dec. 23 included a light switch cover, duct tape, a plastic garbage bag, a package of wall paper border, pieces of floor tile, and other miscellaneous items.
During questioning, King described each item submitted and the method used to pull prints from the various items. King described the light switch cover and wall paper border to be stained with what he believed to be blood. He also described the plastic bag to be “saturated in blood.”
Questioning from Van Zant concluded that King was unable to find any latent prints that were suitable for comparison from those items. “I was unable to find prints of value,” King stated.
King was asked to define what constituted as a latent print. “Latent means hidden. Latent prints are not visible to the naked eye. The print is made by residue deposited by touching surface areas with a hand, leaving biological residue.”
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)