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October 24, 2014

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Jury doesn’t buy self-defense theory in throat-cutting

After fewer than four hours of deliberations a Las Vegas jury Thursday rejected the self-defense claims of a man accused of slashing a local prostitute's throat.

Ronald Collins, 31, closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands when the jury foreman read the verdict. His wife, Melanie, gasped and began sobbing as his sister comforted her.

Instead of allowing the jury to determine his fate, Collins will let District Judge Joseph Bonaventure sentence him on Oct. 19. He could get a no-parole life sentence.

Collins claimed that he was sitting in the parking lot of a North Las Vegas bar with Agnes Ready when someone came up behind him and struck him. At the same time, he testified, Ready came at him with a kitchen knife she had been using to cut crack cocaine with.

The backhoe operator said he jerked the knife a few times but doesn't remember what happened next. He said he only remembers waking up on his kitchen floor next to Ready's naked and bloodied body and his wife screaming.

Prosecutors alleged Collins went looking for prey with four knives after arguing with his wife and killed Ready in his own driveway. Ready's throat was not only slashed, but the murder weapon had been driven into the wound up to its hilt.

Collins also made every effort to hide his acts, going so far as to wipe down the outside of his truck, washing the blood trail off his driveway and cleaning up his bloody foyer, prosecutors said.

Deputy Special Public Defender Joe Sciscento told jurors during his closing arguments Thursday that the crime was so bizarre, it couldn't have been premeditated.

Why would anyone who planned a murder bring the body home knowing that his wife would come home to find it? Sciscento asked.

"Agnes Ready directs him to a secluded spot, she makes a call ahead of time and bam, he's hit in the head. That's a trick roll," Sciscento said, reminding jurors that Collins and Ready had stopped on the way to the bar for Ready to make a call.

Deputy District Attorney Taleen Pandukht said Collins' actions afterward show the slaying was first-degree murder, but the act itself shows it, too.

"She wasn't dying fast enough and that's why he stabbed her numerous times in the neck," Pandukht said. "That is clearly premeditation."

The interior of Collins' truck tells the true story, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Ed Kane. The vast majority of the blood is on the driver's side. If the murder happened at the bar, there would be blood on the passenger's side.

"If things happened the way he said they did, then he must have left the bloody head of the corpse in his lap while he drove home," Kane said.

It makes no sense to argue the crime is illogical and therefore Collins is telling the truth, Kane told the jurors.

"Let me clue you in. Crime isn't logical. Violence isn't logical. Murder isn't logical," Kane said. "But these things happen every day. We may never find out what goes on in the minds of people like Ronald Collins, but we don't have to prove a motive."

Earlier in the day, Bonaventure denied a defense motion to grant a mistrial. An alternate juror told the judge she overhead a fellow juror comment Wednesday that Collins should take a deal.

Although the juror denied making the remark, she was dismissed from the case and the alternate juror took her spot.

After interviewing the other jurors -- all of whom denied hearing anything inappropriate -- Bonaventure decided against the mistrial.

Sciscento said he believes the jurors were too afraid to tell Bonaventure the truth because they saw Bonaventure explode at a bellhop who made an inappropriate comment to the jury during the Binion murder trial.

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