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It is only five minutes from sprawling Texas High School, which was celebrating its junior-senior prom. Half a dozen friends gathered there afterward. An older brother paid about $100 for the room. He paid for the alcohol, too. Today, Chris Collins is a sophomore star-to-be linebacker at Oklahoma State. That night, the 17-year-old was there. So was a 12-year-old girl. What occurred in those early-morning hours of May 23, 2004, is a mystery a jury will decide. Was that girl raped repeatedly? Was Collins, described by an administrator as a good student and by a teammate as a quiet guy, involved? This much we know — Collins was banished from Texas High, a program patterned after Mack Brown's Texas. The only thing missing is the Longhorn on the helmet. Sent to alternative school for his senior year, Collins did not play football that fall. The University of Texas stripped his football scholarship, too. Once a bright Friday night light, he faded. Almost two years passed before Collins played football again — in Stillwater. Even as the Cowboys go through two-a-days, Collins is scheduled to return to Texarkana next month. He and three other men charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child will be in court Aug. 20. It might be the final pre-trial hearing before a trial date is set in Collins' aggravated sexual assault case. Collins has denied having sex with the girl, but his future as an OSU football player is riding on this trial. So, what happened? In his two-plus years at OSU, Collins has not spoken to reporters. He was off-limits to the media last season as a first-year player, then suffered a season-ending knee injury when he was the team's leading tackler. This week, Collins declined comment about his case. His lawyer in Texarkana, Paul Hoover, also declined to talk about details of the case. "We have real ethical concerns about trying this in the press,” he said. "I will tell you this — Chris is a great kid. He hasn't been in trouble before or since, and we will defend him as rigorously as possible.” In May, Collins received a deferred sentence after pleading no contest to a November charge of driving with a suspended license. San Antonio lawyer Anthony Cantrell, who is representing one of the other defendants, refused comment. The other defense attorneys, Clyde Lee and Rick Shumaker, could not be reached. Messages to Bowie County Assistant District Attorney Nicole Habersang also went unreturned. OSU football coach Mike Gundy has continued to refuse comment about the case until it's resolved. If convicted of the felony, Collins and the three other men will face five to 99 years or life in prison. "It's such a complex case ... you want to make sure,” said Sergeant Shawn Fitzgerald, spokesman for the Texarkana Police Department. "You want to do it on every case, but with something like this ... if you can imagine a young girl and her family and what they've been through in this period of time, then you want to make sure you do it right. "It's a heinous crime.” • • • When police responded to a Sunday morning call from the emergency room at St. Michael Health Center, they found a 12-year-old girl in exam room No. 25. This is what she told police: She had made a new friend, a 15-year-old girl, and had invited her to spend the night. Sometime after midnight, they called a teenager attending the after-prom gathering at the Comfort Suites. Soon, a car arrived at the house. Chris Collins and friend Charles Johnson, then 18 years old, drove the girls to the party. When they arrived, they found one female and about five males in the hotel room. The girl said she was encouraged to drink vodka and became intoxicated. She told police she remembered two males on top of her on the bed "taking turns.” The girl struggled to recall much else after that. When the 12-year-old returned home early that morning, though, she did not have her underwear on and complained of pain in her vaginal area. That's when her mother drove her to the hospital. There, medical personnel administered a rape kit, a battery of tests and exams to collect and preserve evidence in a sexual assault case. Among their observations were bruising on the neck and scratches on the arms and shoulders. Three days later, police arrested Collins' former Texas High teammate, Jabari Asim Jackson, then 18 years old. He told investigators that he had sex with the girl at the hotel but that he did not realize she was only 12. The next day, police issued a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Edward Collins, Jr. Texas High's on-campus police officer took him into custody that Thursday morning at school. As the hulking linebacker was loaded into the squad car, he sobbed. • • • Chris Collins was the crown prince of East Texas high school football. After Texas High won state in 2002, Collins became the latest, greatest player in a land that produced the likes of Earl Campbell and Adrian Peterson. Only a sophomore playing the defense's quarterback position, he earned second-team all-state honors at linebacker. "You could tell he was super,” said Al Hanna, the radio voice of Texas High football.
Possible final pre-trial hearing scheduled in August for Collins in sex assault case
TEXARKANA, Texas — Something happened inside Room 207 at the Comfort Suites one spring night three years ago.The 62-room hotel with an indoor pool blends into the interstate access road's landscape of chain restaurants and convenience stores in this city divided by the Texas-Arkansas border.
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