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5 Things to Know: Bond Set for Alleged Mary Collins Killer

...and four more stories from Jan. 8-14, 2023

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Two women sit on the ground, one holding a candle and wearing a face mask that reads "Mary's Voices" during a vigil for Mary Collins.
Mourners gathered on April 4, 2021, to hold a vigil for Mary Collins. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Bond Set for Alleged Mary Collins Killer

One of four people charged in connection with the brutal murder of Mary Collins in March 2020 faced a judge on Tuesday, as 22-year-old James Salerno had his bond set at $250,000. Salerno faces charges of murder, kidnapping, and concealing a death, for which he pled not guilty in 2022. 

Tuesday’s ruling brought outrage from Collins’ family and friends. 

“Today [Judge Carla Archie] shocked us with a decision to grant bond to [James Salerno]. He is charged with First Degree MURDERER [sic]. He killed Mary,” read a tweet from Mary’s Voice, an organization launched by family members following her murder.

The group advocates for murder victims who lived with disabilities. Collins had been diagnosed with 22q11 Deletion Syndrome, which caused her to be born with an internal cleft palate, resulting in a significant speech impediment that ate away at her confidence.  

The tweet went on to claim that Salerno’s parents laughed as they stood outside the courtroom after Tuesday’s hearing. “After hearing the horror done to Mary, they were laughing…” 

Mary Collins was murdered in the heart of the NoDa neighborhood but not found until nearly a week later. Investigators believe Collins was lured to the Yards at NoDa apartment complex on March 8, 2020, by Kelly Lavery, 24, and Lavi Pham, 21, who were reportedly upset that Collins had refused to have a threesome with them.

Mary Collins (Photo courtesy of Mary’s Voice)

Despite calls from the family for police to act, police waited days to search the apartment where Collins was last seen. After two searches, they found her body stuffed into a mattress. She had been stabbed more than 100 times. 

Lavery, 24; Pham, 21; and James Salerno, 20, were charged with kidnapping and murder. In May, 18-year-old America Diehl turned herself in to Colorado authorities as well shortly after warrants were issued for her arrest. Diehl was charged with felony accessory after the fact and concealing a death. Lavery pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25-32 years in prison.


CATS Officials Prepare for Potential Strike

The Charlotte Area Transit System is bracing for a potential upcoming strike among its bus operators, who voted to strike last weekend but will need to file those vote results at least 30 days before actually carrying out the action.

Like all CATS’ bus operators, the members of SMART Union, which held the weekend vote, are actually employed by a third-party contractor called RATP Dev. In a string of tweets on Tuesday, CATS stated that they are planning for “reduced workforce scenarios,” which could mean prioritizing some bus routes and canceling others based on ridership, service to essential destinations (i.e. health-care facilities) and staffing levels.

“CATS will not have forewarning from RATP Dev of the number of bus operators that report to work until the time of their shifts,” read one of the tweets. “CATS expects this will significantly impact bus service, and CATS will communicate real-time service changes based on staffing levels.”

Bus operators have called on CATS to fix issues with pay, health insurance and safety


County Announces Extended Recycling Program

The list of what can be recycled and dropped off at Mecklenburg County’s full-service recycling centers got longer this week. Mecklenburg County’s enhanced recycling program now allows residents to drop off white rigid foam, shredded paper, hard- and soft-back books, and textiles at each of the four staffed full-service centers, according to a Friday release. 

“We understand our customers and residents want to avoid placing items in the landfill. Now, we have expanded our recycling services to meet that demand,” said Jeff Smithberger, director of the Solid Waste Management Program. “Our textile recycling donation bins are new this month.”

A recycling truck dumps its load on the floor of a warehouse
Recyclables brought to the Mecklenburg County recycling center. (Courtesy of Mecklenburg County)

In December, Queen City Nerve reported that countywide recycling is not keeping pace with population growth, even as the amount of waste collected outpaces that same growth.  

According to the release, all recycled materials dropped off at the full-service recycling centers need to be separated and placed in specific containers for that item. White rigid foam, shredded paper, hard- and soft-back books, and textiles can only be recycled at staffed drop-off sites, so residents are asked not to place those items in curbside recycling bins.


CMPD Releases End-of-Year Statistics

CMPD on Thursday released its annual end-of-year report for 2022, revealing that overall crime was up 3% for the year, with violent crime down 5% and property crime up 6%.

“A 5% decrease in violent crime is encouraging, but we will continue to remain laser-focused on deterring these serious offenses in 2023,” said CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings in a release on Thursday. “There will always be violent crime to fight. Recruiting will continue to be a challenge as it is across the country. But I am incredibly proud and grateful for the men and women of CMPD who answer the call to serve each and every day.”

 

According to CMPD, there were 110 unjustified homicides in Charlotte in 2022, which matches up with Queen City Nerve’s tracking, as compared to 98 in the previous year. Thursday’s release also stated that there were 7,178 violent crimes reported last year as compared to 7,589 in 2021.


Two Homicides on Friday

At around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, police responded to a shooting call on Citiside Drive in the Links at Citiside apartment complex in east Charlotte, where they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound in a vehicle. Efforts to render life-saving measures were unsuccessful and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Friday night, police responded to a call to check the welfare of an individual on Hackberry Creek Trail in the Addison Park Apartment in north Charlotte, where they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound. First responders with Medic and the Charlotte Fire Department attempted life-saving efforts before Medic transported the victim to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Neither of the men have yet been named at the time of this writing. The two victims are the fourth and fifth people killed in Charlotte in the first two weeks of the year


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