Two of the four suspects in the gruesome death of 20-year-old Mary Santina Collins are expected in a Charlotte courtroom on Thursday afternoon.
Collins was found stabbed 133 times and hidden in a mattress in a NoDa apartment on April 4, 2020.
Kelly Lavery, Lavi Pham, James Salerno and America Diehl are charged in connection with Collins’ death. Lavery and Pham are scheduled to be at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse for a 2 p.m. hearing Thursday.
Pham, Lavery and Salerno were charged with murder and kidnapping, public records show. Pham and Salerno also were charged with concealing a death. Later, Diehl was charged with accessory after the fact and concealing a death, records show.
Salerno pleaded not guilty in April, according to WCNC. Diehl was released on a $100,000 bond in September, according to Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office records.
Collins’ family alerted police on March 30, 2020, that they had not seen or heard from her for about two days after she’d taken an Uber to a friend’s place. The next day, a detective knocked on the door of the apartment where she was last believed to have been. Four days later on April 3, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police issued a missing persons bulletin.
Her friends and family members started their own search parties to find her. Five days after she’d been reported missing, CMPD detectives found Collins on a subsequent search of the apartment. Lavery, Pham, Salerno and Diehl were later charged.
Collins had 22q deletion syndrome, also known as DiGeorge syndrome, the second-most common genetic disorder behind Down’s syndrome, according to the International 22q11.3 Foundation. Her family has said her cognitive abilities were similar to that of a 15-year-old.
Collins’ family runs an advocacy group called Mary’s Voice. The group has called on legislators to implement reforms that could help others like her, including an alert system specifically for when an adult with a disability goes missing and may be in danger. Currently, law enforcement officials can issue a Silver Alert for non-senior adults with cognitive disabilities but it doesn’t always occur.
This is a developing story.