ELIZABETHTOWN - Just over 30 years after June (Hopkins) Collard went missing, her husband finally told the family what they had always suspected.
He killed her.
Collard plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Essex County Court on Thursday, Feb. 3, ending a 30-plus year old cold case which was re-opened over the past year thanks to a confession by Collard in July to police in Alabama.
"I was headed into trial mode and to hear this was a pleasant surprise," Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said about receiving the news that Collard would agree to a plea deal. "A trial wasn't really what the family wanted because they did not want to relive this and they wanted to get the remains back as soon as possible so they could care for them properly."
The trial was expected to start on the last day of February, and Sprague said that her office was ready for the long haul.
"We were looking at a trial that could have lasted a month, another two weeks for jury selection and then anything else that could have popped up," Sprague said. "The trial could have come down to a battle of experts."
Sprague said that while she did not want to "nickel and dime justice," she was pleased that the deal would result in a savings of about $250,000.
"I wasn't holding my breath at this point," Sprague said. "But he did accept the deal and also waived the right to appeal."
Sprague said that the deal was presented to Collard after discussions with the family and had a deadline of Friday, Feb. 4.
"I had sat down with the family some time ago and discussed offering a manslaughter first degree plea," Sprague said. "The public defender advised me Wednesday (Feb. 2) that he would take the plea, and then we got him into the court as fast as we could before the Friday deadline passed."