Jurors in murder trial hear Collins had history of severe mental illness

By the time she was 5 months old, Catie Collins had been so severely neglected that she had lived with one woman who kept the infant in a dog cage.

As the second-degree murder trial turned to the defense, jurors heard from Collins’ mother and a psychologist about a history of mental illness they say led the 22-year-old to stab and kill Boston Sicard 13 months ago.

Karen Collins, an acute care nurse, said she and her husband, Dennis, noticed problems in the 5-month-old baby they had adopted from the moment a social worker brought her to their home in a basket. They learned from the social worker that their new daughter had been neglected and even kept like a pet.

As the years went by, Karen Collins noticed problems in the girl became more severe, leading their child to try and commit suicide by jumping off the roof of their house at age 8.

"It was like a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs daily," Karen Collins said of the emotions exhibited by her youngster.

Marilyn Hutchinson, a forensic psychologist from Kansas City, testified that when Catie Collins hit puberty at age 9, the hormonal changes triggered what would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, a severe and persistent mental illness.

Collins’ problems were exacerbated by being raped at age 11, and multiple times before she killed Sicard at age 20 the morning of Sept. 11, 2010. They included heavy drinking, cocaine and marijuana, which Hutchinson said Collins used to dull the pain of her abuse.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Kim Parker, Karen Collins acknowledged her daughter had exhibited violent behavior, including stabbing her sister’s mattress and threatening to kill members of the family.

From age 11, about the time she had said she was raped by a man at a park, Collins began cutting herself with razor blades.

“It was like bleeding would relieve the pain she felt inside,” Hutchinson told the jury.

Trauma of her attacks led Collins to self-loathing and caused her to overreact to people she perceived as a threat.

“When those things happen, she is likely to react aggressively – toward herself or others,” Hutchinson said.

Collins said Sicard attacked her during an argument after both had been drinking heavily, pushing her to the ground and choking her, before she retrieved a knife and stabbed him. Kati Owens, another witness, has said Collins was the primary aggressor, punching Sicard, who was trying to defend himself.

By the time she was 16, Collins had started abusing alcohol and drugs, Hutchinson testified. The psychologist had reviewed years of Collins’ medical records and conducted hours of personal interviews with the woman and her family.

This mixture of illegal drugs and medication prescribed by her doctors made Collins’ mental illness more difficult to control, Hutchinson testified. Collins reported auditory hallucinations due to her bipolar disorder, records showed, including voices telling her to kill herself.

"By 16 this was a kid who was seriously in trouble," Hutchinson testified.

Karen Collins said she would randomly drug test her daughter to try to control her behavior. Neither she or her husband drink, smoke or do drugs, she testified.

Still, when Catie Collins was 19, she moved away from home, got a job at a local restaurant and her own apartment.

But her drinking and drug use increased, Hutchinson said, along with the hallucinations.

"She was trying to live like other 20-year-olds around her ... and it wasn’t working very well," the psychologist testified.

Karen Collins said she and her husband kept Catie on their insurance and made sure she had the medications doctors were prescribing her.

After Catie Collins’ arrest, her mother said family members were cleaning out the apartment where Sicard received his fatal stab wound near Central and Ridge Road. Karen Collins said she counted her daughter’s pills and found she hadn’t been taking them.

Since Catie Collins’ arrest, Hutchinson said the young woman has received proper medication and her behavior has stabilized.

“It shows proper medication and structure will help,” Hutchinson said.

As Hutchinson began to testify as to how Catie Collins described the night of the stabbing, prosecutor Kim Parker objected to those statements as hearsay. The defense claims that testimony will explain Collins’ state of mind.

Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess excused the jurors, so he could consider the legal implications of allowing the testimony.

The courthouse is closed Friday for Veterans Day. The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.