Man who assaulted skier resentenced to 14 years

Michael Collins' previous attempted murder conviction overturned

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Calling the crime “heinous,” a Skamania County judge sentenced Michael D. Collins to 14 years in prison for first-degree robbery for brutally beating and robbing a cross-country skier in 2009.

If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s because Collins had already been sentenced.

The Vancouver man’s original sentence of 25 years in 2010 was tossed out after the Court of Appeals in July ruled prosecutors made a legal error in charging Collins with felony attempted murder.

Collins, 36, was in court in Stevenson Thursday for re-sentencing on his other conviction related to the case, robbery.

Even though the attempted murder charge was taken off the table, it was the only thing attorneys and the judge talked about.

Skamania County Superior Court Judge Brian Altman told Collins that he was literally getting away with attempted murder on a technicality.

“At a sentencing hearing, the surrounding circumstances of any crime don’t have to be treated like they never happened,” Altman said. “The savage brutality of this crime is such that Collins is a serious risk to society.”

The judge decided to sentence Collins to 171 months, the high end of the sentencing range for robbery based on Collins’ extensive criminal history.

The sentence was much more than prosecutors initially suspected Collins could face. Prosecutors recently discovered that Collins had several prior convictions that weren’t taken into account when he was originally sentenced in February 2010.

Several new crimes uncovered, including a forgery conviction in New Mexico, were used in the calculation of his new sentencing range, said Skamania County Prosecutor Adam Kick.

Without the newly found convictions, Collins could have only faced four or five years in prison, Kick said.

“This was the maximum he could have gotten,” the prosecutor said after the hearing.

Prior to sentencing, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Yarden Weidenfeld and defense attorney Michael Thompson sparred over Collins’ criminal history.

Thompson said the prosecutor’s office was guilty of “vindictiveness” for calculating the new sentencing range.

“They say it’s a technicality,” Thompson said. “Well, we’re a country of laws.”

Also visibly angry about the high sentencing range was Collins.

“I’ll probably be back in two years on this appeal,” Collins said after the hearing, turning to his attorney. “They’re wasting the taxpayers’ money.”

Prosecutors had incorrectly charged Collins with felony attempted murder in 2010. There is no such crime, though there is felony murder.

Felony murder means that a defendant kills someone in the course of committing another felony, like robbery. Since felony murder is not an intentional act, the Court of Appeals ruled that it can’t be an attempted crime.

The case of Collins and his teen son, Teven Collins, landed the pair on the TV show, “America’s Most Wanted.” The father had taken his son to Dougan Falls in eastern Skamania County in February 2009, where the two lived off Top Ramen noodles and oranges.

When the food ran out, they robbed and beat skier Kevin Tracey of Washougal for his wallet and car keys.

After accosting Tracey, they hit him with a club and choked him with a rope until he blacked out. Though Tracey was left for dead in the snow, he survived after three hikers found him and called for help.

The two were arrested weeks later in Ensenada, Mexico, following a tip.

Michael Collins was convicted by a Skamania County jury in February 2010. Teven Collins took a plea deal and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Absent from Thursday’s hearing was Tracey. But Weidenfeld read a statement written by the victim.

In the letter, Tracey asked the judge to impose the highest possible sentence, saying he thought the two men had sought “the thrill of a hands-on murder.” Tracey said he had no doubt he would have died if the hikers hadn’t found him.

“The next victims may not receive such great fortune,” Tracey said.