It will be Thursday before Kelowna learns the story of how and why Neil Elliott Collins escaped custody in December, shutting down the bridge and sending police on a citywide manhunt.
Collins was in court Monday afternoon to be sentenced for three of the 20 counts against him after RCMP nabbed him as the kingpin in a drug dealing operation based on the Westside.
“He knows he screwed up in a big way,” admitted his lawyer, Cory Armour, as he summed up the case that earned his client 1201 days—3 1/4 years in prison.
Police initially arrested Collins in May in his car, boxing him in to ensure he could not run, after one of his alleged drug runners, Adrienne Barregar, was apprehended in front of Kelly O’Bryan’s Restaurant.
She had been seen picking up an array of drugs and drug paraphernalia from the condominium Collins shared with another of his alleged drug runners at 2210 Sundance Drive in the Shannon Lake neighbourhood.
Owing to her public arrest, Collins was alerted to the fact the mounties would be coming his way and stashed a large quantity of drugs in the storage locker of yet another one of his alleged drug runners who lived in the same condominium complex.
When the locker was searched, police picked up a duffel bag with 190.45 grams of pebble heroin, a distinct format of the drug also found on Barregar, 126.94 grams of methamphetamine and an assortment of pharmaceutical drugs stolen from Medicine Shop Pharmacy 10 days earlier.
A drug expert obtained by the Crown suggested the heroin was worth between $27,000 and $55,000 on the street, depending if it was sold by the ounce or by the point. The methamphetamine was pegged at $6,000 to $12,000 (ounce versus point) and the pharmaceuticals up to $25,000.
Inside the apartment, police also found $38,000 in cash, a sum the courts have now seized.
Collins, 37, was described to the court as an individual with a lengthy criminal record with previous convictions ranging from drug charges to weapons offences and break and enter charges. And he is apparently connected to a wild chase up Westside Road.
Collins was initially released on $100,000 bail and permitted to get himself to and from his trial. When he failed to show for his sentencing, police issued statements saying he has connections in Mexico, access to weapons and a plan to flee the country.
The court heard his name was connected to an infamous shoot-out that sent Kelowna RCMP on a chase up Westside Road toward Vernon in the summer of 2012 in pursuit of three individuals who fired at the officers. Collins stated in court that he was informed by police that two of the individuals in the car had a hit out on him.
This Thursday he is expected to be given an additional six months for bailing out on the end of the trial when he failed to show for the sentencing on Dec. 19. His escape sent police out searching for him all over Kelowna after it was discovered he was not at his residence and had tampered with his monitoring device.
In the end, the Crown nevertheless agreed to stay 17 counts against him in exchange for a guilty plea to the three main offences—possession charges for the heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. The other counts included weapons charges.
Judge Al Betton sentenced him to three and a half years less 76 days for time served, for which he will be given one for one credit for a total of 1201 days in jail.