Originally created 04/14/02

Shooting death is 1st in '02



Authorities are investigating the abduction and rape of an Augusta woman that might be linked to the shooting death of a Columbia County man.

The body of Gary Collins, 46, of Evans, was found at about 3 a.m. Saturday in a duplex in the 2900 block of Jefferson Street, Richmond County Sheriff's Office Investigator Richard Roundtree said. The killing is the first homicide in Richmond County this year, he said.

Investigator Roundtree said police found a bullet hole in the victim's neck.

Police were notified about Mr. Collins' death after officers in Midville, Ga., arrested two men Friday night at the Time-Saver Inc. No. 39 on Georgia Highway 56 in connection with the abduction and rape of an Augusta woman, Burke County Sheriff's Lt. Frank Parker said.

James W. Looper and Kenneth Pruitt, both of Augusta, were held for Richmond County authorities after the woman revealed that Mr. Collins might have been killed at a residence in south Augusta.

Mr. Looper, 36, and Mr. Pruitt, 40, were charged with murder and kidnapping, Investigator Roundtree said.

The woman told authorities she had been kidnapped by the men at about 8 p.m. Thursday during a drug transaction at the south Augusta home, Lt. Parker said. The duplex was listed as Mr. Looper's address, Investigator Roundtree said.

"(Mr. Collins) was trying to collect money that was owed to him, and the deal went sour," Lt. Parker said.

He said the woman stayed in the car - a 1987 Cadillac Seville - while Mr. Collins went into the duplex. Moments later, the men came out and forced her to open the car door, the lieutenant said.

The woman said Mr. Looper and Mr. Pruitt took her to a wooded area, raped her and left her tied to a tree, Lt. Parker said. The men abandoned Mr. Collins' vehicle in a ditch on Boggs Academy-Keysville Road in Keysville, he said.

The woman said the men returned to the area in a different car Friday morning and moved her to another location, where they raped her again.

She said that during the ordeal, the men threatened to kill her because she knew too much, Lt. Parker said.

At about 9 p.m. Friday, the men stopped at the Time-Saver for gasoline, Lt. Parker said. The woman walked away from the car and into the store, he said.

"She figured that was the only chance she had," Lt. Parker said.

She told the clerk to call the police, then hid in a cooler until they arrived, Lt. Parker said.

Midville officers arrived at the store while one of the men was pumping gas. The other man entered the store to find the woman and was buying beer when police arrived, Lt. Parker said. Richmond County investigators picked up both men Saturday afternoon from the Burke County jail.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to work with investigators but would not comment on the case Saturday.

A neighbor of Mr. Looper said Saturday that the Jefferson Street house is often crowded with people and that the yard is full of cars. The house was deserted Saturday.

Relatives and friends of Mr. Collins spent Saturday at his residence in Hamilton's Crossing in Evans. As children played basketball and rode bicycles up and down the street, a man who identified himself as Mr. Collins' son said the family didn't want to comment about the incident.

"Right now is family time," he said.

Staff Writer Louie Villalobos contributed to this article.

Reach Timothy Cox or Albert Ross Jr. at (706) 724-0851.