Crime

Andrews man gets 30-year sentence in arson incident that led to death, revenge killing

Police officer talks about arrests and aftermath in case of 12-year-old killed in arson

Police officer Melvyn Garrett talks about arrests and subsequent crimes in connection to an arson in 2014 where a 12-year-old died in a trailer fire.
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Police officer Melvyn Garrett talks about arrests and subsequent crimes in connection to an arson in 2014 where a 12-year-old died in a trailer fire.

An Andrews man has been convicted of conspiracy and arson and sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection with a fire that killed a 12-year-old boy, according to a news release from Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

On Friday, a Georgetown County jury convicted Randy Collins, 48, of criminal conspiracy and first-degree arson during a trial that began Monday, the release states. Collins received five years for the conspiracy charge and 30 for arson, sentences that will run concurrently, according to the release.

The sentence for conspiracy was the maximum and the term for arson was the minimum, the release states. Collins had no prior criminal history, but law enforcement learned that he’d had at least five other homes that caught fire and were followed by insurance claims, Richardson said.

Randy Collins 11-10-18.jpg
Randy Collins Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office

The charges stemmed from a March 2014 mobile home fire at 10 James Drive in Andrews, the release says. A neighbor reported the blaze just before 1:30 a.m. March 29, and when firefighters arrived, the mobile home was fully ablaze, according to the report. Neighbors informed officials that the family had moved belongings from the house days before the fire, the report states.

Marissa Cohen, who is also charged in connection with the incident, and her children, including Dave Sycience Coombs, 12, who was killed in the fire, were living in an apartment with friends at the time of the blaze, according to the report. On the day of the fire, Coombs was walking home from a birthday party with a friend when it began to rain heavily, the report states. Since his old home at 10 James Drive was closer, he went there instead of going to the apartment, according to the report.

The fire was reported at 1:27 a.m. and firefighters found his body inside during the fire, the report says. An autopsy showed the boy died of smoke inhalation, and no one knew he was inside the home at the time of the blaze, according to the report.

“It appeared he had been sleeping and had tried to escape the home, but was overcome by smoke as he did so,” Richardson said of Sycience. “By all accounts, he was a wonderful boy, very likable and loved by many in the community for his great personality.”

Authorities learned that Cohen, who is facing charges of criminal conspiracy, first-degree arson and unlawful neglect of a child in connection to the incident, had purchased renter’s insurance for the mobile home a month prior to the fire and had moved personal belongings into storage, the report says. She had also told friends that there were electrical issues in the home, according to the report. Additionally, authorities received an anonymous tip that Cohen had purchased kerosene the morning of the fire despite living in an apartment with central heat and air conditioning, the report states.

Fire investigators found several kerosene and electrical heaters in the home and four different areas in which accelerant had been poured on the floor, according to the report. Law enforcement learned that Cohen had called Collins multiple times the day before the fire and was at the mobile home after it burned, the release says.

In an interview following the fire, Collins told police that Cohen offered him $5,000 of the $25,000 she would receive in renter’s insurance if he set it ablaze, the report states. He told officers that he’d informed his nephew, James Miller, who is now deceased, about the offer and both were present when Miller set the mobile home on fire, according to the report.

In April 2015, Devon Coombs, Sycience’s older teenage brother, fatally shot Miller in Andrews, pleaded guilty in 2017 to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison, the report states.

Coombs told the court during his sentencing that he killed Miller in retaliation for his brother’s death in the fire, Richardson said. Coombs, Cohen, Miller and Collins are related, the report says. Authorities also found letters from Cohen to Devon Coombs stating that she wanted some of the witnesses dead, including Collins, according to the report.

“It’s a tragedy all the way around because the fallout from this was compounded with the other events that occurred from this one fire,” Richardson said.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295
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