By Michelle Seeber

Staff Writer

A 54-year-old man convicted in the September 1974 shooting deaths of a family of four in Woodward is coming up for parole.

Bobby Wayne Collins committed “probably one of the worst crimes Woodward County has seen,” District Attorney Hollis Thorp said.

Thorp and Karla Taylor, Woodward County victim witness coordinator, are encouraging the public to write letters to Pardon and Parole Board members asking that Collins remain in prison.

Collins was convicted of first degree murder and originally given the death penalty by a Garfield County jury in 1975. The case was moved to Garfield County from Woodward County.

Shortly after Collins’ conviction the death penalty  that existed in Oklahoma at that time was ruled unconstitutional and Collins’ sentence was eventually changed to life in prison, Thorp said.

Collins has been coming up for parole review every three years since then.

According to Taylor, the members of the Thrasher family killed by Collins were 28-year-old Mervin, the father; 27-year-old Sandra, the wife; and their children, nine-month-old Robert and four-year-old Penny.

Thorp said Collins knew of the family, who lived near Boiling Springs State Park in a small frame house, because Mervin Thrasher would fill up his car with gas at a station where Collins worked.

Mervin worked for the Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Co. “I think the (family) had just moved to Woodward,” Thorp said.

Collins used a .22 calibre rifle to kill the family, Thorp said.

“In the report it said he hog-tied the couple before shooting them numerous times,” Thorp said. “He shot the little boy in the face as he stared down the barrel of the gun, according to his confession.”

At the time of the Thrasher murders, Collins was 20 years old.

No court affidavits concerning the crime are available today, Thorp said.

Former District Attorney Jack Barton, who covered a five-county area, including Woodward County in 1975, remembers the trial.

“Bobby Collins should have been executed,” Barton said. “He never gave a reason for committing the crimes. The rifle he used was never found until way after the fact in a pond several years after the conviction.

“I don’t think he should ever be paroled,” he said.

Taylor said Collins’ case worker has written a “glowing review” about him, recommending he should be released and that he has shown good behavior while in prison.

Collins is in prison at the Lexington Corrections Center, a medium security prison south of Oklahoma City.

“The reason the case worker is recommending him for parole is because he has maintained good behavior and turned in a machine gun left behind by the National Guard after an exercise at the prison,” Thorp said.

Until recently, Sandra Thrasher’s mother, Dorothy Brown of Higgins, Texas, would pass fliers out at convenience stores in the area, asking that people write letters requesting Collins’ parole be denied, Taylor said.

Brown is dead now, but the public can still write letters, Taylor said.

In writing the letters, which must be received by July 6, one must be sent to each Pardon and Parole Board member, Taylor said.

Their names and mailing addresses are:

• Lynnell Harkins, P.O. Box 20547, Oklahoma City, OK, 73156.

• Susan Loving-chairperson, P.O. Box 7320, Edmond, OK, 73083.

• James Brown - vice chairperson, P.O. Box 1814, McAlester, OK, 74502.

• Richard L. Dugger, P.O. Box 20623, Oklahoma City, OK 73156.

• Cinton Johnson, P.O. Box 18594, Oklahoma City, OK 73154.

All mail must show a valid return address on the outside of the envelope. The backside of every envelope must clearly show the offender’s name, Bobby Collins, and his Department of Corrections Number, ODOC 89602.

The mail must show the the month and year of the parole docket for which the offender is scheduled to appear, July 14-17, 2009, Hillside Community Corrections Center.

Victims or victims representatives are not required to indicate on the outside of the envelope that they are writing to protest possible board action.

Envelopes should be no larger than 10 inches by 13 inches.

Board members will not sign for registered mail, certified mail or any  other type of mail that requires a signature to receive.

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