A horrifying crime that shook the city of Charlotte in 2020 involved the senseless murder of Mary Collins, a 21-year-old woman with an intellectual disability. She was found dead, having endured a shocking 133 stab wounds, hidden inside a mattress in a NoDA apartment. This heartbreaking incident has resurfaced as one of the accused killers, James Salerno, has been released from Mecklenburg County Jail after posting a $250,000 bond, according to records from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.
Mary Collins’ grandmother and guardian, Mia Alderman, expressed deep dismay at the justice system’s decision to grant bond to Salerno and previously to America Diehl, another suspect in the case. To the family’s profound sorrow, it seems that justice is not being served for their beloved Mary, who had 22q deletion syndrome and an intellectual capacity similar to that of a 15-year-old.
In the days leading up to her death, Collins was lured to the apartment by Kelly Lavery, 24, and Lavi Pham, 23. Court records revealed that they planned to murder her after she refused a threesome with them. Salerno, 22, allegedly participated in concealing her death.
Mary Collins’ tragic fate sparked a wave of grief and outrage within her community, and her family founded the advocacy group “Mary’s Voice” to seek justice not only for her but also for other victims with disabilities. Alderman passionately emphasizes that individuals with disabilities are not disposable but inherently valuable members of society.
The investigation led to the arrest of Kelly Lavery, Lavi Pham, James Salerno, and later America Diehl. While Lavery eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, concealing a body, and first-degree kidnapping charges, Pham maintained a plea of not guilty for murder and kidnapping charges during his last court hearing.
Mary Collins’ family firmly believes that all four suspects should face life imprisonment without the possibility of bond or plea deals. Their primary concern is that such a heinous crime against someone so vulnerable should not go unpunished.
The release of the suspects has only intensified the family’s pain, as they are left grappling with the unthinkable brutality inflicted upon their beloved Mary. They hope that by sharing her story and fighting for justice through “Mary’s Voice,” society will come to understand the importance and worth of individuals with disabilities.
As this heart-wrenching case continues to unfold, the Charlotte community stands in solidarity with Mary Collins’ family, demanding justice for her tragic end and advocating for a safer and more compassionate society for all individuals, regardless of their abilities.