In the mid-20th century, Opal Collins, hailing from Kentucky, shocked the nation with a crime that took place far from her home state, in Hammond, Indiana. The year was 1956 when Collins committed the unthinkable act of murdering her husband and his relatives. The severity of her actions resulted in a sentence of death by electrocution, a punishment that was rare for women in that era.
Collins’ story is one of conflict, tragedy, and law. It evokes a range of emotions, from the horror of her deeds to the enigma of her ultimate fate. Delving into her background, Collins was born in the 1930s and grew up in Kentucky’s rural backdrop. Known for her striking beauty and innocent demeanor, she later encountered Benjamin Collins Jr., a World War II veteran with a paraplegic condition, and they fell in love.
Despite objections from Benjamin’s family, the couple married in the early part of 1956. The family, who had moved to Hammond, Indiana, disapproved of Opal, and tensions were high from the start. The newlyweds’ life together was marred by disputes over finances and living arrangements, with Opal desiring that they have the house, built from Benjamin’s insurance money, to themselves. She believed her in-laws were attempting to sabotage her marriage by casting aspersions on her intentions towards Benjamin’s finances.
The conflict reached a tragic climax on May 24, 1956. Collins, in an apparent state of emotional distress, took a .22 shotgun from her husband’s collection and embarked on a killing spree. She took the lives of her 11-year-old sister-in-law Mary, followed by Martha, 14, her mother-in-law Julia, 48, and ultimately her husband Benjamin, aged 28. Ben Sr., her father-in-law, escaped the massacre as he was not present at home.
Following the murders, Collins turned herself in to the authorities, admitting to the killings without a semblance of remorse. Throughout her trial, her demeanor remained chillingly nonchalant. Convicted of first-degree murder for the death of young Mary, Collins faced the prospect of the electric chair, making her the first woman in Indiana to confront such a fate.
The legal proceedings that followed her conviction saw multiple delays, appeals, and legal hurdles. In 1961, a significant turn of events occurred when Governor Matthew Welsh commuted her death sentence to life imprisonment. Collins was sent to the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis, where she was noted to be a compliant prisoner.
However, the trail of Opal Collins’ life becomes murky beyond this point. Reports conflict regarding her eventual fate; some suggest she passed away while incarcerated in 1977, others speculate about her parole in 1981 and subsequent relocation to Florida. Yet, no official records provide clarity on her death or current whereabouts.
Considering the estimated dates, Collins would be in her late 80s or possibly early 90s today, should she still be living. The obscurity surrounding her present condition only deepens the mystery that has cloaked her story since that fateful day in May over six decades ago. With no conclusive evidence to illuminate her current status, the tale of Opal Collins remains a poignant and unresolved chapter in the annals of crime and punishment. Her legacy, defined by a moment of extreme violence, continues to provoke both intrigue and speculation to this day.