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Man sentenced to life in prison for 2008 murder

LeSean Collins, who was convicted of first-degree murder after robbing and killing a 29-year-old woman and leaving her body in a ravine in 2008, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Collins, 40, who was convicted of the murder and robbery in August, was also sentenced Wednesday to six to 15 years in prison, consecutive to the life sentence, for the robbery. Collins wasn’t at Wednesday’s hearing at the Regional Justice Center. He is already serving 10 years to life for an unrelated arson charge.

During Collins’ trial, prosecutors said he beat Brandi Payton, took her jewelry and later dumped her body off a trail between Lee Canyon Road and U.S. Highway 95.

All-terrain-vehicle riders found Payton’s decomposed body Sept. 6, 2008. A medical examiner ruled she had sustained blunt force trauma to the head, but couldn’t determine a specific cause of death.

Collins was appealing the arson charge and a burglary charge around the time Payton disappeared.

After giving Payton’s jewelry to his then-girlfriend Shalana Eddins, Collins disappeared for several hours. Although he’d told Eddins he was going to Stateline, prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth at trial argued that cellphone tower evidence suggested he was driving north toward where Payton’s body would be discovered.

At Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutor Lisa Luzaich, who argued for the life-without-parole sentence, said Collins has a long history of violent offenses, both out of prison — battery and assault with a deadly weapon — and in prison — battery by a prisoner.

“No matter where he is, he continues to be a violent individual,” Luzaich said. “As you look at his criminal history, you can see that there are certain lapses in time of criminal behavior … all of those lapses in time are due only to the fact that he was incarcerated.”

Collins received, and squandered, many chances to right himself, Luzaich said. He was terminated from drug court and violated multiple probations, she said.

“How many chances can you give an individual?” Luzaich said. “Sometimes you have to cut the cord. Sometimes it just has to be about punishment and keeping the community safe.”

Defense lawyer David Schieck, who’d argued to have Collins sentenced to life with possibility of parole after 20 years, countered that his client’s criminal history had been overstated.

“The sentencing memorandum prepared by the prosecutors talks about a lot of incidents, but not about convictions or being found guilty of those incidents,” Schieck said. “What they’ve done is gone back and every time Mr. Collins’ name showed up in the police report, they’d say, ‘Well, this is what Mr. Collins did on this instance.’ Those are not convictions.”

Payton’s sister Gloria and mother, Tammie, addressed District Judge Kathleen Delaney at Wednesday’s hearing. Gloria Payton said she and her children missed Brandi Payton. Tammie Payton said she thought of her daughter constantly, stopping only when medication helped her to sleep.

Her mother said Brandi Payton had attended bartending school and was seeking a better life when she died.

“But then there was somebody who just took away any chance that she could have had,” she said. “All (Collins) is getting is time, my daughter is gone. Who can bring her back? Nobody can bring her back. No amount of time (in prison) would ever match the life that was lost.”

Follow Matthew Crowley on Twitter @copyjockey

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