Collins_ Balassa

Dontrell Collins at his arraignment in 2014. He was sentenced Wednesday to 73 years to life in prison. 

Prosecutor Jim Simson said he dislikes even bringing up the alleged mental health issues of Dontrell Collins, on trial for murder for causing a fiery wreck that killed two women. 

Even if they exist, Simson told a jury during his closing argument Tuesday, Collins' mental issues had no bearing on his decision to ingest alcohol and PCP, get in a vehicle and travel at speeds of 95 to 110 mph on Rosedale Highway before slamming into the rear of another car. 

Collins, 33, was examined by a psychologist who determined the defendant was sane and knew the difference between right and wrong. Evidence showed his girlfriend and family tried to get him help for his drug abuse. 

He had options, Simson said.

"His problem is that he didn't care."

Jared Thompson, Collins' attorney, does not dispute that Collins caused the crash. He said the deaths of Pavinder Kaur Claire, 22, and Jaclyn Kvasnicka, 27, are a tragedy.

But he disagrees with Simson's assertion that mental illness played no role. In fact, Thompson said, Collins' schizophrenia lies at the heart of the case.

He said Collins was driving with a blood-alcohol concentration below the legal limit, and the amount of PCP in his system was at the "very low end" of measurable amounts of the drug. Those substances didn't impact Collins' behavior, Thompson said. His mental illness is responsible for what happened. 

"It's not illegal to drive and have a serious psychological episode," he said. 

Claire, Kvasnicka and Jessica Magee, co-workers at Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, were traveling home Aug. 29, 2014, after attending a Bakersfield Blaze game together. 

The three were on Rosedale about 12:45 a.m. when Collins smashed into their car. The impact shoved it a distance roughly equal to one-and-a-half football fields, to where Rosedale meets Verdugo Lane.

The car's gas tank ruptured and caught fire.

Magee, the only occupant not pinned inside the vehicle, managed to escape. Witnesses said they heard the other two women scream as the vehicle burned, the heat too intense to continue to try and free them.

Collins is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, among other charges. He faces a life term in prison if convicted. 

Witnesses reported Collins engaged in bizarre behavior after the crash. He laughed and screamed and ran around. 

That's not the behavior of someone under the influence of PCP, Thompson said. Police didn't notice any telltale signs of PCP intoxication such as a blank stare, repetitive speech or violent and combative behavior.

The attorney said statements Collins gave police indicate he had auditory hallucinations and delusional thinking. Collins later said he had a fight with the devil, was getting signs from God and someone was trying to steal his soul.

Collins' drug use contributed to his mental disorder, but is not responsible for it, Thompson said. He's had schizophrenic episodes both before and since the crash.

Simson, however, told the jury not to consider Collins a victim due to his alleged mental health issues. 

As he went over the elements necessary for a conviction of second-degree murder, Simson said Collins knowingly engaged in dangerous behavior that ended up taking the lives of two young women. 

"In this case, ladies and gentlemen, those elements are satisfied in abundance," he said. 

The jury will return Wednesday morning to deliberate. 

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