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District Attorney Allison Haley

Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley

Submitted photo

A 66-year-old man convicted in the 1975 murder of an American Canyon resident was granted parole in January following a hearing before the Board of Parole at California State Prison in Vacaville.

Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley announced that Lafayette Collins was being released. He had been convicted of the murder of George Casten, 63, in American Canyon.

Collins was granted parole after a Jan. 9 hearing before the Board of Parole Hearings at California State Prison in Vacaville. It was his 12th parole hearing.

The victim’s wife discovered him dead on the living room floor when she came home from work. He had been tied up with an electric cord and beaten. His leg was burned with a cigarette. He died of heart failure secondary to trauma, Haley said in a news release.

The house was ransacked and a number of items were stolen. Nine years later, in 1984, Collins was identified by his fingerprints, which had been lifted from a coffee can in which the victim kept his change. Although Collins denied ever having been to American Canyon, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to seven years to life. He first became eligible for parole in 1991.

Deputy District Attorney Holly Quate appeared at the hearing with the victim’s youngest brother, age 94, and the victim’s nephew. She argued against the release, citing the cruelty and callousness of the murder, and the fact that Collins continued to minimize his responsibility. She pointed out that Collins continued to deny any knowledge of how the victim obtained his injuries. She argued that Collins continues to represent an unreasonable risk of danger to the community should he be released.

The victim’s brother spoke of the victim’s kind nature and emphasized the permanence of the family’s loss.

The Parole Board found Collins suitable for parole. Since he was 23 years old at the time of the offense, he qualified as a youthful offender, the district attorney’s office said. The Board, gave great weight to the diminished culpability of young offenders. The Board noted his long record of no disciplinary problems and being substance-free while in prison. It felt that he demonstrated adequate insight into the killing.

Collins plans to be paroled to Hayward. The decision will be reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings and can be reviewed by the governor.