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Just -- the Facts

When It Comes to Murder and Mayhem, Channel 4's Pat Collins Has a Certain Unique Way. With Words.

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page C01

A dead girl. A mystery. And Pat Collins. Is there.

"Doreen, she was just 15 years old," begins the Channel 4 reporter. He's planted in front of the Prince George's County cop shop, wearing, for some reason, a baseball cap. "She lived in Fairfax County."


"I want to tell a story that makes the victim into a human being," says WRC's Pat Collins, who acknowledges that his staccato style of delivery may seem overly dramatic to some. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)


Pause.

"She was found murdered" -- pause -- "in Prince George's County. She'd been missing for about 12 days. Now, she'd been having some problems in school. But no one" -- huge, hulking, super-dramatic pause -- "no one expected something like this."

Roll tape. On comes the deceased's mother. She's racked with grief, her sorrow crowding the screen. The camera turns away from her pain and zooms in on her hand. She's clutching a tiny photo of her daughter.

Collins fills out the rest of the story in staccato, just-the-facts-ma'am style. The victim "lived in Springfield, Virginia. She was found dead in Cheverly, Maryland. She disappeared from her home December 2nd. She was shot and killed 12 days later."

Pause.

"There's much intrigue here. Why did the teenager leave her home? Who was she with? And why did someone take her life?"

The questions sit there, heavy as boulders. Collins's report leads WRC's 5 p.m. newscast. It's tragic and sordid, dramatic and disturbing. In other words, it's classic Collins.

In 31 years on the air -- all but three of them in his home town of Washington -- Collins has reported many kinds of stories, from snowstorms to fires to Olympic Games to Marion Barry's various high jinks. But no one has plied the region's hyper-productive murder and mayhem beat for as long, or quite as avidly, as the 58-year-old reporter. Collins has seen more homicides than most big-city coroners.

He's seen so many that, in conversation, he speaks about them in a kind of street-cop shorthand, as if his listener remembers each crime as vividly as Collins does.

How many unnatural deaths has he covered? Collins takes a quick mental inventory, and starts constructing an equation. "Well, maybe two a week, for all those years, minus vacation time . . ."

He gives up. "Oh . . . thousands."

Collins's dispatches from the mean streets give the same who-what-where details as those of other TV reporters. But there are distinctive touches. There are the odd, somewhat theatrical rhythms of his delivery, which can, he admits, turn off some viewers. "They think I'm being overly dramatic," he says, shrugging off the criticism.


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