A survivor's tale: Local teen's parents were killed when she was just an infant (2024)

LAKE ELSINORE -- Camille Collins knows she could have ended upas just another statistic; a life that failed because of tragedy atan early age.

As a child, Camille learned that both her parents had beenmurdered -- right in front of her -- while she was just 7 monthsold. The killings, according to published reports, were over a $35dispute.

Instead of allowing herself to become enveloped in self-pity orturning to drugs to fill the void in her life, Camille has becomewhat she and others consider a true success story.


Now the same age as her father when he was shot and killed,Camille, 19, is a full-time student at Mt. San Jacinto College. Sheis a certified emergency medical technician and working as anursing assistant at a hospital. She hopes to become afirefighter/paramedic soon.

She also has been an active volunteer for about seven years withLake Elsinore Youth Court, a program that helps teens who havecommitted a crime get back on track without having a conviction ontheir record.

Camille says she could easily have become one of those teen”criminals” she has spent years trying to help.

“When people meet me and find out about what happened to myparents, nobody thinks I’m someone who went through that,” the LakeElsinore resident said. “They just think about the statistics --like people who get into partying and drugs, drop out of school,that sort of thing.”

Camille attributes her taking the other road to the support andlove she received from her family. “They told me, ‘Don’t be thatperson,’” she said.

She was raised by her grandparents, living on Rome Hill Road inLakeland Village for 17 years -- a mere two blocks away fromStoneman Street address where her mother and father were killed onNov. 11, 1984.

Her grandparents both died within the last three years, so shenow relies heavily on her aunt and uncle.

Camille says she has times that she has “felt sorry for herself”because she doesn’t have parents. But the support system she hashad growing up from grandparents and her aunt and uncle has helpedher through that.

The hard times for her still are some holidays, particularlyMother’s Day and Father’s Day, she said.

Even 19 years later, Camille said she goes through a lot of”what ifs,” wondering if she’d be the same person she is now if herparents had not been killed.

“Would I have the same personality? The same interests?” shesaid. “I feel lucky that, if it had to happen, it didn’t happenwhen I was older. I’d probably be really screwed up.”

The double murder

Lawrence Eugene Collins, 19, and Gina Marie Collins, 17, wererenting a trailer on the property from a 69-year-old man who wasknown as “Captain” Foster.

The landlord, whose real name was Robert Lee Foster, shot thecouple with a revolver and was later captured.

According to court and state records, Foster was convicted ofsecond-degree murder in August 1985 and sentenced two months laterto 34 years to life in prison. He died in prison on June 2,1992.

Camille’s father was found dead just outside the front door.Authorities believe he was shot inside the home and tried to crawloutside to get help.

When Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Mark Cordova and hispartner, Deputy Jeff Bostrom, arrived at the home that Sunday, theyformulated a plan to get inside. Once inside, Bostrom went to theright and nearly fell over the body of Camille’s mother, saidCordova, now a sheriff’s senior investigator, during an interviewat his office last week.

Cordova went left, with his shotgun raised and ready to fire. Itwas then, he said, that he suddenly heard a noise.

“We didn’t know if someone, including whoever had shot these twopeople, was still inside,” Cordova said, adding that his adrenalinewas running high.

He turned toward the noise, ready to shoot anyone who may havebeen a threat, he said.

He froze when he saw a baby, grabbing the side of a crib,pulling itself up to see what was going on.

“I almost shot her,” Cordova said. “You see dead people and heara noise inside. It’s a split-second decision that cops have to makeall the time.

“My daughter was about that same age then. I just sorta flashedand saw my own kid in that crib.”

Cordova scooped up the baby and brought her outside, safelygetting Camille to a neighbor while the volatile scene continueduntil the killer was captured a short time later.

A photographer with the Lake Elsinore Valley Sun-Tribune weeklynewspaper snapped an image outside the murder scene that capturedthe chaotic event.

In the photo, Cordova had just left the trailer, cradling littleCamille in one arm while gripping his shotgun in the other.

Learning the details

As a youngster, Camille knew her parents were dead, but didn’tfind out until later that they had been brutally murdered in thefamily home.

Then, when she was about 8 years old, Camille was cleaning hergrandparents home and came upon the newspaper article and photosdetailing the murders. She said she was stunned when she saw thatphoto of Cordova and the baby with a caption that included hername.

Camille asked her grandparents about it, and got what she calls”the typical answer: We’ll tell you when you are a littleolder.”

She said her grandparents “sort of sheltered me from thedetails.”

Cordova didn’t really see or hear much about how Camille wasdoing until she was about 9 or 10 years old and her uncle spottedhim at an Elsinore High School football game and asked Camille ifshe remembered the officer who rescued her. Cordova and Camillekept in touch off and on after that.

A couple of years later, while Camille was in the seventh grade,her grandparents finally told her that a man had shot and killedher parents, then went to jail and died.

The grisly details were kept from her until she was a sophom*orein high school and happened to be in the Lake Elsinore sheriff’sstation on a tour for student government day.

Camille popped her head into Cordova’s office to say hello andCordova told her that if she ever wanted to know more about whathappened to her parents to let him know. She did.

“I told her exactly what happened,” Cordova said.

‘He’s my hero’

Camille and Cordova now see each other or talk to one anotherfairly often.

“He’s my hero,” Camille says of the deputy who carried hersafely from the trailer 19 years ago.

“Not many people can say they have a true-life hero,” she added.”He saved my life.”

Cordova is humbled by that and says he is proud of how Camillehas taken hold of her life and become a success story.

“It’s made my heart really happy” seeing how well Camille isdoing, Cordova said. “There are a lot of opposite stories aroundhere and she easily could have gone the other way.”

Camille is still growing into her young life and, like manypeople her age, has wavered from one career idea to another.

She once thought she wanted to be a law enforcement officer, butsaid she has “an issue with guns.”

Then, with her time as a volunteer defense attorney in the youthcourt, Camille thought about becoming a lawyer.

“I love the law,” she said.

Instead, she has set her sights on helping people by focusing onmedical training and hopes to get into a fire academy.

While Camille and Cordova both credit her family’s support withhelping her get past the early tragedy in her life, Cordova alsopraises Camille.

“It’s great to be raised by good people,” Cordova said. “Butit’s the decisions you make yourself that make a difference.”

Contact staff writer John Hall at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 2628, orjhall@californian.com.

A survivor's tale: Local teen's parents were killed when she was just an infant (2024)
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