Man sentenced to life in prison after jury finds him guilty in 2018 killing of elderly couple

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Denham Springs Police Department (LPN)

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (Livingston Parish News) – A man recently convicted in the double-murder of an elderly Denham Springs couple has been sentenced to life in prison for both crimes, according to a release from District Attorney Scott Perrilloux’s office.

Michael Collins, 48, appeared before Judge Jeffery Johnson for sentencing Monday, May 24. Judge Johnson then ordered Collins to serve life at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence on each count. Johnson also ordered those counts to run consecutively.

While addressing the defendant, Judge Johnson said he has never seen anything “more God-awful than what [Collins] did that day” during his decades serving as a judge and in criminal law.

Earlier this month, a 12-person jury found Collins guilty on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Eugene “Frank” and Patricia Gurley, whose bodies were found at their business on Pete’s Highway in October 2018.

The Gurleys — both in their early 70s at the time of the crimes— were longtime residents of Denham Springs and well-liked in the community. Frank Gurley was a former teacher at Denham Springs High School and Denham Springs Junior High before retiring in 2011.

The coroner confirmed the Gurleys’ cause of death was due to blunt force trauma to the head. 

Collins, who was captured in Kentucky less than a week after the crimes, was ultimately found guilty on unanimous verdicts for both counts. 

Through witness testimony, forensic experts confirmed Collins’ presence on several items located at the crime scene, including Patricia Gurley’s ankle, the maul hammer, the ball pen hammer, blood-stained T-shirt, and napkin.

A jury made of eight women and four men needed only four hours to deliberate after the three-day trial.

Prior to imposing the sentence, more than a dozen family members sat in the courtroom as Assistant District Attorney Kurt Wall, who prosecuted the case read a victim impact statement at the request of the victims’ family.

In the statement, the Gurley family stated that while Collins certainly could be labeled a monster, the more appropriate term to describe his fatal assault on the elderly couple was “cowardly.”

The statement also acknowledged how there was now “a hole in the family’s life that would never be filled.”

After the victim impact statement, Judge Johnson addressed Collins and said the following, according to Perrilloux’s release: “Mr. Collins, I have been doing this for 25 years. I have seen some God-awful things in that 25 years, not just as an attorney, but 25 years in criminal law. Nothing comes to mind that is more God-awful than what you did that day. Fortunately for the Gurley family, your rage is not the final chapter of their legacy.”

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The West Side Journal, located in Port Allen, Louisiana serves as the official journal of West Baton Rouge Parish. The newspaper’s roots run deep in the West Baton Rouge community, as the earliest dates of publication reach back to the mid-1800s.

The current editor is Breanna Smith, an alumna of Louisiana State University's Manship School of Mass Communication and native of Baton Rouge. Contributing writers to the Journal are members of the West Side community.

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