By Linda Dillman
There are many chapters to the story of Kendall Collins, a woman shot 15 times by her estranged husband in 2015 and left for dead by the side of the road near the Groveport Recreation Center.
Domestic abuse, a plea deal with a lawyer that never should have happened, gun violence, three months in Grant Hospital and a series of 31 corrective surgeries over seven years with more planned are all a part of her life.
But Collins is the first person to tell you that she is a survivor because of her family, faith and fortitude.
The Lockbourne resident and her former husband were high school sweethearts who met in 2000.
“All throughout high school we dated and attended two proms together,” recalled Collins. “We had a seemingly normal relationship, young love you could say. From the beginning he was controlling and jealous, but I thought that meant he loved me. We stayed together for many years with rough patches and many break ups.”
The couple had two children. Their relationship continued to deteriorate, eventually leading to multiple separations.
“In 2013 we hit a breaking point…he locked me in my room while my children were in the living room,” said Collins. “We ended up getting into a fight that began with him tackling me to the ground. I called the police that night and he was arrested and taken to jail for domestic violence.”
At his court hearing, he faced a felony charge. However, Collins’ lawyer advised her to lower the charges to a criminal mischief—a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
“The lawyer said he would be court ordered to attend counselling and would have to complete anger management courses. I agreed to lower the charges down to a misdemeanor,” said Collins. “He attended his counseling faithfully for the year and he seemed to benefit from it. He seemed happier and was less aggressive towards me verbally and we did not have any other physical fights during that time.”
After the year was up, Collins said he fell back into his previous pattern of aggression. She filed for divorce in the summer of 2015 and on Sept. 10 of that year, her life changed forever.
Because the domestic abuse charges were reduced to criminal mischief, her former husband was able to buy a gun legally at a gun store two days before he shot Collins eight times in her right leg, three times in the right arm, one time in the stomach, once in the chest, once in the lower back and once in the pelvic bone.
“We had just had a meeting two days before (Sept. 8) with the lawyers and had signed paperwork for custody of the kids and how we would separate the assets,” said Collins. “After church, he called and asked if I could meet him at Arby’s on Alum Creek to give me money for the kids. I agreed to meet him after the kids were asleep at my mom’s house.”
As soon as he got inside Collins’ car, she realized the meeting was a mistake. She said he began screaming as she turned onto Groveport Road.
“He did not let up as we drove a little further,” Collins recalled. “I was finally fed up with his yelling and I told him that I loved him, but I was no longer in love with him. At that point he pulled out the gun and laid it on his lap pointing it at me. I remember how shiny it was, and it scared me as I screamed. I remembered that there was a cornfield beside the rec center, and I thought that I could run and hide in the cornfield to get away from him in the darkness of the night.”
She was about to open her door and run when she saw police lights coming towards her and did not know what to do. If she ran, she thought the police might think she was running away from them.
It was around 2:30 a.m.
“As I came to the stop sign, the police had their lights on my car. My (former) husband picked up the gun and cocked it. Without thinking I reached over to him and said ‘Put the gun away. We can get out of this.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry it has to be this way.”
Groveport Police Sgt. Josh Guiler was responding to another call when Guiler saw Collins’ auto in the recreation center driveway facing southbound near a stop sign. He watched her former husband attempt to exit the car and then heard the distinctive sound of a firearm hitting the pavement.
“I then pulled my service weapon out and started to command him not to pick up the gun,” said Guiler. “I saw him reach for the gun and as he did, he stayed ducked down behind the passenger door. At this point I believed he was going to grab the gun and either come up shooting at me or take off running.”
Guiler found what happened next unbelievable.
“I saw his back turn as if he were going to run away from the vehicle,” said Guiler. “He then fired two shots into the vehicle which I believe hit Kendall Collins and ran to the rear of Kendall’s car. I then could see him looking through the back windshield for her. I then made a split second decision to fire a shot through the front windshield towards him hoping to pin him down. While waiting on back-up I was very focused watching for him to come back up. I then saw Kendall crawling from the driver seat to the passenger side of the vehicle. I yelled for her to stay in the car but she fell out on the ground in the fetal position facing him and the rear of the vehicle.”
Guiler said as soon as Kendall hit the pavement, her former husband fired several rounds at her, never coming up from behind the vehicle. Guiler said he felt hopeless at this point thinking he could not get to her in time due to the distance between them.
“After he shot her several times, I knew I had to get to her,” said Guiler. “He finally jumped up from behind the vehicle and started running away pointing his firearm at me. I then fired several more rounds at him as he ran to the cornfield. He did fire one more shot.”
Another sergeant arrived and kept watch on the cornfield. Guiler heard Kendall yelling and moving and could not believe she was still alive. Groveport Police Officer Danny Amabile arrived on scene and the two used a cruiser as a barricade to get to Collins.
“She rolled over from her side and said, ‘Will you do me a favor and get my hair out of my face?’ I couldn’t believe she was still able to communicate with us and I did move her hair out of her face,” said Guiler, who moved Kendall to a safe place. “She had to be moved because the medics would not respond directly to her because the scene was still active and we did not know his location or if he was still a threat. As I sat her down in the grass, I could see was losing a lot for blood from her leg. Franklin County deputies were able to escort the medics to her now that she was in a safe place. They then took Kendall and were able to stabilize her until they reached the hospital.”
Guiler said several agencies responded to the scene, including Hilliard’s K-9 unit which helped locate Collins’ former husband in the cornfield. He was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On the way to the hospital, as one of Collins’ lungs started to collapse, she prayed to stay alive and breathe. She said she made a silent pledge to God that if she lived, she would tell everyone He saved her life and had given her a purpose.
She was in a medically induced coma for 18 days and spent three months in the hospital.
She then spent three months in a rehabilitation facility learning how to walk again.
“I had to learn how to talk, walk, write and all basic things all over again,” said Collins. “It was a long process. I was very lucky to have my current husband Seth there with me every day. He helped keep me motivated when I felt like giving up. Seth stayed with me through everything. He has been my rock. Life has not been easy for us, but we have made it together.”
For women experiencing domestic abuse, Collins urges them to leave before the situation escalates.
“It will get worse,” Collins said. “Lean on your faith and family, but get away from the abuser. Abusers do not change. They only get worse when they lose that control. Protect yourself and your children. A restraining order is only a piece of paper.”
For help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE); LSS Choices Crisis Line, 614-224-4663 (HOME); or the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, 1-800-934-9840.