20-Year-Old Mary Collins's Life Was Cut Short by Her Peers — What Happened?

Mary Collins was just an innocent 20-year-old girl who wanted to hang out with friends. What followed was their worst nightmare.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jul. 10 2024, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

Content warning: This article contains graphic details of violence.

Over four years after her brutal murder, Mary Collins would’ve turned 25 on July 6, 2024. But the world had to move on without her. As her family and friends remember Collins and her legacy, many are left wondering what exactly happened to the young Mary Collins.

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Despite her death’s brutality and severity, it received little to no media attention at the time with the COVID-19 pandemic looming large in March 2020. At just 20 years old, Mary's life was cut short by people she thought were her friends. So what happened to Mary Collins and what was the timeline of her death and the aftermath?

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What happened to Mary Collins? She was brutally murdered by people she thought were friends.

On March 28, 2020, Kelly Lavery invited Collins to hang out with her and Lavi Pham, who happened to be Collins’s ex-boyfriend. Collins was lonely as the pandemic was setting in, and the invitation came the same day the crime took place. Lavery and Pham were newly dating, and family and friends later discovered that Lavery had been harassing Collins online.

But Lavery apologized to Collins and invited her to make amends. Collins believed her rather than suspecting any sort of ill will. Collins lived with her grandmother, Mia Alderman, who looked after her. She also had a genetic disability, 22q Deletion Syndrome, known also as DiGeorge Syndrome (DGS).

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DGS can cause all sorts of heart, immune, speech, learning, and/or behavior difficulties, and it made it difficult for Collins to move on her own, so Lavery even called her an Uber to bring her to their luxury NoDA apartment. The couple went out and got sushi with Collins in a video they shared, potentially trying to prove that all was good and that they were innocent, but eventually, the police caught on.

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When Collins disappeared, Alderman was adamant about getting the police involved, but they did not take the situation seriously because Collins was over 18, even if she lived with disabilities. Alderman tracked Collins’s phone to Pham and Lavery’s apartment and searched it several times with their permission but found nothing. However, a witness statement revealed what happened.

Mary Collins first day home from the hospital in 1999
Source: Facebook/Mary's Voice

Mary's mother holding her on her first day home from the hospital

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A third “friend,” Jimmy Salerno, went to the apartment to hang out with them and assist in Collins’s murder. Salerno later bragged about the murder to a friend at a party, who immediately went to the police. After a second witness gave a statement about Lavery and the suspected killers, the police went into the apartment with a search warrant and found Collins’s body where the witness said it would be — in a mattress.

Lavery, Pham, and Salerno banded together to tie up and beat Collins in a bathtub before stabbing her 133 times. They then let her bleed out before wrapping her body in plastic wrap and duct tape with Cascade dish detergent and pumpkin spice shower gel to mask the smell before stuffing her into trash bags and hiding her in their mattress. Salerno had also called a friend, America Diehl, to help clean up the crime scene.

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When police found Collins, they arrested the three killers and Diehl, who had fled to Colorado. Allegedly, Lavery and Pham plotted to kill Collins over text for refusing to have a threesome with them. People have since described Lavery as the “ringleader,” with Diehl claiming she was coerced into helping. An alleged old friend of Lavery said on Reddit that she is “a sociopathic killer with zero remorse … She comes from money and is a MASTER manipulator.”

For now, Diehl and Salerno have been released on bail. Lavery was sentenced to 25-32 years in prison with a guilty plea deal, while Pham and Salerno are still awaiting their sentencing trials after pleading not guilty.

Hopefully, a little more attention to this case will bring at least some justice to the Collins family, who have described Mary as “loving and silly.”

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