Details of Disappearance
Melissa and her infant daughter, Jasmine
, were last seen in Akron, Ohio on August 8, 1991. At 4:00 p.m., Melissa's mother dropped her daughter and granddaughter off at Melissa's apartment in the 100 block of Westwood Avenue. At around 7:30 p.m., Melissa and Jasmine left to walk to a grocery store four blocks from their residence. Neither of them has been seen again.
It's uncharacteristic of Melissa to be out of touch with her family; she usually spoke to her mother daily by phone. Even when she ran away for a month while she was pregnant with Jasmine, Melissa called her parents to let them know she was safe. Her mother described her as a very trusting teenager. She didn't have a driver's license in 1991 and relied on her mother for rides.
When her mother went to Melissa's apartment after the disappearance, she found no indications that Melissa had planned to leave with her baby. Her purse was in the bedroom, her clothes were freshly washed and folded, and there was a stock of diapers for Jasmine, as well as baby bottles already filled with formula and waiting in the fridge. Melissa's mother doesn't believe she would have left without taking her belongings and Jasmine's baby supplies. She also never cashed her last welfare check.
The last person to claim he saw Melissa and Jasmine is also the prime suspect in their cases. Raymond "Sweet Pea" Smith Jr. was staying with a woman who sublet her apartment to Melissa at the time. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. Smith said he saw Melissa and Jasmine leave the apartment that evening, and he himself left shortly after they did. When he returned to the apartment a day or two later, his clothes were stained. A witness thought the stains looked like blood, but this wasn't reported to the police until after it was no longer possible to locate the clothes for testing.
Smith had a history of violence, drug abuse and mental illness, with prior convictions for crimes ranging from drug offenses, sexual imposition and aggravated assault. Melissa had told her mother she was afraid of him and that he had made unwanted advances towards her. Shortly after Melissa and Jasmine disappeared, Smith and the woman whose apartment Melissa sublet moved to a new home on Raymond Street.
In February 1992, six months after Melissa and Jasmine disappeared, Smith died by suicide in the basement of his Raymond Street residence, at the age of 37. He left behind a note which said only "To whom it may concern" on it; the rest of the paper was blank. The motive for his suicide is unclear, but he was facing serious criminal charges and didn't want to return to prison. He was never charged in connection with the Collinses' disappearances; in fact, the police never even interviewed him about it.
The Collins cases are still unsolved, but foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved.