SEABROOK – Sean Urbanski, a 24-year-old former University of Maryland student who stabbed U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III to death in 2017, was found guilty of first-degree murder on Dec. 18.
It took the jury more than two hours to render a decision in the case after the trial date was pushed back several times before starting on Dec. 11. Prior to the jury’s verdict, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill announced on Dec. 17 that prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to show that Urbanski, who is White, killed Collins because he was Black, removing a hate crime charge.
Urbanski’s defense team attempted to remove the charge on Dec. 16, but Hill denied it the first time. However, in their closing arguments, the prosecution continued its message that the murder was racially motivated.
“This case was more than just about Lt. Collins,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said. “It was writing an injustice because we understand and we know Lt. Collins was targeted because he was Black; because he was talented (and) because he was accomplished (and) because he was going to make his mark on this world and we know that there are people in this world that cannot tolerate a Black man in that position.”
Collins, a Bowie State University student, was murdered on May 20, 2017 after being stabbed in the chest by Urbanski with a knife. Attorneys replayed video of the incident showing Urbanski leaving the scene before committing the stabbing and returning with a weapon. Prosecuting attorney Jonathon Church reminded the jury of the testimony of one of the witnesses, Amanda Lee, who saw him holding the knife before walking towards Collins.
“He had it ready because he knew in his head what he was going to do,” Church said.
Alongside with the video, the prosecution reminded the jury about the memes and photos that investigators found while researching his phone that showed racist and anti-African American views. Urbanski also was a part of a White supremacist group on Facebook, which investigators used to establish the hate crime charge.
“While the jury stuck that particular account, the fact is the jury took all of that under consideration, including the hate in reaching its verdict,” Braveboy said. “Our office and we believe justice was serviced, and we hope that the Collins family believes the same.”
In their closing remarks, the defense attempted to remind the jury that Urbanski was very drunk at the time of the incident, as it was found out that he had an alcohol concentration of .10, more than the .08 state legal limit.
Defense attorney John McKenna said that none of the racial discrimination evidence that the prosecution presented shows intent to kill. Instead, McKenna argued, alcohol was the contributing factor in Collins’ death.
“He was a stupid, drunk college kid,” McKenna said.
Before the jury left, Church rebutted, returning back to the memes and images on Urbanski’s phone before holding a beer can in the air, asking not to allow alcohol “be an excuse” not to convict.
Following the jury’s verdict, reactions from county officials was that justice served in this case. The Prince George’s County Council announced their support of the decision and their sympathies to Collins’ family, who were preparing to celebrate his graduation from Bowie State University before he was murdered.
“We remember the Bowie State University community as well, and all who will never benefit from the full potential of a life committed to public service and tragically cut short,” the council said.
“As the judicial process continues, our entire community, still deeply saddened by this senseless and unnecessary act of violence, remains committed to our County’s diversity and (are) united against every form of hate and violence.”
Collins’ parents, Richard Collins II and Dawn Collins, stood alongside the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) and her team as they addressed the media. Collins II thanked the county’s team of attorneys and the public for showing support throughout the two-year wait for the case to go to court.
Collins III had received orders to prepare to serve for the Army before his murder and was excited to serve as a “great officer for our country,” according to his father. Now that the trial is complete, Collins II said that the family can now “move on.”
“We appreciate all the support that (we) received throughout this horrific time in our lives,” Collins II said. “But it has made it so much easier to see that so many people cared and were willing to express that to my wife and I, so thank you.”
Braveboy thanked the hard work of the prosecution team that worked the case and stressed the importance of the Urbanski for the community, declaring that possible changes to the state’s hate crimes statute in the statehouse during this upcoming session. Now that the Collins family has the closure of their son’s murder case is resolved, they can now live out “his legacy of service and commitment” for the rest of their lives, the state’s attorney said.
“Even though every single case is significant, coming into this office, there was no case more significant than the case of Urbanski,” Braveboy said. “And it was not because of him but because of this young man, Lt. Richard Collins III, who was not just taken from his family but this entire community and this country.”
Urbanski will be sentenced on April 16 with Braveboy confirming that the state’s attorney’s office will recommend life in prison with no parole.