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Woman sentenced in brutal killing of 20-year-old

Mary Collins was stabbed 133 times at a NoDa apartment in 2020, police said. Four people were arrested in connection with her killing.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Thursday, a judge sentenced a woman in connection the killing of a 20-year-old woman in Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood. Kelly Lavery, one of four people arrested in connection to the murder, was sentenced to 25-32 years in prison for the death of Mary Collins. 

Prosecutors say Collins was lured to an apartment and then brutally killed during the first COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. Collins' friends and family described her as sweet, kind and innocent. 

On March 28, 2020, authorities said Kelly Lavery and Lavi Pham sent Collins an Uber because she didn't drive and lured her to their apartment

Detectives said Lavery and Pham were in a relationship, and Collins knew the pair because she had previously briefly dated Pham. She thought she was heading to hang out with friends. Police believe Lavery, Pham and their friend Jimmy Salerno attacked Collins when she arrived.

Her family said Collins lived with disabilities and had a severe speech impediment, and her family believes the suspects used that to take advantage of her.

“She couldn’t speak very well; she couldn’t yell," her grandmother Mia Alderman said in court. "She couldn’t scream.”  

An autopsy report shows she was stabbed more than 133 times. Detectives said her body was wrapped in Saran wrap and duct tape, and hidden in a mattress for days. 

On Thursday afternoon, Lavery pled guilty to 2nd-degree murder, kidnapping and concealment of a body. She was sentenced to between 25-32 years in prison. 

“I’m so sorry that you’re hurting," Lavery said to Collins' family in court. "Mary’s death is a tragedy, it never should have happened and I wish there was something I could do to take away your pain.”

Collins' sister, Rylee Bardon, said the sentence and the apology are not enough for her. 

"They took a vulnerable person who had multiple disabilities and all she wanted was love," Bardon said. "They took someone vulnerable like that and hurt her in the worst of ways." 

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Salerno called a fourth person, America Diehl, whom he'd recently met on Tinder, to help clean up after the crime. According to warrants, the four suspects tried to hide Collins' body inside a mattress. 

Pham and Lavery were arrested at their home on April 5. Salerno was arrested in University City later that same day. Diehl wasn't arrested until Jun 2 after fleeing to Colorado. Lavery, Pham and Salerno were charged with kidnapping, murder and concealing a death. Diehl was charged with accessory after the fact and concealing a death. 

Pham also appeared briefly in court on Thursday. He said he is not guilty and his case will most likely go to trial. 

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