Officials say retired Miss. trooper commits suicide in prison cell

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Paul Pete Collins, a former Mississippi State trooper who was sentenced to 10 years for fondling a child, committed suicide today (Sunday) by hanging himself in a prison cell.

That's according to Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. The 62-year-old Collins spent years with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, receiving praise from supervisors and several awards for his work.

President Clinton even awarded him the Presidential Citation for an Outstanding Enforcement Officer in 1994. After retiring from the highway patrol, Collins became a highly sought-after motivational speaker only to be disgraced by charges he fondled a 13-year-old girl.

He was sentenced Friday in Lee County to 15 years with five suspended and 10 to serve. He was sent to do his time at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.

That's where Epps says his body was found hanging at 2:44 p.m. Epps said the investigation was continuing and few details. Collins was convicted Thursday in Lee County on one count of fondling a child under the age of 16.

Prosecutors say the touching occurred while Collins was visiting a home where the child was spending the night.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)