Victoria Collins, 59, of Lakeland.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland woman found guilty of killing her lover, sentenced to life

It only took jurors an hour and a half to convict Victoria Collins for the murder of her tenant and longtime lover, Gary Greenfield.

Victoria Collins, 59, of Lakeland.

Greenfield’s body was found July 29, 2015, behind a shed on the property he rented from Collins. His body was in a state of advanced decomposition and had been wrapped in a tarp and placed under a section of privacy fencing.

A knife was found near his leg, and a belt and plastic bag were located underneath his body. Medical examiners were able to identify high levels of zolpidem – a sleeping pill – in his system, but they were unable to determine exactly how he died because of how long he’d been left in the elements.

Greenfield did not have a prescription for zolpidem, but Collins did.

Hours after being convicted by the jury, Collins was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Harb.

Assistant State Attorneys Hope Pattey and Kristie Ducharme, along with the assistance of Polk County Sheriff’s Office detective Ernest Fulcher – who was the lead detective on the case, tried the two-week case, laying out the facts for the jurors.

Collins and Greenfield had been lovers – on and off – for 41 years, and he’d just moved from New York to Florida and rented a mobile home from her. They started spending a lot of time together, and Pattey said she believed Collins was ready to leave her husband of 23 years and live out the rest of her years with Greenfield.

But Collins then found out that Greenfield had been meeting up with other women.

Collins called Greenfield on June 15, 2015, to find out he was with another woman in the trailer she was renting him, and Pattey said, that’s what sent her over the edge.

Assistant State Attorney Hope Pattey addresses jurors in closing arguments June 16. The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before finding Collins guilty of first-degree murder.

“She’d given Gary Greenfield a place to live, given him her heart,” Pattey said. “It was too much.”

Pattey told jurors she believes Collins went to his home the next day, drugged him, wrapped the plastic bag around his neck and rolled him up in a tarp.

“He may have been alive and, frankly, he probably was,” Pattey told jurors. “He died alone under a bush.”

Greenfield’s cell phone records and financial statements were used to support that Collins killed him on June 16, 2015.

From April 1, 2015, to June 15, 2015, Greenfield’s cell phone records show that there were 4,778 communications – the majority being voice calls with a couple hundred texts. After the 15th of the month, there were only 549 communications, most of which were text messages, with the only voice calls being between Collins and Greenfield.

Nobody heard Gary Greenfield’s voice after June 16.

Not only did the number of communications decrease dramatically, the location they were sent from also changed.

From April 1, 2015, to June 15, 2015, his cell phone utilized the tower by his house 358 times. After June 15th, his cell used the tower by Collins’ house 80 times and the tower by his house only 41 times.

There were a series of communications where Collins called Greenfield’s phone while both were in the same location, using the same tower. In one instance, surveillance video shows Collins making the call with Greenfield’s cell on her, but he isn’t there.

Pattey said the cell phone evidence made it clear Collins was also using his phone to contact his family members, pretending to be him. When family members and friends would receive a text, some would try to call, but they never got an answer.

“That’s because Victoria Collins couldn’t answer the phone,” Pattey said.

Greenfield’s cell phone was never found.

Prosecutors also examined Greenfield’s financial statements and found that Collins made a series of withdrawals and transactions with his debit cards, starting with a cash withdrawal of $1,012 on June 16, 2015.

ASA Pattey shows the jury the difference between Greenfield’s actual signature and the way it looked when Collins attempted to sign his name.

Surveillance video and witness testimony confirmed Collins made multiple transactions with his cards, including the purchase of a meal at Manny’s Chophouse in July where she attempted to mimic his signature.

Later that month, she used his card at an Applebees and signed her own name: V. Collins.

When Greenfield’s body was found on her property July 29 by the home owners association, Pattey pointed out that Collins’ behavior was odd.

“This is the man that she loved for 41 years, who she has not spoken to by at her own admission since the end of June, has been found in a tarp and is a virtual bag of bones, having been eaten by maggots and every other small animal,” Pattey said. “Instead of having been grateful his body had been found and his family could give him a proper burial, she was angry. … She was so mad they went on this property and discovered her secret.”

Pattey reminded the jurors that law enforcement didn’t know if the body found was Greenfield’s or if Greenfield had harmed someone else. Yet Collins was inconsolable when she arrived at the scene.

“She is not crying because she thinks it is Gary Greenfield. She’s crying because she knows it is Gary Greenfield, and he’s been found,” Pattey said. “Her secret has been found out.”

Law enforcement continued to work the case but did not have a suspect. It wasn’t until Aug. 13, 2015 – Gary Greenfield’s birthday – that they started to suspect Collins.

Former Ledger reporter Clifford Parody wrote the initial newspaper story about Greenfield’s body being found. He attempted to interview Collins but could not get in touch with her, so he left his business card at her house in hopes that she’d reach out to him.

Parody did receive a call from Collins on August 13, but she pretended to be someone else, frantically telling him that “He wasn’t supposed to die.”

The caller then began an elaborate story about how she thought her boyfriend killed Gary Greenfield.

She said she was a prostitute and would drug her clients with sleeping pills to rob them after they fell asleep.

“That was supposed to happen to Gary,” the caller said. “He was supposed to fall asleep. He wouldn’t fall asleep.”

She made reference to a belt that Greenfield had taken off and then said her boyfriend returned from robbing Greenfield with bloody hands, his cell phone and two wallets. It wasn’t until weeks later that the caller claimed she learned that the man had died and that his name was Gary Greenfield.

The Ledger reporter said that the caller’s story seemed off, so he took the information to the Sheriff’s Office.

Not only did detectives trace the phone to Parody back to a cell phone Collins bought at Target, the caller knew information about how Greenfield was killed that no one other than law enforcement and the suspect were privy to.

“Nobody knew about the belt except for the person who killed Gary Greenfield,” Pattey said. “Nobody.”

Collins was arrested on December 15, 2015.

In trial, the defense claimed all of the facts presented by the state were purely circumstantial. Collins’ attorney told the jury that they could only speculate about all of the evidence and that none of it proved she was guilty.

But Pattey reminded jurors of the events that took place after Greenfield’s death point only to Victoria Collins. She even showed the jury 137 circumstances that prove she was his murderer.

“She is heartless, cold and manipulative. … No, we don’t have DNA or fingerprints. We don’t have a formal confession by this woman – we have something better. We have her own actions over and over and over again to show that she is the one responsible for what happened to Gary Greenfield,” Pattey said in her closing argument.

“This woman is a master manipulator,” she said. “She (Collins) did all of this. She did every bit of it, and she is guilty – guilty as charged. Walk back into this courtroom and tell her she didn’t get away with this one.”