Murder of Scott Collins by Thomas Messina profiled on Murder in the Heartland

Mugshot of Thomas Messina
Thomas Messina admitted to killing Scott Collins and is serving 45 years. Pic credit: IL Dept. of Corrections

Murder in the Heartland is investigating the murder of Gregory “Scott” Collins, who was stabbed to death in his home by Thomas Messina during a robbery in Casey, Illinois.

In January 2014, 19-year-old Messina broke into the home of 54-year-old Collins, intent on robbing him. Messina had grown up in a neighboring house to Collins, so the police believe the criminal chose that home out of familiarity.

Unfortunately, Collins and his German Shepherd dog Gretchen returned home unexpectedly, surprising Messina, and he responded by stabbing them both to death. Before she died, Gretchen bit Messina, which would eventually lead to his downfall.

Messina tried to hide his crime by setting fire to the house, but firefighters pulled the remains of Collins and his dog from the house before all the evidence was destroyed.

A longtime neighbor of Collins described the victim as the “most kindest guy you’ll ever meet” and said he would think nothing of giving you the “shirt off his back.”

The neighbor added that the murder was “gross and terrifying” and that they hoped Messina would suffer the same fate as his victim.

Thomas Messina convicted of Scott Collins murder by the blood found in dog’s mouth

The police zeroed in on Messina after they matched his blood to drops found in the dog’s mouth.

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The cops further tied Messina to the crime scene when they found a knife and a shotgun belonging to Collins at the home of a relative.

Messina was apprehended in February 2014 by agents of the Illinois State Police. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office triumphantly posted his mugshot to social media.

He was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated and residential arson, felony possession of a firearm, and aggravated cruelty to animals.

Messina’s legal team tried to blame the crime on mental illness and substance abuse.

Thomas Messina confessed to killing Scott Collins for money

Eventually, Messina agreed to a deal. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was given a 45-year sentence, and the other charges were dropped. The killer is currently incarcerated at the Lawrence Correctional Facility in Sumner, Illinois.

In 2020, Messina appealed his prison sentence, claiming it was too harsh and violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. His petition was unsuccessful.

Murder in the Heartland airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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