Defendant pleads guilty to charges in connection with death of Charlotte woman

Kelly Lavery was sentenced to prison for her role in the brutal murder of Mary Collins.
The family of a young Charlotte woman who was killed, her body hidden inside a mattress, is desperate for justice.
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The family of a young Charlotte woman who was killed, and her body hidden in a mattress, is desperate for justice.

Two of the people charged in connection with Mary Collins’ death appeared at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Thursday.

There were a lot of significant and emotional moments inside the courtroom – from Collins’ family speaking and a defendant sharing a prayer and a prosecutor being moved to tears.

In late March 2020, her family reported her missing after not hearing from her for several days.

In April, when police returned to the apartment, they found her body hidden inside of a mattress - details that brought the prosecutor to tears.

“Her body had been wrapped tightly in trash bags and duct tape and then placed back in the mattress, from which the box springs had been removed,” the prosecutor said.

The family believes Collins took an Uber and was lured to an apartment in NoDa.

Passionate moments took place as Collins’ family addressed the court.

“She couldn’t speak very well, she couldn’t yell like this, she couldn’t scream, I think she called for me,” Collins’ grandmother said.

Four people were charged in connection to Collins’ death.

Two of them were in court today.

Kelly Lavery pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, concealment of a body and first-degree kidnapping charges, and was sentenced to 25-32 years in prison.

“She saw the light of my sister and wanted to put it out, because you don’t know what light is,” Collins’ sister, Rylee Bardon, said while looking at Lavery.

Lavery addressed the court saying, “I want to pray for Mary that she’s in peace and that she knows I’m so sorry for what happened to her.”

Lavi Pham who was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and concealing or failing to report a death was also in court.

Pham pleaded not guilty, and a trial date will be set at a later time.

“As a mother, it just feels like nothing, nothing is going to satisfy me, but I want something to be done, if that makes sense,” Collins’ mother, Kasei Delpezzo, said after court. “Every day I think about how many more days do I have, because I have to live those days without ever seeing my daughter again.”

James Salerno and America Diehl were also charged in connection with Collins’ death.

Salerno pleaded not guilty.

Diehl has an administrative court date July 7.

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