published Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Red Bank judge tells slaying defendants he wished he could send them 'straight to hell right now'

  • photo
    Attorney Hilary Hodgkins, left, talks with Zachary Hughes after a preliminary hearing Monday at Red Bank City Court which bound Hughes and two other men over to the grand jury in the slaying of Jordan Collins.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

  • photo
    Red Bank Judge Johnny Houston is seen in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A judge told a group of men accused of robbing and beating a Red Bank man to death that he wished he could “pull a trap door” and send them “straight to hell right now” before sending their cases to a grand jury Monday evening.

Red Bank City Court Judge Johnny Houston was speaking to the men charged in the slaying of 27-year-old Jordan Collins, whose body was found inside his Redding Road home Sept. 24.

Collins’ skull was fractured over a dozen places after he was bludgeoned with a crowbar, officials said.

Officials have charged 19-year-old Zachary Hughes with criminal homicide in connection with Collins’ death. Hughes lived with Collins for a brief time, family members say.

Markel Mitchell, 16, and Jeremy Reinig, 27, also are charged with criminal homicide, accused of being accomplices. All three and another man, 19-year-old Lorenzo Bell, have been charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, accused of allegedly making purchases with Collins’ card.

It could take the Hamilton County grand jury several weeks to decide whether to indict the men.

Seven witnesses testified during the more than two-hour preliminary hearing.

Red Bank police officers explained how they tracked purchases made with Collins’ credit card and watched surveillance tapes from a Kangaroo station and Walmart that show Hughes, Mitchell and Bell making multiple purchases — including cigarettes, clothes and an Xbox game.

Red Bank police Sgt. Steve Hope said in interviews Mitchell admitted to being in the house when Hughes killed Collins.

He also said Reinig admitted in interviews to driving the pair to Collins’ house so they could “hit a lick” — or, commit a robbery. He told detectives he waited in his car and that Hughes and Mitchell emerged from the house carrying a laptop, cell phone and three beers.

Bell’s stepfather, Nate Watkins, said his stepson was at the family’s home at the time the killing allegedly took place and said Hughes and Mitchell came over afterward and were discussing the robbery.

“Mr. Zach was saying, ‘I think I killed him. ... I don’t know if I killed him or not,’” Watkins testified.

Collins’ father — who discovered his son’s beaten body at the home — was sworn in before the court but did not testify. As he walked past the defendants’ table he took time to level each man a long, piercing look.

After testimony, Assistant District Attorney Boyd Patterson argued that there was ample evidence to connect Hughes to the killing and said the other three men were “on the hook with criminal responsibility.”

In her closing statement, Hughes’ attorney Hilary Hodgkins said the prosecution’s evidence focused on a burglary, and the state didn’t have enough evidence to support the homicide charges.

“There has not been one scintilla of proof related to cause of death,” she said. “I’m surprised the medical examiner is not here.”

Houston said the defendants’ confessions to investigators were enough proof to link them to the crime.

“It’s sad our society has devolved to this, that they think they have a right to take things that belong to someone else — including someone’s life,” he said.

He then pointed to Hughes and Mitchell, saying he wished he could send them to hell, to which he added: “I’m sure that will happen soon enough.”

Hughes’ sister Zoë Hughes started crying as the judge gave his final words.

“Zach doesn’t deserve that. He may deserve time. He needs to be in a mental institution,” she said. “But nobody should have said that to them.”

All four defense attorneys declined to comment on the pending case, but Hodgkins did share one statement after the hearing.

“I don’t think Judge Houston had the jurisdiction to condemn my client to hell,” she said.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at or 423-757-6673.

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dennis said...

I really don't think that this is a way that a sitting judge should act. I think that this judge should step down from the bench if he is going to make his mind up before hearing any of the evidence in the case. I also beleive that this judge just cost Hamilton County more money because their attorneys are for sure going to ask that the trials be move to another county.

October 11, 2011 at 6:41 a.m.
dcob51 said...

Not a big fan of Houston But have to say GO JOHNNY GO!!!!!! HANG THEM HI !!!!!! Every body needs to remember it could have been one of their family these thugs killed!!!

October 11, 2011 at 7:17 a.m.
headcoconut said...

dcob51, I'm with dennis on this one. Anyone judge who can't hold his/her personal opinions to him/herself is not worthy of hearing any case in the couts. If Judge Houston is putting on a show to impress the public then, and again, he's not worthy of hearing this or any case. He should go back to practicing law as an attorney.

October 11, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
headcoconut said...

To Ms. Harrison, why is it that on the front page of the story you've placed a picture of the two black males, when there were two whites and two blacks allegedly involved? For sure you know many will not click on the page to read beyond that first initial page. Sending out subliminal messages to readers is not reporting the news without fear or favor. It's an attempt to control and sway readers' opinion and even bias.

October 11, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
Maplewood said...

At least this isn't a gun crime. These creeps used a crowbar to beat the victim to death which apparently is a better class of violence, to extrapolate from the recent stories the TFP has been promoting.

October 11, 2011 at 11 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Ban crowbars!!! They're dangerous, we need crowbar regulation, and crowbar owning permits!!!!

October 11, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.
Spicychick said...

Since reading this story, I have asked a number of people about Judge Houston and have heard some really nice things about him. First, he is a judge AND an attorney. He is the part-time Red Bank Judge, but a full time attorney as well. Second, he is well-liked and respected by other attorneys, judges, AND police. Third, his role in the case is over. He heard the case, politely listened to the facts and treated all the attorneys well, sent the case to the grand jury, and THEN made these comments. Maybe a little out of the ordinary, but who DOES NOT AGREE with what he said? These thugs should have been executed on the spot!

I am told that the case now goes to the grand jury and then goes to criminal court. Judge Houston's time in the case is over and would have been over no matter what he said. ALSO, the case was apparently set a couple of weeks ago and Judge Houston reset it because he wanted to make sure that competent attorney were appointed given the "complex legal issues involved." Thats what a person told me who was in the court on that day.

In my opinion, you have a fine man as judge up there, who has been doing a great job in a city where most public officials cannot seem to do anything right.

I bet that's the first time anyone has told these thugs what they needed to hear. What about the dead young man and HIS family?

I say, "three cheers for Judge Houston!!" for telling it like it is.

October 11, 2011 at 7:06 p.m.
DEANNA79 said...

I knew Jordan, may he rest in peace.

October 11, 2011 at 7:39 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

“It’s sad our society has devolved to this, that they think they have a right to take things that belong to someone else — including someone’s life,” he said.

Powerful nations commit the above all the time. What does anyone thing wars are all about, but taking things that belonged to someone else, some other country. OIL anyone? POPPY everyone?

October 11, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
SpicyDude said...

That Judge Houston is doing a fine fine jub. Best Judge the U.S. has seen since Judge Roy Bean. Go Johnny Go.

October 16, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
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