As murder, hate crime trial begins, parents of murdered student seek justice, closure

The parents of a promising young man — days away from college graduation, and newly-commissioned in the U.S. Army — hope the murder and hate crime trial of Sean Urbanski will bring much-delayed justice and closure.

Opening statements in Urbanski’s trial are expected Wednesday morning, in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

Richard Collins III, was set to graduate from Bowie State University in May 2017, and had been commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, two days before he was fatally stabbed while visiting friends at the University of Maryland College Park campus.

Dawn and Richard Collins were present during two days of jury selection and issued a written statement before opening statements.

“Richard’s future was bright, and we couldn’t be prouder of all he accomplished over the course of his short life,” the parents wrote. Collins “was devoted to a life of service to his country.”

Urbanski faces state charges of first-degree murder and a hate crime resulting in death. The maximum sentence for a murder conviction in Maryland is life in prison with no parole, while the hate crime charge could add 20 years.

As WTOP first reported, the Federal Bureau of Investigation determined there was not enough evidence to warrant federal hate crime charges, which could have made Urbanski eligible for the death penalty.

“The delays in this case have prolonged our pain and anguish over his senseless murder,” according to Dawn and Richard Collins. “Nothing will bring our son back, but we’re glad that the trial is finally starting and hope the criminal justice system will provide a measure of closure by bringing to justice the man responsible for Richard’s death to the fullest extent of the law.”

The defense is expected to acknowledge Urbanski stabbed Collins, but will argue he was too drunk to form the intent required for a first-degree murder conviction.

Prosecutors will attempt to show Urbanski murdered Collins because of the color of his skin — Collins was black, Urbanski is white. Jurors will see racist memes recovered from Urbanski’s phone, and hear about his engagement with the “Alt Reich: Nation” Facebook group.

Jurors will also be able to consider second-degree murder or manslaughter charges. In addition, after evidence and testimony is complete, the defense could argue the jury should also be able to consider involuntary manslaughter.

Alternatively, jurors could deem Urbanski not guilty.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up