Questions Surface about Fundraising and Funeral for Barway Collins

(By: Beth McDonough)

There is confusion about who's calling the shots in fundraising and funeral planning for Barway Collins.

The body of the 10-year-old Crystal boy was found in the Mississippi River nearly a month after his disappearance.

Barway's father, Pierre, is in jail, charged with his murder. Pierre claims he is innocent. Meanwhile, Barway's mother is half a world away in Liberia.

Penny Castano, who stood among members of the Liberian Minister's Association Monday in Brooklyn Park, said, "Barway belongs to the community; we all love him, he's our family."

That's why the group is working to make sure Barway's biological mother, Louise Karluah, gets to see her son in person one last time, at his funeral.

Karluah lives in Africa and can't afford to fly to Minnesota. The Liberian Minister's Association set up accounts at two banks: TCF for local donations and Wells Fargo for nationwide contributions. The group estimates it needs $13,000.

However, the separate bank accounts are creating suspicion within the roughly 30,000-member Liberian community.

When asked about who will have access to the money, Reverend Alexander Collins replied, "We've set up a team."

A team that involves community leaders, but not the Collins family nor its spokesperson, Pastor Harding Smith. And that's caused enough concern to the point that the ministers felt compelled to address those concerns.

"The money is not for anybody else; it's for Barway and for Louise to make sure he's buried with pride and dignity," said Victoria Peabody with the Organization of Liberians in MN.

Howard Dotson, a crime victim's advocate, said, "This reassures everybody there's not a conflict of interest; there's transparency and there's accountability."

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS via email, "It (the group) is working with the U.S. Embassy to support the efforts."

The ministers' group insists its efforts are volunteer, as are Pastor Harding Smith's.

Barway's body has been released to Estes Funeral Home in Minneapolis. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Shiloh Temple, located at 1201 West Broadway in Minneapolis.

Those interested in contributing to the fundraising effort can contact the banks listed above and request the Barway Collins Fund. READ MORE OF THIS STORY

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