Santa Cruz man sentenced 88 years to life in prison

A man convicted last month in the daytime fatal stabbing of a popular Santa Cruz businesswoman in 2012 was sentenced Wednesday in Santa Cruz County Superior Court to 88 years to life in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Judge Timothy Volkmann sentenced Charles Anthony Edwards III to the maximum prison term allowed under the state’s three strikes law, due to Edwards’ prior felony convictions, prosecutors said.

Volkmann arrived at the sentence of 88 years to life after denying a defense motion to have the defendant’s prior strike convictions dismissed to avoid the maximum term, according to prosecutors.

A jury convicted Edwards, 45, on Feb. 4 of first-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Shannon Collins, the well-respected co-owner of the Camouflage lingerie and adult store at 1329 Pacific Ave., on May 7, 2012, in Santa Cruz.

On Feb. 25, the same jury found the Edwards was sane, meaning that he would be eligible to serve a life sentence in state prison instead of a mental hospital, prosecutors said.

Collins, a resident of the unincorporated county area of Live Oak, was walking in the 300 block of Broadway several blocks northeast of her business on her way to a haircut appointment when she was attacked and stabbed multiple times at 11:52 a.m., police said.

People in the area who witnessed the stabbing tried to render medical aid and information they provided to police helped officers locate Edwards minutes later at the intersection of Barson and Campbell streets, prosecutors said.

Edwards had tried to discard a knife and bloody clothing to hide the evidence and disguise his appearance, investigators said.

Santa Cruz police issued a statement the following day describing the fatal attack on Collins as “senseless, unprovoked, and random.”

Members of the community organized a memorial walk, which they called “I am Shannon,” tracing the route she would have taken to get back to her store on Pacific the day she was killed.

Edwards, a former resident of San Francisco, had a criminal history starting at the age of 12, when he committed a robbery, and was convicted of five violent felony crimes, two involving assaults on elderly victims and two while using deadly weapons, prosecutors said.

He had only been in Santa Cruz for a brief time before the stabbing, they said.

In a statement, Assistant District Attorney Celia Rowland stated that Edwards is “a poster child for the three strikes law, which is aimed at incarcerating career violent criminals who have continually demonstrated that they pose a serious risk to the community.” Rowland stated. “Hopefully this sentence and the completion of the judicial process will provide closure to those close to Shannon Collins and others who are affected by this vicious murder.”