Episode 92-Brian Neil Hooks and Andy Tench Missing and The Murder of Mary Collins

In September of 1988, 21-year-old Brian “Neil” Hooks went missing from the Florence area of South Carolina. According to an article that ran in the Florence Morning News, his sister Amy Turner said Hooks had gone by their parents’ house and said that he and his live-in boyfriend were going to the beach for the weekend. He said he’d call them when he got back. They never saw him again. According to the facts share on The Doe Network website, Hooks’ cousin saw him at a club that night. Hooks asked his cousin if he could spend the night at his place, but because this relative had just moved and he hadn’t unpacked yet, there wasn’t a place for Hooks to sleep. Later that night, a roommate of that cousin shared that Hooks was scared and thought his boyfriend was going to hurt him.

Turner said she called Hooks’ house and asked to speak with him, but roommate living in the home said there was no one there by the name of Neil and hung up. She called back and asked to speak to her brother’s boyfriend. He said Hooks had run off and hadn’t told anyone where he was going. Turner and her family knew that didn’t sound like Hooks—he had always kept in touch with their mother and wouldn’t have ceased all communication that way. They went to the Florence County Sheriff’s Department to file a missing persons report. An investigator there worked the case until the leads went cold. He had suspected foul play, and even a identified a person of interest in the case, Hooks’ boyfriend at the time, but was unable to collect any concrete evidence about the whereabouts of Brian Neil Hooks.

In 2011, Hooks’ father passed away, and his daughter made a promise to him that she would continue searching for her brother. She reached out to the Sheriff’s Department to see if they would take another look at the case. Lt. Glen Kirby took over the case and began interviewing people, including some who were in jail with the person of interest at one point. He said in the early 2000s’, they had received information that Hooks’ remains might be buried near Willow Creek Road, which was where Hooks had last resided. They searched and excavated an area but were unable to find any evidence. The family of Hooks have come to terms with the fact that he is likely dead, but they still want closure. His sister told the Florence Morning News, “This has been really, really hard, not knowing anything all these years. We want his remains. We want to give him a proper burial and have a place where we can go and talk to him and feel close to him. We want him home.”

At the time he went missing, Brian Neil Hooks stood about five feet seven inches tall and weighed around 140 pounds. He was possibly wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He had sandy hair and blue eyes. He had a scar on his left wrist, and a tattoo of a cross on his left shoulder. His front teeth were in bad shape and had started to decay. Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Florence County Sheriff’s Office at 843-665-2121 or the state Crime Stoppers hotline at 888-274-6372.

Mary Collins

Twenty-year-old Mary Collins was born with 22q deletion syndrome, also known as DiGeorge syndrome. This genetic condition can cause heart defects and poor immune system function, along with delayed development and behavioral and emotional problems. She was raised by her grandmother Mia Alderman in Charlotte. Alderman told local media outlets that her granddaughter had a severe speech impediment and the mentality of a 14 or 15-year-old. Later on in court, she would also explain that Collins was vulnerable because she desperately wanted friends and was self conscious because of her disability. A segment that ran on news station WCNC said Collins had problems completing simple tasks like counting change or navigating her neighborhood.

On March 28, 2020, Kelly Lavery, age 24, and Lavi Pham, age 23, arranged an Uber to pick up Collins and bring her to an apartment in the NoDa area of Charlotte where the couple lived. Collins had briefly dated Pham at one point when they were friends in high school and was living with her grandmother when she left to visit Lavery and Pham. Collins’ family thought she was simply going to spend the evening with friends, but she never returned. Lavery and Pham posted videos of themselves on social media with Collins, as they picked up take-out sushi and headed back to their apartment.

Prosecutors later alleged that Lavery and Pham drugged Collins with Xanax, put her in a bathtub, and brutally cut and stabbed her more than 133 times. The motive? Apparently Collins had refused to have a threesome with the couple previously and they were angry with her. But Collins’ aunt also told the media she had seen Lavery bully Collins on social media before—writing comments about how ugly she thought the young woman was. In Collins’ opinion, Lavery was what she called a “mean girl” and wanted to see Collins suffer.

A third person, 22-year-old James “Jimmy” Salerno, was also present during the murder, as phone records placed him in the apartment with the timeframe that Collins was murdered. Soon, there was a fourth person, 18-year-old America Diehl, who was called in to help with crime scene cleanup. Salerno had met the young woman on Tinder and asked her to assist in cleaning the bathroom. A list of cleaning supplies was later found in the Notes app on his phone. Lavery and Pham used Saran Wrap and duct tape to wrap up Collins’ body after she was dead, and attempted to mask the odor with dish liquid and shower gel. They then cut open a mattress and put her body inside, planning to dispose of it outside the apartment later.

By then, Mary Collins’ family had reported her missing, and the gave police the address of the apartment she’d been planning to visit, as it was the last known location for her phone. Around the same time, Salerno told someone about what had occurred in the apartment. This witness went to the police and reported the details. Officers visited Lavery and Pham’s apartment, but they claimed they didn’t know where Collins was. The police had permission to walk through the apartment, but because they didn’t have a search warrant they only did a cursory search and found nothing suspicious.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department put out a missing persons bulletin for Collins on April 3, 2020, and returned to Lavery and Pham’s apartment for a more thorough search after the witness called them back and said the body was still in the apartment. That’s when they discovered the body of Mary Collins hidden inside the mattress.

In June 2022, Kelly Lavery pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and kidnapping charges, and an additional 60 to 84 months on the concealment charge. Lavi Pham has pleaded not guilty to the same charges and is still awaiting trial. Jimmy Salerno pleaded not guilty to murder, concealing a death, and kidnapping. He was held without bond for nearly three years, but on January 13, 2023, he had bond set at $250,000 and was released. He is allegedly staying with his parents, which was stipulation of his release. America Diehl was charged with accessory after the fact and concealing a death and released on $100,000 bond.

The family of Mary Collins was appalled that a person involved in this gruesome murder would be allowed to walk out of jail and remain free. They have founded an advocacy group called Mary’s Voice, an advocacy group they started that hopes to be a voice for the voiceless and work to improve public safety for those with disabilities. You can learn more at justiceformarysantina.com.

Andy Tench

Thirty-one-year-old Andy Tench, who lives in Belmont, North Carolina, has not been seen since March 24 and his family is concerned for his safety. That Sunday was Tench’s birthday, and according to a news report than ran locally on WSOC-TV, he asked his mom Tracie Blanton to go with him to a local pool hall to celebrate. But it was late and she was tired, so she declined the invitation. He never returned home and failed to make it into work the next day. Blanton tried to call his cell phone, but he didn’t answer the phone. Eventually, it began going straight to voice mail instead of ringing.

On Monday, March 25, around 10:30 p.m., police found Tench’s car, a 2010 gold Hyundai Electra on Highway 74, near Bonanza Road, which is more than 35 miles away from his family’s home. It was spotted again around 3 a.m. on March 26 near Gray Fox Road, also in the Monroe area. The blinkers on the car were flashing, but his keys, wallet, and phone were not in the car or surrounding area. When his sister checked out the car at a local towing company, she said she felt someone else had been in the car based on how far back the drivers’ seat was. She also knew her brother would not have abandoned it on his own. There were two receipts inside the car for purchases made that Monday morning.

Tench graduated in 2012 from Forestview High School. He is a Gaston County native, but had recently moved back home after living in Colorado for about seven years. He had been working part-time at a nursing facility, and was supposed to begin full-time hours when he failed to show up for work following his birthday weekend.

The Gaston Gazette reported the police are currently working to obtain his phone and financial records in the hopes they may shed light on Tench’s disappearance. His family is asking that anyone who sees him contact them at 704-589-5896 or 704-674-8879.

Another recent news item I’d like to discuss occurred in Sherills Ford, North Carolina. According to WSOC-TV, at the end of last month a Duke Energy worker discovered human remains about 200 yards off Highway 150 near a small creek. The local authorities were called in and the scene was processed. Dental records analyzed during the autopsy determined the remains belonged to 23-year-old Eileen Michelle Lavery. The Winston-Salem Police Department had reported her missing in March of 2023. The cause and manner of the young woman’s death remain a mystery. Investigators are also working to determine why she might have been on the property at Highway 150 at the time of her death. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office at 828-465-8340.

Show Resources:

Brian Neil Hooks

Florence Morning News

September 25, 2011

‘Neil didn’t stay away from mama’


Page 2


Florence Morning News

November 5, 1988

Lawmen look for Hooks


Mary Collins





Andy Tench