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Authorities call Athens woman's death 'a deliberate and personal act'

By Joe Johnson

The death of an Athens woman whose body was found partially nude and burned on an embankment in Habersham County was “a deliberate and personal act,” investigators said at a Friday morning press briefing.

The briefing was held at the Habersham sheriff's headquarters in Clarkesville, one day after the sheriff’s office released surveillance video showing Collier entering Family Dollar store not far from where her body was found on Sept. 10 -- the same day her family reported her missing, according to the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office.

A video of the press conference was emailed by the sheriff’s office to Classic City News. It can be viewed in its entirety below:

Authorities revealed Friday that Collier’s daughter, Amanda Bearden, who lived with her brother in Maryland, arrived at her parents’ home in Athens on Sept. 8.

Steven Collier told police that he last saw his wife when going to bed the night of Sept. 9. He said they slept in separate bedrooms due to his snoring, according to police.

Collier, 59, appeared to be calm and unafraid during her Sept. 10 afternoon trip to Family Dollar in Clayton, about 13 miles north of where her body was found in Clarkesville.

Outside surveillance cameras recorded Collier arriving alone to the store in a minivan she had rented, the sheriff’s office said.

The Habersham Sheriff’s Office said they found the videos of Collier arriving alone and shopping at Family Dollar on Sept. 10 when checking on a report that the woman’s daughter was there.

Surveillance video footage “revealed that Amanda Bearden was not at the store on the 10th of September,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Authorities said they continued to investigate Collier’ death as an apparent murder, but they were awaiting results of an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.

Col. Murray Kogod, Habersham’s chief deputy, previously said that when the body was located it was still "grasping a small tree with her right hand" at the base of an embankment.

Nearby, he said, deputies spotted the remnants of a fire, and that Collier's remains were "apparently burned with what appeared to be charring to her abdomen." There was no evidence to suggest that Collier's death resulted from a kidnapping, or was a suicide, according to Kogod.

Before they discovered Collier's body, deputies found a tote bag and blue tarp that had been partially burned, Kogod said.

The sheriff’s office said Family Dollar surveillance video shows Collier purchasing a rain poncho, a refillable torch lighter, two rolls of paper towels, a tarp and a tote bag.

Collier's body was located about 60 miles from her home on Rocky Drive ion Sept. 11, after she wired her daughter $2,385 along with the alarming message, “They are not going to let me go, love you.”

The wire transfer and cryptic message caused the woman’s husband and daughter to file a missing person report, police said.

Anyone with information about the Collier case is asked to call Investigator Cale Garrison at (706) 839-0559 or Investigator George Cason at (706) 839-0560.

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