Death of Athens resident Debbie Collier who went missing in September ruled a suicide


By Joe Johnson

The death of Athens resident woman whose body was found in another county after disappearing from her home two months ago has been ruled to have been a suicide, according to the Habersham County Office, which investigated the case.

Deborrah "Debbie" Collier was found dead and partially naked on Sept. 11 in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, south of Clayton County and a 90-minute drive from her home in Athens. Her husband, Steven Collier, reported her missing at around 6 p.m. the day before.

She was discovered a few feet downhill from the site of a small fire, with burns on her stomach, soot in her nostrils and clutching on a small tree, authorities said, and

Habersham investigators initially thought the 59-year-old woman’s death might have been a homicide.

However, late Friday afternoon, the sheriff’s office issued a media release that said after an extensive and complex investigation it was determined that Collier had taken her own life.

“From the initial discovery on September 11, 2022 to date, the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division has remained vigilant in seeking out and following up on every possible lead regarding Deborrah Collier’s actions on the weekend of her death,” according to the media release. “Investigators have met with the (state) medical examiner’s office and spoke with the medical examiner in regard to the results of the autopsy, reviewed the findings of items submitted to the crime lab for analysis, reviewed the reports and records received in response to the 26 search warrants and subpoenas issued in relation to every form of social media, electronic communication, cellular tracking data, and banking records, and reviewed information gathered from the 20+ interviews of family members and potential witnesses.”

The release continued, “A detailed examination of all gathered information has enabled investigators to determine, based on factual evidence and data, that Mrs. Collier’s death was self-inflicted. Furthermore, the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that the cause of death was Inhalation of superheated Gases, Thermal Injuries, and Hydrocodone Intoxication and that the manner of death 0was suicide.

“Habersham County Sheriff’s Office investigators met with family members and discussed the specifics of the investigation prior to distribution of this release.”

On a personal note, “The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office would also like to extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Collier’s family and friends. It is our hope and prayer that the findings of this investigation provide some form of closure and allow for the healing process to begin

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