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Famed forensic pathologist: Athens resident Debbie Collier was 'likely’ murdered

Updated: Feb 27

Deborrah "Debbie" Collier

By Joe Johnson

A renown pathologist has questioned the official finding that Athens resident Debbie Collier committed suicide five months ago.

Dr. Michael Baden -- former chief medical examiner for New York City who was hired by the families of George Floyd, Michael Brown and Jeffrey Epstein to independently review their loved ones’ autopsies -- said that after he recently reviewed Collier's autopsy report, he concluded that the 59-year-old woman’s death “was more likely a homicide rather than a suicide.”

The report was given to the pathologist by a reporter.

Baden maintains a private forensic pathology consulting practice in Manhattan, and he has testified in such high-profile murder trials as O.J. Simpson’s.

Dr. Michael Baden

Collier was reported missing by her husband on Sept. 10, 2022, and her naked and charred body was found the next day in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, over an hour away from Athens. Authorities said 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.

“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 was suicide,” the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office said.

However, Baden told Classic City News that the level of hydrocodone in Collier’s body at the time of death was consistent with that of someone, such as she, who was on a pain management regimen for back issues.

Additionally, he said, the autopsy found no traces of soot or carbon monoxide in Collier’s lungs, which meant she was dead prior to her body being exposed to the fire. Such evidence is present 99 percent of the time when people die in a fire, especially self-immolation, Baden said.

"From a forensic point of view, that would indicate that she was dead before the fire started," the pathologist said.

Baden also said the fact that Collier was found naked, led him to believe that it was unlikely she died by suicide.

"You usually need clothing to set yourself on fire," he said, adding that if she died before the fire, it would imply that at least one other person was in the woods with her.”

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