By Joe Johnson
The body of a missing Athens woman reportedly was partially naked and burned when found at the bottom of an embankment in a wooded area of northeast Georgia.
According to the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, the body of 59-year-old Deborah Collier was found on Sept. 11, one day after she was reported to Athens-Clarke County police by her husband, Steven Collier, as missing from their Rocky Drive home. Their adult daughter, who lives in another part of ACC, was interviewed for the report.
Both were concerned after the daughter received a disturbing message from her mom as part of a $2,385 Venmo transfer, the report indicated.
The missing persons case shifted to a homicide investigation the next day, when the body of Collier — who had messaged her daughter, "They are not going to let me go, love you" — was found near her rented Chrysler Pacifica after Habersham County dispatch was notified by ACCPD that a Sirius XM service representative told them that the service had received an alert that the minivan was in the area of Georgia Highway 15 and Victory Home Lane in Clarkesville, according to the Habersham sheriff’s office.
Athens is about an hour's drive from the site where Collier's body was located.
Wednesday's new information was made public
via an emailed video of Habersham County Chief Deputy Murray Kogod speaking about the homicide case.
Kogod said in the video 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."
Before they discovered Collier's body, deputies found a tote bag and blue tarp that had been partially burned, Kogod said.
Additionally, he said that other items of evidence were recovered from the scene, but he did not specify what those items were.
There was no evidence to suggest that Collier's death resulted from a kidnapping, or was a suicide, according to Kogod.
Steve Collier, told investigators he last saw his wife at 9 p.m. Sept. 10 and her car was still in the driveway when he left for work the following morning.
He said that he and his wife slept in separate bedrooms because of his snoring, according to the ACCPD missing person report, which indicated the only things Deborah took were her driver's license and debit card.
Her daughter tried calling her phone several times, but Collier never answered. When police tried her number, it went straight to voicemail.
The New York Post reported neighbors heard the sounds of arguing coming from the Collier residence the night before Deborah was reported missing.
There was commotion at the house,” a neighbor told the newspaper, which noted the neighbor said she frequently heard shouting from Collier’s home atop a small, wooded hill in Athens.
Collier worked for years at Carriage House Realty in Athens as the front office manager.
Officials have not yet commented on any possible persons of interest or potential suspects.
Kogod asked for anyone with information about this case to contact Investigator George Carson at 706-839-0560, or Investigator Cale Garrison at 706-839-0559.