By Joe Johnson
Over a week after a missing Athens woman’s body was found in Habersham County authorities continue searching for a suspect in what they said was an apparent homicide.
Deborah Collier, 59, was reported missing from her home on Rocky Drive on Sept. 10 by her husband, Steven Collier, according to an Athens-Clarke County police report. Her body was found the next day, down an embankment in Clarkesville.
“Over the past several (sic) weeks, actions have been taken to further the investigation and collect evidence that might lead to possible suspect identification related to the death of Deborah Collier,” the Habersham County Sheriff's Office said in a news release Tuesday.
“The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office crime scene unit has processed the vehicle and criminal investigators have executed numerous search warrants and conducted several interviews here in Habersham County and in Athens-Clarke County regarding this death investigation,” according to the release.
Collier’s body and her rented Chrysler Pacifica were found after Habersham County dispatch was notified by a Sirius XM service representative 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.
“Habersham County patrol deputies and a K-9 Unit responded to the location to search for the missing person. The K-9 unit located a red tote bag and a partially-burned blue tarp. Further search resulted in locating the body of a female subject down an embankment close to where the bag and tarp were located,” the release stated.
The following day, the sheriff’s office announced that investigators had confirmed that the body was Collier’s.
Habersham County Chief Deputy Sheriff Murray Kogod previously told Classic City News that it appeared as though Collier died as the result of foul play.
“At this time, we are investigating the case as if it were a homicide rather than a suicide,” he said. “All preliminary information and evidence gathered to this point does not indicate a suicide situation.”
Kogod would not elaborate on his statement.
Collier’s body was transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
When speaking to family members, an ACCPD officer wrote in his report that Collier’s adult daughter who lives in a different part of the county gave something strange her mother did the afternoon of her disappearance.
“She informed that around 3:17 p.m., Deborah sent her $2,385 through Venmo,” the officer wrote. “There was a message on Venmo that said, ‘They are never going to let me go love you...”
Collier's daughter immediately called her mother's phone "but she did not pick up," the report says. Police also called her phone repeatedly, but the calls went straight to voicemail.
Habersham County investigators have executed search warrants in their county and also at Collier’s home, authorities said.
They also subpoenaed OnStar and phone records to determine a timeline of where Collier went at what time and with whom.
“The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office crime scene unit has processed the vehicle and criminal investigators have executed numerous search warrants and conducted several interviews here in Habersham County and in Athens-Clarke County regarding this death investigation,” according to Tuesday’s news release. “Various items of possible evidence have been collected and submitted to the GBI Crime Lab for analysis.”
The investigation remains ongoing, and investigators are continuing to follow-up on leads as they become available and to gather information, the sheriff’s office said.