Georgia authorities do not believe Debbie Collier was kidnapped before she was found dead in a ravine earlier this month—despite the 59-year-old mother’s cryptic Venmo message to her daughter before the disappearance suggesting “they are not going to let me go.”
“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest or support that this incident was related to kidnapping or that this is a suicide,” the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office said in a Wednesday night statement.
The revelation only fuels more questions about what happened to Collier after she was reported missing on Sept. 10 by her husband, Steve, and daughter. The report was made a few hours after Collier’s daughter, Amanda Bearden, received a Venmo payment of nearly $2,400 from her mother.
“They are not going to let me go love you there is a key to the house in the blue flower pot by the door,” the message on the Venmo payment read.
Less than 24 hours later, authorities found Collier nude and severely burned in a ravine about an hour from her Athens home.
A Habersham County Sheriff’s Office incident report, obtained by The Daily Beast, said that Collier was found “laying on her back, grasping a small tree with her right hand.” Her remains were found near a burned tarp, a red total bag, and a rental car she had been using after crashing her car.
Details of Collier’s cause of death are still pending, though authorities are treating the case as a homicide. Collier’s family did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
While authorities have not yet revealed a motive behind the slaying, one neighbor told The New York Post that Collier had been involved in a “screaming and fighting” incident the night before she went missing.
“There was commotion at the house,” the neighbor, who was not identified, said. Another neighbor said Collier and her husband did not mingle with other residents on the street, including never attending the block cookouts.
An Athens-Clarke County missing persons report states that investigators spoke to Steve Collier, Debbie’s husband of nine years, on Sept. 10. He told police he had not seen his wife since the evening of Sept. 9—the night of the alleged “commotion”—when he went to bed around 9 p.m. He said when he left for work in the morning, Collier’s rental SUV was still in the driveway.
“He clarified that he and Deborrah sleep in separate bedrooms due to his snoring,” the report states. “Both Amanda and Steven stated this is unusual for Deborrah to do this. She has not done anything like this before.”
At around 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, Collier’s rental car was spotted pulled over near an old logging road. Her body was found just yards away near a red tote by an uprooted tree. Next to the tree appeared to be “the remains of a fire,” the report added.
Bearden told police her mother “did not have any history of mental health issues and denied any suicidal tendencies,” the incident report states. “She also stated that her mother had a bad back, and couldn’t have walked far.”
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