Debbie Collier’s cellphone was found “smashed” near her nude and partially burned body, and it is unlikely that she was targeted randomly, investigators said Friday at a press conference, NowHabersham.com reports.
“There is nothing that has come from this investigation that would support the theory that either this was a random act of violence or that there is a killer in the area. At this time, the investigation is leading us to the proposition that Mrs. Collier’s death was personal and targeted,” Habersham County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Murray Kogod told reporters, according to the news outlet.
Collier’s body was found September 11 about 60 miles from her Athens, Georgia, home in a ravine near Tallulah Falls on September 11. Authorities located the remains by tracing a van she had rented while her vehicle was being repaired.
That van was photographed traveling northbound on Georgia Route 15 at 2:15 p.m. on the day Collier went missing — less than an hour before she was seen in security footage inside and outside a Clayton Family Dollar store.
Police began investigating after the couple’s daughter, 36-year-old Amanda Bearden, allegedly received a Venmo money transfer from her mother at 3:17 p.m. on September 10 for $2,385 and a bizarre message that read “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.”
After receiving the message, the daughter reported her mother missing to law enforcement.
Police later determined that Collier, 59, was sitting in the van outside a Family Dollar store in Clayton, Georgia, around the time the message was sent based on security camera footage.
The recording shows Collier in the van for about 10 minutes after leaving the store. She then drives away at 3:19 p.m.
Police believe Collier had her phone with her, but they have not confirmed whether she is the one who sent the Venmo payment and message. Investigators have subpoenaed phone records and other information and are waiting to receive the responsive records.
Investigators are searching Collier’s phone and phones owned by family members; police declined to reveal where search warrants have been executed as part of the investigation, according to the Athens Banner-Herald reports.
The items that Collier is believed to have purchased at the Family Dollar store were located at the crime scene. Those items include “a blue tarp, red tote bag, poncho, torch lighter and paper towels,” WXIA-TV reports.
Cameras at a school zone in Tallulah Falls also recorded a van in the vicinity about two miles from where the body was located.
Now, authorities are trying to understand what happened in the 22 hours between when Collier was last seen alive and when her body was located.
“Please understand that this case is very complex in nature and has a lot of questions and unknowns that aren’t found in a typical death investigation,” Kogod told reporters, according to NowHabersham.com. “It is going to take significantly more time than the 19 days that have passed since the discovery to solve this crime.”
To report information about the case, call Habersham Sheriff’s Investigators Cale Garrison or George Cason at 706-839-0559 or 706-839-0560.
Check back for updates.
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[Featured image: Debbie Collier/Facebook]