The host of “Body Bags with Joseph Scott Morgan” says the circumstances surrounding the death of Georgia mother Debbie Collier have left him “befuddled,” following the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s determination that the death was a suicide.
Morgan, a medicolegal death investigator and Distinguished Scholar of Applied Forensics at Jacksonville State University, said that what police claimed happened to Collier is something he has rarely seen in his decades-long career in forensics.
“They’re not arriving at any other conclusion other than she doused herself with gas and set herself on fire,” Morgan said. “I have worked cases of self-immolation…[this] is not something you would encounter…That’s what makes this so bizarre for us that work in forensics.”
“I think the big question is, is this something she did to herself, where she takes a tank of gasoline and pours it on her head, and then initiates a flame by striking a match? Or is this something somebody else did to her?”
Collier, 59, was reported missing on September 10, 2022, after she sent her daughter, Amanda Bearden, more than $2,000 via Venmo with a mysterious message that indicated she may have been kidnapped, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
“They are not going to let me go love you there is a key to the house in the blue flowerpot by the door,” the message read.
Collier’s body was found the next day, partially nude and partially burned and 60 miles from the family’s Athens home. The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office initially said it was investigating the death as a homicide and at one point said Collier’s death was “personal and targeted.”
The manner of death was later listed as a suicide following the autopsy results, which stated that Collier had “second and third degree burns involving 80% of the total body surface area” and “inhalation of superheated gases, thermal injuries and a hydrocodone intoxication,” according to the GBI.
Morgan explained that someone who was involved in a fire, even if by suicide, typically would have evidence of debris in their trachea. In Collier’s case, however, the debris was reportedly not there.
“They’re talking about her inhaling superheated gas and it brought about her death? Right now that’s the only thing they have to hang their hat on,” Morgan said.
Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden reportedly added last week that Collier was likely murdered, despite what the autopsy said.
According to the New York Post, Baden reviewed the autopsy report, and since the report indicated she had no carbon dioxide or soot in her system, she would have had to be dead before the fire started.
“From a forensic point of view, that would indicate that she was dead before the fire started,” Baden told The Post.
Baden also touched on the levels of hydrocodone found in Collier’s system, noting that although the levels were higher than average, it’s impossible to know where her tolerance level was with the drug since she had been prescribed it for a back injury.
“A little less than half of people would die,” from the amount of hydrocodone in her system, he explained to The Post.
Even so, had she died from a drug overdose, the autopsy should have read, “hydrocodone overdose with post-mortem fire injuries,” he explained.
“It makes it more confusing,” Baden added.
Medical examiners for the GBI admitted that “investigation by law enforcement revealed circumstances consistent with a self-intentioned act” assisted in labeling the death a suicide.
Baden said that it appeared as if the forensic pathologists based the manner of death partly on what police told them.
“That means, ‘The police told me it was a suicide.’ We’re not just rubber stamps for the police, but some people think we are,” he said.
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[Featured image: Debbie Collier/Facebook]