EXCLUSIVE: ‘She was a beautiful person…I loved her.’ Shaken husband of Georgia mom Debbie Collier – whose body was was found naked and burned in woods – tears up as neighbor says he would ‘bet his life’ he had nothing to do with her murder
- Steve Collier told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview that his wife Debbie was ‘a beautiful person’ and that he loved her
- Debbie Collier’s body was found naked and charred in woodland in Tallulah Falls, Georgia, 60 miles from her home on September 11
- Collier’s neighbor said he would ‘bet his life’ that the 67-year-old had nothing to do with the mysterious killing
- ‘I know suspicion can fall on the family of murder victims,’ the neighbor said
- Collier appeared frail and had difficulty walking when we caught up with him. The murderer would have had to drag or carry Debbie’s body a quarter of a mile
- Police say there is no indication that Debbie was kidnapped and are analyzing family members’ phones – routine practice in such murders
The distraught husband of murdered Georgia mom Debbie Collier has broken his silence exclusively to DailyMail.com, saying: ‘She was a beautiful woman and I loved her.’
Steve Collier, 67, visibly fought back tears as he spoke on the driveway of his single family home in a secluded wooded neighborhood of Athens – 60 miles from where his wife’s naked and burnt body was discovered in a ravine.
‘It has been a long two weeks and I’m very tired,’ he said, before pausing and adding: ‘My wife was a wonderful person.’
And a close friend of the couple, who did not want to be identified, confided to DailyMail.com: ‘Steve loved Debbie with all his heart. I know that for a fact.
‘I cannot imagine what he’s going through right now, with the terrible loss of his wife and having to be part of the murder investigation and all that entails.
‘I have known them both for many years and they were a devoted couple.
‘She was a beautiful woman and I loved her,’ distraught Steve Collier said about his wife 11 days after her charred, naked body was found in a ravine 60 miles from their Georgia home
A close family friend told DailyMail.com: ‘Steve loved Debbie with all his heart. I know that for a fact. I cannot imagine what he’s going through right now’
Collier, 67, picked up his wife’s black pick-up from a repair shop. She was driving a rental at the time of her murder
In a direct move of support, he added: ‘I know suspicion can fall on the family of murder victims, but I would bet my life Steve had nothing whatsoever to do with Debbie’s disappearance.’
Steve Collier appeared frail and had difficulty walking, when DailyMail.com saw him. The murderer would have had a strenuous job dragging or carrying Debbie Collier’s body a quarter of a mile over rough terrain.
Collier spoke to us after a friend picked him up from his house and took him to collect a black Ford Ranger pick-up truck from a repair shop, which he then drove home.
Police say his 59-year-old wife’s vehicle was being repaired when she vanished, which is why she was renting the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica found beside a track that eventually led to her body near scenic Tallulah Falls.
Habersham County Sheriff’s Office has now said there is ‘no evidence’ to suggest the real estate office manager was kidnapped, despite a chilling message to daughter Amanda Bearden suggesting she might be captive.
Officers have ‘executed several search warrants at locations tied to the victim’ and also held ‘preliminary’ interviews with people close to her, it added.
Sheriff’s office investigators will ‘look to identify persons of interest for further follow-up and interview’ after combing reports and subpoenaed records.
DailyMail.com understands this includes analyzing cell phones of family members, which is normal practice in a murder probe.
The department, which is conducting a homicide investigation, also confirmed there was no indication of suicide.
Debbie Collier, 59, was found in a steep-sided ravine on September 11 in a densely wooded area in Tallulah Falls, Georgia, the day after she disappeared
Debbie’s baffling disappearance on September 10 came on the day she sent 36-year-old Amanda $2,385 via the Venmo financial app along with an eerie message that created speculation of a kidnap. She was discovered dead a day later.
The message 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.’
DailyMail.com has put several questions to Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, including if Debbie’s cell phone was recovered – and if so, where? Also, if there were any indications of a struggle that would indicate she fought for her life. The department has not responded.
So far, the cause of death has not been made public following an autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
Amanda, who lives with her boyfriend Andrew Giegerich in a different part of Athens, was spotted by DailyMail.com leaving her house on Thursday. She had refused to answer the door when we called, but emerged with her partner late in the afternoon and both left in a car.
The couple have had a tumultuous relationship, and police have been called several times according to the New York Post. Papers in the case note: ‘Giegerich and Bearden have a family violence relationship.’
Bearden broke down as she told local TV station CBS 46 earlier this week: ‘Someone took my whole world from me… I just want them to rot in hell. It is not going to take my pain away. But I want justice for my mom.’
The mystery of Debbie Collier’s murder was compounded when old pictures of her with a badly bruised eye were found online. She had posted them on Facebook in December 2020, saying she had ‘faceplanted on the concrete sidewalk.’
The grisly pictures show scrapes and bruising around her right eye and on her forehead and was posted with the caption ‘Look what I did to myself.’ She also says she did not have any makeup on her right eye in the pictures.
DailyMail.com exclusively revealed the gruesome spot where Debbie’s body was found in a densely-wooded ravine after obtaining the harrowing Habersham County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
This detailed the rough route to the horrific scene by Deputy Blake Forrester and his human odor-detecting K9, called Zane.
We started at a pull-off to an old logging road near Victory Home Lane, Clarksville, where Collier’s rented Pacifica was found through the Sirius XM service in the vehicle being ‘pinged’ to locate it via GPS.
A poignant teddy bear shrine guarded the spot where officers discovered the Pacifica – and no sign of the missing mom.
We headed into the dense woodland along the former logging road. Within roughly 6ft the roadway disappeared and became a rough track. And after 25ft we saw the first signs of the search that would ultimately lead us to the horror site. A discarded pair of blue plastic forensic gloves.
Then, to our right, strips and small fragments of sheriff’s office yellow crime scene tape were scattered every three to five feet, heading South in a line and parallel to busy GA 15.
Under a dense canopy of trees and with fallen limbs littering the undergrowth, we followed the trail of plastic scraps.
Debbie was found naked and charred, clutching this small sawn-offtree in woods in Tallulah Falls, Georgia
Debbie’s daughter Amanda Bearden was on site ‘in a hysterical state,’ when her mother’s body was discovered, according to a police report obtained by DailyMail.com
Amanda Bearden’s boyfriend Andrew Giegerich was seen leaving the home they share in Athens, Georgia
Collier was found 60 miles from the modest home she shared with husband Steven, 67, in Athens, Georgia
After roughly 15 minutes of hiking through piles of dead leaves and timber, we began to descend downhill sharply until we came across three sets of blue forensic gloves that had been ditched.
Then we were confronted by a macabre spectacle – that tied in with our knowledge of Collier’s death.
Part of a tree had been sawn off, leaving a jagged portion jutting up and the toppled portion lying close by. The mom was found clinging to a tree – and within feet was a compact burnt area of leaves and timber.
A few feet from that lay a larger uprooted tree. Parts of the roots were scorched. Forensic gloves lay nearby along with pieces of paper and what appears to be a strip of a book cover.
We were only roughly 25ft from the roadway. Vehicles could be heard clearly passing by.
And we had followed the path of the killer or killers.
It is not publicly known if the mom of two died in the ravine or was taken there after being killed.
Tallulah Falls is the home of the local beauty spot Tallulah Gorge and its scenic waterfalls
In another twist, DailyMail.com revealed the Pacifica – rented by Debbie because her own vehicle was being repaired – had been seen unlocked and unoccupied by a police officer beside the old logging road at 5pm the previous day.
That was an hour before Collier’s husband spoke to officers for a missing person’s report with Athens-Clarke County Police, obtained by DailyMail.com and timed at 18.01
The following day, the car was located in connection with the missing person inquiry at 12.28.
After various officers had arrived on the scene, the sheriff’s office incident report reads: ‘Deputy Forrester deployed his nationally certified tracking (human odor) K9 Zane.
‘He casted around the driver side door of the vehicle and pushed into the wood line on what appear to be a logging road.
‘They pushed in casting for odor approximately 50 yards Northeast, could not establish any track, then casted South-Southeast. Zane was able to establish a track working South to Southeast away from Tallulah Gorge and away from GA 15.
‘My wife was a wonderful person,’ Steve Collier told DailyMail.com as a neighbor said he would ‘bet his life’ Collier was not involved in his wife’s murder
Debbie Collier posted grisly pictures showing scrapes and bruising around her right eye in December 2020. She said she received the injuries when she ‘faceplanted’ on concrete
Collier’s cause of death has not been revealed, nor is it publicly known if she died in the ravine or was taken there after being killed
‘Zane tracked in that direction for approximately ¼ of a mile. At around that distance mark Deputy Forrester noticed a red bag through the brush. As they kept approaching the bag he noticed a blue object that appeared to be a tarp.
‘As they continued to approach he noticed further down a hill, maybe 10-15ft, a tan object, that as he approached he could tell was a human body.
‘At that point Deputy Forrester held what had he had, visually clearing the area for any threats and called for Sgt. (Ethan) Neal to come to his position. Sgt. Neal approached him and saw what Deputy Forrester saw and approached the body to confirm it was female.
Some following sentences are then redacted.
Elsewhere in the report, it also states: ‘Sgt. Neal observed a red tote bag laid on its side near an uprooted tree.
‘At the root ball of the tree, Sgt. Neal observed what appeared to be the remains of a fire, he looked further down the embankment.
‘Sgt. Neal observed what appeared to be a partially burnt blue in color tarp.
‘As he looked further down the embankment from the tarp, he observed a nude female laying on her back, grasping a small tree with her right hand…
‘Sgt. Neal observed Collier’s remains to be apparently burned with what appeared to be charring to her abdomen.’
‘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,’ read the Venmo message sent by Debbie Collier to her daughter, Amanda Bearden (right)
According to the missing persons report filed a day before Collier was found, the mom had sent her daughter Amanda Bearden $2,385 via money-sending app Venmo along with a chilling last message
A poignant teddy bear shrine now sits on the spot where officers discovered Collier’s rented black 2022 Chrysler Pacifica with no sign of the missing mom
Forensic gloves lay nearby along with pieces of paper and what appears to be a strip of a book cover
Yellow crime scene tape is scattered every three to five feet around the area in Tallulah Falls leading to the spot where Debbie Collier’s body was discovered
The report also reveals Amanda arrived at the scene and joined officers beside the Pacifica ‘in a hysterical state.’
‘Bearden began screaming that the vehicle belonged to her mother,’ it states. Athens cops had notified her of the location after the Sirius XM ping.
Sergeant Neal and Officer Dakota Foster spoke to the distraught daughter ‘in reference to Collier’s mental health state, and briefly about her medical history’.
Bearden said ‘her mother did not have a history of any mental health issues, and denied suicidal tendencies. She also stated that her mother had a bad back, and couldn’t have walked far’.
Steven Collier told police in the missing persons report that he had not seen Debbie since 9pm, September 9 and they slept in separate bedrooms ‘due to his snoring’.
He said the Pacifica was still in the driveway of their home when he left for work the following morning.
Collier sent the money via Venmo to her daughter at 3.17pm, said the report. And of the chilling accompanying message, the report stated: ‘Amanda said the message scared her and got her worried for her mom, so she tried calling her but she did not pick up.
‘Amanda also informed that her mother did not take anything with her but her drivers license and debit card.’
Debbie showed no hint of any personal problems or worries while at work, stunned staff at her real estate office told DailyMail.com.
‘We are all in a state of complete shock at what has happened,’ said one employee at Carriage House Realty in Athens, where she was the front office manager.
‘Debbie had been here for seven or eight years. We are still taking this in,’ added the staff member, who did not want to be named. ‘She never mentioned any personal issues in her life.’