Missing Athens mom’s body found burned after she tells daughter ‘they won’t let me go’

HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. — Deputies say the burned and naked remains of an Athens woman were found in Habersham County after she reportedly sent thousands in cash to her daughter and told her that “they won’t let me go.”

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Channel 2′s Audrey Washington was in Habersham County where Deborah Todd Collier’s body was found and a small memorial was growing on Wednesday.

Deputies said that Deborah Todd Collier, 59, vanished from her Athens home on Sept. 10. Her husband, Steven Collier, told police he’d last seen his wife around 9 p.m. the night before when she went to bed. He said her car was still in the driveway when he left for work, so he assumed she was at home. The couple sleeps separately because of Steven Collier’s snoring, according to the police report.

The couple’s daughter, Amanda Bearden, told police that around 3 p.m. on the 10th, her mother sent her $2,385 via Venmo and the following message:

“They are not going to let me go love you there is a key in the house in the blue flower pot by the door (SIC).”

Bearden said she tried calling her mother, but she didn’t answer. Bearden said her mother only took her debit card and driver’s license with her and left in a black Chrysler van that she had rented after wrecking her own car.


On Sept. 11, police tracked Collier’s car to Habersham County using her SiriusXM service.

Deputies found Collier’s car, a Chrysler Pacifica, pulled over on the side of a wooded area along GA 15 near Tallulah Falls with no one inside. The van was more than 60 miles from Collier’s home.

Bearden arrived at the scene after SiriusXM notified her that the car had been found and told deputies her mother had a bad back and couldn’t walk far.

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A K9 unit was dispatched to the scene and searched the area. Deputies found what looked like the remains of a fire in the woods. Shortly thereafter, they found Collier’s body naked and burned. A partially burned blue tarp and a red tote bag were found nearby.

Deputies are still working to determine the circumstances surrounding Collier’s death. So far, they have not identified any suspects.

Investigators are treating the death as a homicide. The state medical examiner’s office is performing an autopsy.

Neighbors in the area where Collier’s body was found said her death has put them on edge.

“I’m just gonna start looking at people here different,” Alan Roberts said. “Even in the foothills of the mountains, it’s not as safe as we always thought it was.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office.

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