So far, the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) has been investigating Collier’s death, but the FBI became involved late last week.
“The FBI is assisting our law enforcement partners,” Atlanta FBI Bureau spokesperson Tony Thomas said last week, according to local news outlet Now Habersham. Thomas did not elaborate on how the FBI was assisting.
Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said the FBI reached out to offer assistance.
“They reached out to us and asked if they could assist and we [said] ‘Yes, absolutely,’” Terrell said, according to Now Habersham. “They were filled in on everything that we have so far, and that was just yesterday.”
The HCSO could have turned the case over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation but instead chose to handle the probe themselves. Terrell added that his office was still overseeing the investigation and that the GBI and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department had been assisting with the case since it began.
“We are not alone in trying to solve it,” Terrell said.
For example, the GBI Crime Lab has been analyzing evidence while the state medical examiner’s office conducted the autopsy on Collier. An exact cause of death has not been released, but authorities are treating her death as a homicide.
In late September, police released surveillance footage of Collier entering the Family Dollar Store in Clayton, Georgia, on Saturday, September 10. She was alone in the video. The HCSO’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) said in a press release on September 26 that Collier entered the store on September 10 around 2:55 p.m. and exited at 3:09 p.m. While there, Collier appeared calm and “not in fear of anything,” the CID said in its press release. Authorities said she purchased a rain poncho, a refillable torch lighter, paper towels, a large tarp, and a reusable tote back.
Collier was found in a ravine 60 miles from her Athens, Georgia, home on September 11, with severe burns to her body and the remains of a burned tarp nearby, The Daily Wire previously reported. The Habersham County Sheriff’s office said in its incident report that an investigator “observed a nude female laying on her back, grasping a small tree with her right hand,” about 30 feet from the road. The report also said Collier had “charring to her abdomen.”
The CID said the store surveillance footage helps investigators narrow the time of Collier’s death to a window beginning after 3:09 p.m. on September 10 to the time her body was discovered on September 11, around 12:44 p.m.
Collier’s daughter, Amanda Bearden, reported her mother missing on September 10, telling police she had received a text from her mom saying, “They are not going to let me go, love you.” Collier had reportedly sent Bearden $2,385 over Venmo along with the chilling text message.
Bearden told police that she immediately tried to call her mother’s phone after she received the message, but Collier didn’t pick up. After she reported her mother’s disappearance, police also tried to call Collier’s phone, to no avail.
Bearden and her father also told police that it was “unusual for Deborrah to do this” and that she “has not done anything like this before.”
Police were able to use the Sirius XM satellite radio in Collier’s SUV to track her movements after she left her home that Saturday. They tracked the vehicle to an area off U.S. 441, 60 miles north of where Collier lived, and alerted the Habersham County Sheriff’s office, which searched the area. Using a K-9 unit, police searched the woods near where the SUV was discovered and found Collier’s body in a ravine that could not be seen from the highway, WXIA-TV reported.