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Mom whose body was found in Georgia woods seemed 'not afraid' in security video, authorities say

NBC News 9/27/2022 Tim Stelloh

A Georgia mom whose naked, partially burned body was found in the woods earlier this month was last seen at a dollar store and appeared to be "calm and not afraid of anything," authorities said Monday.

Deborrah Collier, 59, of Athens, Georgia, was captured in security video at a Family Dollar in Clayton, in the North Georgia mountains, buying a tarp, a torch lighter, a rain poncho and a reusable tote bag, the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

She made the purchases on Sept. 10 around 2:55 p.m., the release said, noting that investigators confirmed what she bought with a receipt provided by the store. 

Deborrah Collier. (Facebook) © Facebook Deborrah Collier. (Facebook)

The Family Dollar is roughly 13 miles north of the wooded area off state road 15 where her body was found at 12:44 p.m. on Sept. 11, authorities said.

Among the items found with Collier’s body was a red tote bag and a partially burned blue tarp. It wasn’t clear if those were the same items she bought at Family Dollar. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It also wasn't clear if the purchases, including the lighter, were found at the scene.

The development allowed investigators to determine that Collier died between 3:09 p.m. on Saturday — when she was seen leaving the store — at 12:44 p.m. the following day, the sheriff's office said.

Investigators obtained the security video after getting a tip that Collier's daughter was seen at the shop that Saturday, the sheriff's office said. A review of the video showed that Collier herself was there — not her daughter, the sheriff's office said.

Neither the sheriff's office nor Collier's daughter responded to requests for comment.

The sheriff's office has previously said that the daughter alerted authorities to a chilling text message — "they won't let me go" — that her mother sent via the payment app Venmo before disappearing. Collier also sent her daughter $2,385, the sheriff's office said.

There was no other physical or eyewitness evidence suggesting that Collier was abducted, Habersham Chief Deputy Murray Kogod said in an email last week.

"We will, of course, continue to review all possible theories as we move forward and obtain further information," he said.

The sheriff's office has also said it had found no evidence linking Collier's death to suicide. Her manner and cause of death remain unclear. The state crime lab was still conducting an autopsy on Collier's body, the sheriff's office said last week.

Collier's body was discovered after a late model van that she'd been driving was found unlocked and unoccupied at a road pull out, authorities said. After searching nearby woods, authorities found her lying on her back, grasping a small tree with her right hand.

Her abdomen appeared to have been burned, the sheriff's office said.

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