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'I don't know why mom was up there' | Debbie Collier's son breaks his silence, demands answers in mother's death

Jeffrey Bearden said the Habersham County Sheriff dismissed his concerns, claiming he 'snickered' at him during a recent call when Bearden pushed for answers.

HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. — Debbie Collier’s body was found partially nude and burned down a ravine on Sept. 11 in a remote area along GA 15 and Victory Home Lane in Clarkesville. The location is about 50 miles from her home in Athens. 

“I don’t know why my mom was up there,” Debbie Collier’s son Jeffrey Bearden said.

The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video of Collier, the day before her body was found, inside a Family Dollar in Clayton. 

“It doesn’t make sense to me why she was in Clayton, Georgia. Especially that there is a Dollar General that she frequently visited that was less than a mile from her home,” Bearden explained. 

RELATED: Video | Athens woman bought items found next to body hours before she was found dead

In the video, police said Collier bought a rain poncho, a refillable torch lighter, a 2-roll pack of paper towels, a 7.5x9.5 OBD Tarp, and a reusable tote bag. The sheriff’s office confirmed the tarp and tote bag were found next to her body at the crime scene. 

Bearden said it’s odd his mom would buy those items. 

“I’ve never known her to be a camper. I mean, we have tarps at the house. My stepdad works in construction. I found about 20 to 30 reusable bags at my house. She was very green, she had a bunch of those,” he said. 

There’s something else that caught Bearden’s eye when he watched the video

“I have concerns about the appearance of the person in that Family Dollar,” Bearden said. 

11Alive’s Cody Alcorn asked, “So, you’re questioning if that was even your mom in that video?” Bearden answered, “Absolutely, Yeah, I am. I have a lot of concerns about if that was my mom in that actual video because that doesn’t actually appear of like her posture.”

Bearden said while he can’t say for sure that it is or isn’t his mom, it just leads to more red flags in this case. Police searched both Collier’s home, and the home shared by her daughter and boyfriend in Athens.

11Alive asked Bearden if he thought his sister could have any involvement.

“I do not think my sister has the capacity to hurt my mom. She was my mom’s lifeline. But, I don’t trust the people that my sister hangs out with, and that’s my concern,” Bearden explained.

The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office has not named any suspects or persons of interest in this case. However, in their only news conference, the sheriff’s office said this act was “deliberate and personal.

There’s also a suspicious Venmo payment of $2,385 sent from Collier’s phone to her daughter's phone the day before her body was found, along with a text stating, “They won’t let me go. There is a key to the house underneath the flowerpot.” 

RELATED: Mystery of Athens woman’s disappearance, homicide continues 1 week after family’s disturbing missing person's report

Bearden didn’t know who “they” were in his mother’s last text.

“I’ve never seen my mom Venmo that large amount of money, so no, that’s very out of characteristic for her,” Bearden said. 

Bearden said he’s spent the first several weeks following his mother’s death grieving and navigating life without his mom. 

Bearden said last week he reached out to the Habersham County Sheriff directly to get a sense on where the investigation stands. He claimed the sheriff seemed to dismiss his concern. Bearden felt there was no empathy or understanding about questions he had regarding the investigation and recent ‘leaks’ by other news outlets that claimed his mother’s case was not a homicide.

“I have not been told by law enforcement that it’s not a homicide investigation, he explained.

Bearden wants justice for his mom and for the sheriff’s office to be transparent with his family regarding the investigation. 

He clarified he wanted justice for his mother’s death during the interview. 

“I’m not going to stop until you are in jail or on death row, ” Bearden said.

11Alive reached out to the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson for comment on Tuesday afternoon but did not get a response as of late Tuesday night.

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