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'Kill, Keys, Money, Jewelry'

A Georgia town is shocked by the fatal stabbings of two grandparents -- and the teen girls whom police have arrested.

August 10, 2004|Ellen Barry | Times Staff Writers

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — With resounding hymns and recited scripture, a community drew together Monday to bury two elderly Georgians who police say were stabbed to death by their 15-year-old granddaughter and her best friend.

The killings held Georgia in suspense a week ago, when the two girls fled across the state in a stolen truck, only to be captured Thursday at a beach town near Savannah.

Police say Holly Harvey and Sandy Ketchum, 16, were involved in a romantic relationship, and that Harvey's grandparents had forbidden her from seeing Ketchum and from smoking marijuana in their house.

Police have released grim details about the Aug. 2 killings, including a checklist inked on Harvey's arm that read "Kill, keys, money, jewelry."

Bruce Jordan, an investigator with the Fayette County Sheriff's Department, called the Collier house "the bloodiest scene I've worked" in 25 years on the force.

Sarah Collier, 73, descended to the basement when she smelled marijuana and was stabbed to death there, according to police.

Then Carl Collier, 74, struggled to escape, throwing objects at the girls to keep them away from him, police said. Although Collier made it to the phone, police said, Harvey had already cut the phone line.

About 1,000 mourners gathered to remember the quiet lives of the Colliers, devout and conservative Christians who had repeatedly asked members to pray for their rebellious granddaughter.

"Knowing the Colliers, as the blows were being inflicted, I know there had to be terror and horror and fear, but on top of the Colliers' mind was still, 'I love you,' " said Steve Hester, administrative pastor at Fayetteville First Baptist Church. "Personally, I believe no one goes so far that they cannot be redeemed."

The crime has jolted Fayetteville, a small city about 25 miles south of Atlanta. Close to Atlanta's airport, Fayetteville has attracted pilots, technicians and engineers like Carl Collier, who had spent most of his career working for Delta Airlines. Mourners showed up wearing Delta uniforms or with Delta insignias on their lapels.

The girls have been charged as adults, with one count of malice murder and one count of felony murder each. A bond hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

By the time they attacked the Colliers, the two girls inhabited a sealed world of their own invention, Jordan said. They somehow expected to find money or valuables in the Collier house, but there was nothing to find. "They had no sense of reality," he said.

When they fled Fayetteville in the Colliers' truck, they sought help from a classmate, but the girl refused and called 911. After that, police tracked the vehicle's progress by tracing their cellphone calls.

Arrested outside Savannah, Ketchum began cooperating with investigators on the walk to the police car, Jordan said. By contrast, he said, Harvey was unremorseful and laughing at the police who arrested her.

Harvey's attorney, Judy Chidester, disagreed with Jordan's description of her client. Chidester said Harvey was terrified, lonely and so distraught that she could barely stop crying to speak to her.

"She appears to be extremely remorseful," Chidester said. "She asked me the other day, 'Does everyone in the world hate me?' "

The Colliers -- regular participants in church activities -- made no secret of the frictions within their household, said friends at the church.

The discord didn't start with Harvey; it began more than 30 years ago when the childless couple adopted two babies.

Although their son, Kevin, has followed closely in his father's footsteps -- he works for Delta -- their daughter, Carla, became involved in crime and drug use. She is now serving a three-year sentence for marijuana possession.

Carla's daughter Holly grew up moving "over and over and over again," Chidester said.

Anita Beckom, Holly's godmother, described her as a "bright, beautiful, smart, playful, happy little girl that got lost along the way," turning moody and resistant to authority in adolescence. Beckom said she took Harvey into her home in 2002, but eventually let her go stay with a friend's family because she was becoming uncontrollable.

The same thing happened with the next family Harvey lived with. The elder Colliers eventually "just took her in because she had nowhere else to go," Beckom said.

At the service, a close friend said the Colliers took on the responsibility gladly, and did not shed it when it got difficult.

"They could have made some simple decisions at any time to help them avoid this fate," said Glenn Stringham, associate pastor at Fayetteville First Baptist. "None of us in this room would have second-guessed that decision."

The crime attracted rapt attention in the region, and not just for its violence. Ninety percent of juveniles arrested on murder charges in this country are male, said Kathleen Heide, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida. When girls do kill, they typically target members of immediate family and typically enlist help from a boyfriend, Heide said.

One former neighbor, nerves jarred by the Colliers' deaths, made her way to the hearing last week and was shocked.

"I wanted to see who could do such a horrible thing," said Norma Chamblee, 73. "It was two beautiful young girls."

Times researcher Rennie Sloan in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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