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Reverend Glenn Stringham was home relaxing after a long day at his church on the evening of Monday, August 2, 2004, when his phone rang. He was used to fielding calls from members of the congregation even after church hours. Due to the age of his flock, calls continually came in regarding a sudden hospital emergency or yet another death. No clergyman in Fayette County, Georgia, presided over more funerals than he.
The urgent phone call came from a neighbor of his good friends Carl and Sarah Collier, who lived in the north end of the county in the residential community of Riverdale, not far from metropolitan Atlanta. The Colliers were not only friends, but active and valued members of his senior adults' congregation at the Fayetteville First Baptist Church. The neighbor told Stringham that there was a police car with its lights flashing outside the Collier home. Stringham knew that meant one thing: the Colliers were having trouble, again, with their granddaughter Holly.
Without giving it a second thought the 59-year-old Baptist minister dialed the Colliers' home number, which he knew by heart. The answering machine picked up. Stringham wasn't surprised, surmising that they must be outside talking with the police officer. In his message he said that he knew they were having some "struggles," and if there was anything he could do, to not hesitate in calling him at home.
Within an hour Stringham got another call from the Collier's neighbor. This time she was hysterical and blurted out that the elderly couple had been stabbed. Stringham said he would be right there.
Heading north up Route 314, the major thoroughfare from Fayetteville to the HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport twenty miles distant, Stringham thought of the "struggles" that the Colliers had experienced of late.
He knew that they had taken 15-year-old Holly back into their home after a court appearance. Just last week they had accompanied her to juvenile court, where she was sentenced to probation after running away from the home of her mother's friend, where she had been staying. Stringham was afraid the youngster was heading down the same road as her mother Carla. It mystified him that Carla, who was currently in jail for selling marijuana to an undercover policeman had come from such a fine home, the same home that Carla's older brother Kevin had flourished in. Kevin, a year and a half older than Carla, was a University of Georgia graduate and had a good job with Delta airlines. He was also a regular church-goer, and owned a comfortable home just outside Fayetteville. Carla had dropped out of high school, was continually in trouble with the law, and had borne two children out of wedlock.
The Colliers had been very open with the problems they were having with their granddaughter. They had often consulted with Stringham and had asked their fellow congregants for their support and prayers.
Twenty-five minutes later, Stringham pulled up to the Colliers' modest ranch house on Plantation Drive. He could see that Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson was already there. Right then and there he knew the Colliers' neighbor had been right. Something terrible had happened.
Sheriff Johnson told his good friend Glen Stringham that Carl was dead on the kitchen floor and Sarah had been found in a pool of blood at the bottom of the basement steps, also dead. Johnson related to the stunned minister that there had been a horrific struggle and that there was blood everywhere. Stringham stood outside the Collier home as the crime-scene van arrived and detectives from the sheriff's department swarmed over the house. He learned from the sheriff what he himself had suspected. There was little doubt who had been responsible for the horrific act: Holly Harvey.
The Colliers' son Kevin should had been at work at the airport when he received a voice mail message on his cell phone at 8:30 pm, but he had gotten off early so he could attend orchestra practice at the First Baptist Church in the northern Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody. The rehearsal was for a dinner charity affair where they would be performing The Sound of Music. The voice on the message was Lisa Hargrove, a family friend who owned several houses with her husband Del in the Colliers' neighborhood.
The Hargroves had been checking out one of their houses, which was just across the street from Carl and Sarah's when they saw the patrol car. Like Glenn Stringham, the couple had thought that Holly must have been giving the Colliers problems again. Del had stepped into the carport and peered into the kitchen door window and seen Carl lying on the floor. One of the sheriff's deputies had observed him and warned him back. Del cautiously retreated to where his wife stood and told her what he'd seen. Lisa immediately called Kevin. She left a message on his voice mail that said there had been some "trouble" at his parents' place and for him to come home as soon as he could. When Kevin retrieved the message during a break, he dialed the cell number Lisa had given.
Lisa reiterated that there had been "some problems" at his parents' house and for him to come right over. Kevin asked whether it was an emergency, or if he could wait until rehearsal was over. She replied, "You should come now." Kevin said since he was all the way north in Dunwoody, it would take him at least an hour to get to the Riverdale house. On the drive south he called Lisa again. Kevin was worried and wanted more information. All Lisa would say was that it wasn't good, but Kevin persisted. He finally got it out of her that his dad was "hurt." He remembers that Lisa told him not to rush, which he thought was odd due to the apparent circumstances. Kevin stepped on the gas.
Plantation Drive rises from Route 314 for about a quarter mile, until it crests, then drops down gently to where number 226 sits on the left side of the bucolic tree-lined street. Kevin Collier saw cops "everywhere." He remembers thinking "This isn't good." Pulling over, he noticed the crime-scene tape draped around the house and knew at that moment that both of his parents were gone. In stunned silence he surveyed the familiar surroundings. It seemed as if the entire neighborhood was out in the street gawking at the flashing police car lights and the uniformed men continually entering and exiting the split-level white brick ranch house that he had grown up in.
Sheriff Johnson was waiting for Kevin. The first words out of the mouth of the long-serving county sheriff were, "Remember how you saw them last."
Kevin blurted out that "Holly must have done this."
Looking around, he noticed his father's truck was gone. The police wouldn't let Kevin near the house. Staring at it, he could see figures moving about inside and camera flashes going off, giving the whole scene an eerie, surreal effect. Then he found himself being bombarded with questions from the police, especially in regards to his father's truck, a 2002 indigo blue Chevrolet Silverado.
In a state of shock he answered as best he could, continually muttering that "Holly must have done this."
Copyright © 2006 by Kevin F. McMurray