Thirty years after her murder, Patricia Collum’s family is running out of time for answers.
This is Episode 4 of Getting Warmer: Heating up Alabama’s Cold Cases, a four-part series only on CBS42.com.
CHILTON COUNTY, Ala (WIAT) — It’s been nearly 30 years since Patricia Collum was found murdered in her camper trailer on Lay Lake.
Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon says the office received a call on October 7, 1991 that a woman’s body was found. The sheriff’s office contacted the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), who worked with them on the case.
Although investigators identified suspects quickly, there was never enough evidence to pinpoint any one, Sheriff Shearon says.
Former Chilton County Sheriff Billy Wayne Fulmer, an investigator at the time, recalls the scene.
Fulmer describes the level of brutality as “overkill,” which he says suggests either the crime was committed by a rookie or someone with close ties to the victim.
Patricia Collum, 32, was living in a trailer at Sebe’s Fish Camp after separating from her husband. Her sister, Mitzi Wheat, says it would have been very difficult for a random person to stumble upon the close knit community. She believes the killer knew her sister.
After investigators discovered divorce papers in Patricia’s camper, they began looking at Patricia’s ex-husband, C W Collum. Their divorce was finalized in September 1990, public records show.
Mitzi recalls an instance when Patricia called her saying C W pulled a knife in a fit of jealousy.
“He was, of course, very sorry about what had happened, and apologized, and said nothing like that would ever happen again,” says Mitzi.
But the family found out later that it did.
“He had made threats, again, that if she ever left, what would happen.”
There was also a testimony from Patricia and C W’s oldest daughter that contradicted her father’s alibi. However, Mitzi says the statement was later retracted. She still believes there was some truth to it.
Patricia and C W’s youngest son, Johnny Collum, doesn’t believe his father is culpable.
“Personally I don’t think it could be. I understand how he could be looked at, because statistics show the spouse is the number one suspect. But just knowing him and knowing how he was, he was humble. He was just a great guy. He worked hard. He went without, so we could have. I just don’t think he would have had it in him to murder someone coldblooded,” says Johnny.
Johnny was five years old when his mother was killed. His father raised him and his two sisters.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better father,” Johnny says, fondly.
But C W wasn’t the only suspect. Patricia had been seeing someone else at the time of her murder.
“I have met him once and discussed his interviews with law enforcement, and he is certainly a suspect, still. I was not concerned about him, but there were red flags with questions he was unable to answer satisfactorily,” says Mitzi.
Johnny met with his aunt and grandmother in 2018. It was the first time they had come together since he was a child. Together with investigators, they looked over the case file.
“I think it was someone that knew her… someone at the camp…I don’t think it was my dad, but just reading the case file, there were some things that don’t add up,” says Johnny.
Johnny and his family agree that potential suspects may have been overlooked, but time is running out for an answer.
Sheriff Shearon believes that someone is still out there with information that could close this case once and for all.
“We’ve just got to continue working on it.”
The CCSO isn’t giving up on this case until they learn exactly who killed Patricia.
“I would like to be able to prove who did it beyond a shadow of a doubt, dead or alive…but I would like to tell this victim’s loved ones what really happened,” says Fulmer. “We want to find out, and if I’m right, and one of the suspects is still alive, then I want to put their butt in prison.”
The clock is ticking to close this case. Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office at 205-755-2648. Tips may also be directed to Crime Stoppers at 256-238-1414 or the Alabama Attorney General’s cold case hotline at 866-419-1236.