Lauren has come forward publicly and revealed her identity after capturing the attention of the nation when she rang on neighborhood doorbells at 3:30 a.m. one night, appearing to have restraints on her wrist, and then mysteriously disappeared from the Montgomery County neighborhood. She has asked that her last name not be revealed. You can see a short video of Lauren talking to Inside Edition above.
The video was first released by a neighbor who saw her, and then later released by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department on August 26. By August 29, police had reported that they had identified her and she was safe, but gave few additional details. Because she was a family violence victim, they did not want to release her name. Now Lauren is coming forward to share her story for the first time. The full video will be on Inside Edition on Monday, September 17, at 4 p.m. Eastern.
1. Lauren Said She Was Asleep & Woke Up to Collins Duct Taping Her Head, Stuffing Cloth in Her Mouth, & Raping Her
In an interview with Inside Edition, Lauren said she was asleep and woke up to what became a nightmare. She said that when she woke up, her boyfriend Dennis Collins was kneeling on her chest and stuffing cloths into her mouth. She said he duct taped her entire head, bound her feet and hands together with restraints, and then raped her.
“I truly felt like I was going to die there that night,” she said. She said she kept telling herself that God had more for her and she’d be able to escape.
When Collins later let her go to get a drink in the kitchen, she escaped. He let her have a drink because she had been screaming so much. She ran out the front door when he walked into the bedroom while she was in the kitchen.
She told Inside Edition that she frantically ran through the neighborhood at 3 a.m., still wearing shackles. She just wanted someone to see her. Despite other news reports that indicated she returned to Collins’ house that night, she actually didn’t. She went to a friends house and then sought safety with her family in Dallas.
Lauren later explained to ABC 13 that she was having anxiety issues, so she asked Collins to follow her as she drove to Dallas the next day, which he did. However, the ABC 13 report also said that Lauren returned to her home that night, which she later said she did not do. The Inside Edition interview did not clarify whether Collins followed her or not back to Dallas.
2. She Rang Doorbells at 3:30 a.m. in the Sunrise Ranch Area & Worried Residents Shared Her Video
She appeared frightened when she was ringing doorbells at 3:20 a.m. on August 24, waking up a number of residents in the Sunrise Ranch subdivision of Montgomery.
One resident, Jennie Drude, shared the video publicly on Facebook, wanting to get the word out as fast as possible. She wrote, “This girl rang the door bell of several neighbors in Sunrise Ranch, montgomery, tx on 8/24/18 around 3am. She looked to be coming from the back of the neighborhood wearing only a T-shirt, no shoes, and has what appears to be broken restraints on both wrists. The video also shows she was hiding from someone and being very quiet. When neighbors got to (their) doors, she was gone. This girl belongs to someone. She has people. Family. Someone must be missing her. Please call our local police with any tips!” [sic]
Her video received more than 2 million views. After Lauren was found safe, Drude removed her video, saying: “I am beyond thankful this woman is alive and safe! I have removed the video and original post. It’s job is done. Thank you to the millions of you who shared it in hopes to find her family and identity! And thank you to the MCSO for their amazing work! Great job men in blue!” [sic]
Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told KPRC-TV: “We were dead asleep in our beds. My husband was woken up by doorbell ring. It rang probably 20 to 30 times. He walked outside no one was in sight. It’s like she disappeared in thin air… Sure enough, there is a picture posted from a neighbor across the street. It was kind of scary because this girl looked like she was just in a shirt. She looked like she had wrist restraints on her wrist and she was barefoot. You can see her with a worry on her face looking around.”
That neighbor’s video was not released publicly.
In an interview, Lauren later said that she also tried to get help from cars driving by that night, but no one stopped.
3. Many Speculated that Lauren Could Have Been a Number of Missing People in the Area
Thousands of people watched the video, trying to determine if they knew the woman ringing the doorbell. Some speculated she was a woman in a number of missing persons cases, including Caitlin Denison or Brittany Burfield. But she was not either woman.
At first, people were critical of the Sheriff’s Department because their Facebook page seemed convinced that she was OK, including “liking” comments from people who thought she was OK. At the time, there was much speculation on whether her wrist had a restraint on it or if she was wearing a lanyard with keys. And others speculated about whether or not she looked scared.
Doubts and criticisms of the Sheriff’s Department changed when the department quickly located the woman and determined she was safe.
4. Dennis Collins Was Found Dead in His Home Days Later of Suicide
Dennis Ray Collins, 49, was found dead in his home of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, the Sheriff’s office reported. Foul play was not suspected, and he left a suicide note. His brother has a copy of the note, and he also left a suicide note for Lauren.
After Collins was found, police confirmed that Lauren was safe.
“The deceased’s girlfriend, a 32 year old white female, who was not on scene when deputies arrived, is confirmed to be the female in the doorbell ring video,” the sheriff’s office said at the time. “The female is confirmed to be safe and with family. The investigation will continue. The female that we have all been looking for has been identified and is safe. She is currently outside Montgomery County and our investigators will be meeting with her to continue the investigation.”
Lauren had returned to Dallas to be with family before Collins killed himself.
“I had gone to be with my family in Dallas, and I just wanted to block out the world,” ABC 13 reported in an interview with her. That was why Lauren didn’t know right away that her video had gone viral.
5. Lauren Said Dennis Was a Completely Different Person That Night
Lauren said that she had been with Dennis Collins since April, but one night he changed, ABC 13 reported. “Dennis, I believe in my heart, that’s not who he truly is, so it hurts me to see him bashed online.”
She also said she had no idea he was suicidal. His last text to her just said,” Give my mom a hug and be happy.”
She gave the following statement to ABC 13, before she came forward publicly:
“I want to first give thanks to the many people across the globe who prayed for me. Their prayers gave me strength. Their kindness reminded me that there is beauty in this world.
I am aware that several families had some hope that I was their missing loved one. That hurt my heart. I wish that I could hug each of them and somehow help them to heal. If there is anything I can do for any of you, I would be honored.
I don’t want to get into any of the specifics of that evening, other than to say that I was in a lot of fear for my safety. I was not aware of the video until Wednesday afternoon. It is truly difficult to understand the duality that exists within each of us. People would like to paint Dennis or myself as entirely good or entirely evil, light or dark, every human has both of these inside. It is hard to understand how someone who treated me with such kindness is the person I saw that night. I’m sure it was hard for Dennis to accept the dark parts of me. I can be selfish. I have done things most would be ashamed of and I had a dependence on a substance because of a serious injury.
It would be easy to have resentment in our minds and hearts, but fear, hatred, and shame only create more fear, hatred, and shame.
Love is the only thing in this world to create light where there was none. I hope that in this transforming time in society we are able to choose love more often.
I forgave Dennis long before he was gone, and love him. I know he too forgave and loved me. I know I will fall short daily, but I hope to continue to choose to be loved. And I hope that for us all.”
Dennis’ brother, Jeff Collins, told ABC News that although he was not present that night, he did not believe his brother had held someone captive. “It wasn’t like what people are saying — she was never a captive or being kept in his house against her will. My brother was no monster.”
Jeff said that Dennis talked warmly about his girlfriend, and that Lauren had attended a birthday party for Dennis’ daughter, who was 13, and had lived with him for four months. He said Dennis had been depressed for a while. Dennis’ suicide note took responsibility for disrupting his family’s and his girlfriend’s lives, including the surveillance video. Lauren told Inside Edition that the suicide note she received said that he would never have killed her like she thought, and he wished that he could turn back time.
The mother of Collins’ daughter said that Dennis Collins had contacted her and sent text messages that made her worried he might hurt himself. She asked the police to do a welfare check, and that was when they found his body.
Jeff told ABC that his brother killed himself not out of guilt, but because he had been unhappy for a long time and couldn’t stand the idea of his daughter thinking of him in that way. Jeff said that his brother and Lauren were both good people.
In 2000, Dennis Collins pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a different woman, ABC News reported. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years probation on deferred adjudication, court records showed.
Neighbors said Dennis Collins was an ideal neighbor, often helping with repairs and lawn mowing.