Cynthia Collier was described by a Tennessee sheriff as a once “loving mother” who home schooled her large family. However, authorities now believe Collier murdered her four teenage children in a horrific murder-suicide that unfolded in Columbia, Tennessee.
Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland identified the deceased mother as Collier, 55. The victims were Collier’s children: Bo Li, 14; Meigan Lin, 14; Lia Lin, 15; and 17-year-old Kaileigh Lin. Rowland said the four children were adopted by Collier and her husband. When asked whom authorities believe committed the murders, Rowland indicated that Collier died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene.
“There is nothing that would lead us to believe that it’s anything other than murder-suicide,” said Rowland in a news conference on October 16, 2018. “This appears to be a loving home. It was an immaculate home. Very loving family. So a motive would be very important to know what would lead someone to do this to her loved ones.”
In December 2018, it was revealed that Collier fired 34 bullets in the carnage when authorities released autopsy reports in the mass slaying. Some of the children were shot in bed and one child in the bathroom. One girl had 13 gunshot wounds, My Dayton Daily News reported, adding that a motive remains unclear.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Found the Five Members of the Collier Family Deceased From Gunshot Wounds
The sheriff said the call came in on Monday evening, October 15, 2018, around 6:19 p.m. The murders were called in by a family member. Deputies arrived quickly to the scene.
“They went in to secure the house. At which time they found five victims all suffering from gunshot wounds,” said the sheriff. The home is located in the 1000 block of Carters Creek Pike.
Authorities secured the scene. “We recovered several items that will be sent to the forensics lab,” the sheriff said. “At this time everything would appear to be a murder suicide.”
He said that authorities were awaiting results from the autopsies. The sheriff said there were “multiple scenes throughout the house. We deal with difficult situations…” But, he said, “the magnitude of this, it was more than what we’re used to on a day-to-day basis. The first responders stepped up.”
2. Cynthia Collier Was a Stay-at-Home Mother Who Taught the Children Herself
Cynthia Collier was a stay-at-home mom, the sheriff revealed in the news conference. The sheriff indicated that the children were home-schooled.
“I believe she taught the children,” said the sheriff. “She appears to be a loving mother with the exception of this one incident.”
He said that authorities have not determined a motive for the carnage.
“We’re still trying to determine what would be a motive in this situation,” said the sheriff.
He asked the community to keep the victims in their prayers. The Zillow listing for the family’s home says it last sold for $227,200 in April 2014.
One person who knew the family wrote on Facebook, “Instead of going off of the media and saying what you think about this mother, think about her son who walked in to see his sweet, beautiful siblings murdered. They are all he ever talks about. He is such a sweet soul, who works hard, and loves God with all his heart. He needs all the prayers he can get right now. Imagine losing everyone you love, in one night. Stop worrying about what the media has to say, get on your knees, and pray for him. He deserves it.”
3. The Four Teenage Victims Were Adopted Children & the Parents had a Past Divorce Action
The four victims who were “involved in this scene” were adopted children, said the sheriff.
Both parents had adopted the four children, according to the sheriff. “They were adopted at two different times.”
According to the sheriff, another family member is a biological adult child of Cynthia Collier and her husband, and that family member came home from work and “discovered this scene and called 911.”
The Tennessean reports that Cynthia Collier married Randall Collier in 1982. They were involved in divorce proceedings last spring but “by the end of May they had asked for the case to be dismissed. They were attempting to reconcile.”
The newspaper reports that the couple also had three older children, and all seven of the kids – including the four who were murdered, gave “sworn affidavits in the divorce filings, stating that their parents had been unofficially separated since at least 2007 and that Randall Collier had not lived on the same property as the family since 2009.”
The younger children said they “barely knew their father” and wanted to live with their mother, The Tennessean reports, and the adult kids said they had a “strained” rapport with him.
4. The Sheriff Said Information Was Left at the Scene to Point to a Murder Suicide
The sheriff indicated that there may not have been a lot of warning signs – at least when it comes to previous reports to law enforcement. He said there was no record of “any domestic situations coming from that residence” in the past.
Asked by a reporter if a suicide note was found, the sheriff said, “There was some information left. It was very brief and vague that would indicate it was murder suicide.” He was not more specific.
Despite what she did, Collier’s obituary described her in glowing terms. “Cindy was a loving and devoted Mom and Grammy. She was a tender and sweet soul who always put others first. She embodied selflessness, pure love, and a childlike joyful spirit. Despite the struggles of her life she sought to live out the will of God. She was adored and treasured by all of her children,” it reads.
5. Two Different Firearms Were used
The father and husband “was interviewed, along with other family members,” the sheriff said. However, the sheriff said the evidence points to the mother as the killer.
All of the evidence would lead to a “self-inflicted gunshot wound from Mrs. Collier to herself,” he said.
There were “two different firearms recovered that appeared to be used in this event,” said the sheriff.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for funeral expenses “Please join us in donating whatever you can to help towards funeral costs for the Collier’s. The unexpected loss of a family member can be tragic, let alone five members. Let’s help lessen the burden for this grieving family. All donations will be given to one of the Collier sons. Please continue to keep them in your prayers and thank you in advance!” it reads.