As she jogged on the base of the Naval Air Station in Millington, Tennessee, Suzanne Collins was likely bubbling with excitement. It was late in the evening of July 11, 1985, and the following day was supposed to be the greatest day of the 19-year-old’s life. Suzanne was a United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal undergoing training at the base and was scheduled to graduate from avionics training the following day.
Many try out of for the Marines, but few make it. Only a scant few of the few who do make it are women. Suzanne Collins was slated to be one of the few and the proud. No one had any doubt she would do her country proud if she had only had the chance.
Two other Marines were also jogging near the Millington base on the evening of July 11. As they neared Edmund Orgill Park, they heard a woman scream. When they reached the area, they saw a car racing away.
The marines reported the incident to base security and accompanied officers on a tour of the base, looking for the car. Unsuccessful, the Marines returned to their barracks but were soon called back to the security office. Officers had stopped a car, and when the Marines arrived on the scene, they said the sounds made by the car’s muffler matched those they had heard after having heard the woman scream.
The car’s occupant gave statements to the base security personnel accounting for his whereabouts. The security personnel was satisfied, and, over the protest of the Marines, allowed him to go. The security personnel later said they did not detain the drive because no one had been reported missing at the time.
After Suzanne was reported missing by her roommate on the morning of July 12, fellow marines and Shelby County police officers conducted a search for the missing Lance Corporal. Later that morning, Sheriff’s deputies discovered her body in Edmund Orgill Park, just off the marine base.
Word of the discovery of Suzanne’s body reached base the following morning, the military police arrested the man they had stopped the previous evening.
Sedley Alley was a civilian married to a marine and living on the base. He admitted he had killed Suzanne but claimed it was an accident, as his car had accidentally struck her as she was jogging. As he was trying to help her, Alley claimed he accidentally killed her when she fell on a screwdriver he was holding as he was trying to help her.
No one was buying Alley’s claims, and an autopsy revealed the heinous manner in which Lance Corporal Suzanne Collins lost her life.
No screwdriver wounds or wounds consistent with being hit by a car were found. The autopsy showed Suzanne had been raped and her skull fractured by repeated beatings. Suzanne had died from blunt force trauma to the head and internal hemorrhaging, caused in a grossly appalling manner. Alley had repeatedly raped her with a tree limb and used so much force it ruptured a lung.
After Alley learned of the findings, he admitted his screwdriver story was a lie and confessed to Suzanne’s murder. He took police to the tree from which he had broken the limb he had put into Suzanne. Police said he seemed proud that he had remembered the tree’s location.
At his trial, Alley claimed he had a multiple personality disorder. He was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape. He was sentenced to death, but it would take over two decades before the sentence was executed.
After numerous appeals and stays of execution, Alley was finally put to death by lethal injection at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee, on the morning of June 28, 2006.
The amount of time between the murder and Alley’s execution (20 years, 11 months, 14 days) was longer than the life of Suzanne Collins (19 years, one month, four days).
Suzanne’s parents, Jack and Trudy Collins, grew frustrated with the lengthy appeals and continuing delay of Alley’s sentence. They became lobbyists for limitations on groundless habeas corpus appeals.
The Collins’s also established the Suzanne Marie Collins Perpetual Scholarship, first awarded in 1996.
Suzanne Marie Collins was given a full military funeral and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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