Wednesday, July 21, 2010

After 30 years, daughter learns truth: her abusive father DID murder her mother (Warrensburg, New York)

After 30 long years, dad THOMAS A. COLLARD has finally confessed to the murder of his wife, and that the story he concocted about her running off to Texas with a guy named "Mike" was just that--a concoction. His daughter had always suspected as much, but couldn't prove it. She was only 8 years of age when her mother "disappeared." Her father's physical abuse forced her to run away from home when she was only 12.

UPDATED -- Woman: Family long suspected father killed mother
By Don Lehman Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 1:30 pm

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Every few years, Tammy Vanderwerker made the phone call to her father in Alabama.

Each time, she would ask him to come clean and confess to killing her mother, who had disappeared decades earlier under suspicious circumstances.

“I told him I want to know the truth. Tell me what you did,” the Warrensburg woman said Wednesday.

Each time, though, her father, Thomas A. Collard, 62, told her he did not know what happened to her mother, June M. Collard, who was reported missing Nov. 27, 1980 at the age of 30. She was last seen in Johnsburg.

Vanderwerker did not waver from her belief that her father killed her mother, and State Police didn’t, either.

New leads developed in recent weeks prompted investigators to visit Mr. Collard in Alabama, and earlier this week he confessed to the killing, authorities said. Police did not say how he allegedly killed Mrs. Collard.

He waived formal extradition proceedings in Alabama and was expected to be brought back to Essex County in a State Police aircraft late Wednesday to face a charge of second-degree murder.

Vanderwerker said she was not surprised that police ultimately linked her father to the killing, but there was still a sting to finally knowing that her mother’s life ended.

“I’m hurt in one aspect, but I’m relieved in another,” she said.

She said it was 5 or 6 years ago that she last called her father to confront him about her mother’s disappearance. They last talked three Christmases ago, when her father called Vanderwerker’s home to wish her a merry Christmas.

“I told him ‘Don’t call my home anymore. Christmas is a holiday for families and you’re not part of my family,’” Vanderwerker recalled.

Vanderwerker, 38, a nurse and bus driver, said she planned to go down to Alabama herself to talk to Collard several weeks ago as the investigation picked up speed, but State Police asked her not to.

Vanderwerker, the middle child of three who was 8 when her mother disappeared, said comments her father made when she was a child made her suspect he was responsible. She would not elaborate, but said she went to State Police nearly 16 years ago with information that prompted State Police to re-open what was a missing persons case at the time.

“My mother left her glasses and her teeth behind and I found them,” she said.

Vanderwerker said she ran away from home at the age of 12 because of the way her father treated her, including physical abuse. Her brother lives in Florida and a sister lives in Tennessee, she said.

“The sad thing is we’ve known it for 30 years but couldn’t prove it,” she said.

Vanderwerker said she fondly recalls her mother, though she doesn’t have many memories of her because she was young when she disappeared.

“She made our clothes for us. She was always there for us. She was not a woman to just take off and leave,” she said.

Mr. Collard told police he suspected his wife ran off with a man named Mike, and that he believed they had gone to Texas.

Vanderwerker said she hoped that her father would be able to lead police to her mother’s remains.

State Police Capt. Robert LaFountain said police were not detailing how they came to question Mr. Collard again in the case, or what prompted his admissions to the crime.

“We don’t want to say what it was at this point,” he said. “It’s been an ongoing investigation all these years. As a result of continuing interviews and re-interviews, we developed information that led us to re-interview Thomas Collard.”

Police have identified an area in Omstedville they plan to search for Mrs. Collard’s remains in the coming days. LaFountain would not say if the body was believed to have been buried or how it was disposed of.