Colleen Orsborn Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: Nicole/Find a Grave

The parents and other loved ones of 15-year-old Colleen Orsborn got worried sick when she skipped school to head to the beach and didn’t return home in 1984. Fearing the worst, the close ones filed a missing persons report only to find a body that was identified as Colleen’s several decades later, in 2011. The episode titled ‘Spring Break Nightmare’ of Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared’ covers all the intricate details about the case, including the events that led to the fateful day and the decades-long search for the truth. It also includes various interviews with Colleen’s family and friends, and the experts involved in the case.

Colleen Orsborn Disappeared in 1984 But Her Body Was Identified in 2011

Welcomed into the world on March 3, 1969, by Francis Orsborn, Colleen Emily Orsborn was a bundle of joy in the lives of her loved ones, including her beloved sister Margaret Carroll and brother Russell Orsborn. Lighting up every room she walked into with her smile and laughter, she had many friends who cared for her and vice versa. Thus, when she decided to skip school on March 15, 1984, to go to the beach and did not return home that evening, alarm bells rang and her parents reported her missing to the police four days later. Possibly last seen in Daytona Beach in Florida, Colleen could not be found anywhere, even after the detectives’ best attempts.

Image Credit: Charl/Find a Grave

However, three weeks after her disappearance, in April 1984, Colleen’s supposed decomposed body was found by a fisherman in a shallow grave in Florida’s Orange County. At first, the officials ruled out the discovered body to be that of Colleen because certain characteristics did not match. For instance, it was reported that the eyes of the person’s body found were brown while there were no piercings on the ears. Meanwhile, Colleen’s eyes were hazel and her ears were pierced. Since the body was too decomposed, no confirmed determination could be made at the time.

Decades later, in March 2011, the police realized that they made a mistake in 1984 when they failed to identify Colleen’s remains. But most of that mistake had to do with a lack of technological advancements. When new DNA technology was in place, Colleen’s long-found remains were finally identified through a DNA match with her sister, Margaret Carroll, 27 years after her disappearance. On the crime scene, the investigators had found a wallet consisting of 4 photos of young unidentified girls, which made them scratch their heads as they thought it could be a significant piece of evidence to crack the case.

Colleen Orsborn Was Seemingly Killed By a Serial Killer

Since Colleen Orsborn’s disappearance occurred at a time when there were various abductions and murders were at a high, the police believed that the Australian serial killer Christopher Wilder, also known as the “Beauty Queen Killer,” was responsible for it. According to the authorities, Colleen was seemingly one of his first victims. About 27 years later, Colleen’s body was identified and her DNA was matched with the unidentified body that they had found just a few weeks after her vanishing. As per reports, Christopher was staying at Howard Johnson’s motel near Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach on the day Colleen disappeared. Since most of his victims used to be near his birthdate of March 13, the police were almost sure that he was responsible for what happened to Colleen as well.

As the detectives delved deeper into the case, they found out through one of Colleen’s classmates that a man similar to Christopher had offered her $100 to pose for pictures. However, there was no incriminating evidence that linked him to the case. When a couple of police officers approached him in April 1984 to interrogate him regarding Colleen Orsborn, Christopher got involved in a shootout with the police in Colebrook, New Hampshire, and reportedly died by suicide during the standoff with the authorities. After the case went cold, the police took a fresh look into the case and found the portraits of four young women in her case file. Although the photos were old, the detectives managed to find out that they were taken by Miller Studio in Quincy, Massachusetts.

After releasing the photos to the public, they received more information about them and identified the girls in the photos. Soon, one of the girls in the photos got in touch with the authorities and claimed that the wallet, inside which the four photos were found, belonged to her who lost it during her vacation the same year. As for the Miller Studio, it was owned by Shery Percy at the time. She told the investigators that it was her family business and that they had been doing high school portraits for a long time. The authorities were unsure if the perpetrator had the wallet with him and left it deliberately at the crime scene or it was a mere coincidence.

Five years after Colleen’s disappearance, her mother Francis Orsburn passed away, followed by her father three years later. Colleen’s sister, Carroll expressed her feelings to the News Journal after her sister’s body was identified more than 28 years after she vanished. She said, “We would have liked a better outcome and this just prolonged the pain.” After receiving her death certificate in 2011, the family reportedly cremated her remains. A year later, in April 2012, they held a memorial service for Colleen. “It’s what my mother would have wanted,” Carroll added. “She had quite a few friends and I’m sure this was a big part of their life at the time. But if it’s just the six of us,” Carroll said of her siblings and Colleen, “that would be just fine.”

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