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Peter ZIMMER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


New name: Jovan Collier
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14)
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: May 23, 1983
Date of birth: July 7, 1968
Victims profile: His adoptive parents, Hans, 48, and Sally, 44, and younger brother Perry, 10
Method of murder: Shooting - Stabbing with knife
Location: Mineral Point, Iowa County, Wisconsin, USA
Status: Pleaded no contest to the killings in 1983 and served just over a year for each murder in Ethan Allen School for Boys. Pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a Florida state prison on May 16, 2010
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 

From Teen Killer to Obsessive Stalker: How a boy who slayed 3 members of his family ended up behind bars 25 years later

DailyMail.co.uk

November 13, 2010

A Florida woman has revealed her horror at discovering that the person she thought was the man of her dreams was actually a triple murderer who had killed his adoptive family 25 years prior and lied about his identity.

When school teacher Candy Williams met Jovan Collier on a beach in the Sunshine State in late 2005 she thought her search for love was over. Within three months he had moved in with her and they planned to marry.

'It was a whirlwind. We hit it off that day', Ms Williams said. 'It was really quick. He was very charming, a smooth talker, sweet, you know, funny'.

But she was soon to find out that the man who swept her off her feet was actually a teen killer who murdered his mother, father and younger brother when he was 14, avoided adult prison and then started a new life with his victims' money at age 19.

Ms Williams said that the pair had a lot in common when they met, having both recently moved to the St. Petersburg area and were trying to build a new life.

'I was looking for someone to share my life with', Ms Williams told 20/20 co-anchor Chris Cuomo in the show airing tonight. 'I was just missing a significant other that I really wanted'.

She said they bonded over both having dealt with loss in their lives. 'I'd been through a lot of tough times, lots of deaths in my family', Ms Williams said.

'That first day at the beach, he told me that his parents had been killed in a tragic car accident by drunk drivers. He had always felt like he was missing something', she added.

What she didn't know at that time was that the man she was sharing her bed with and enjoying a romance would soon turn into a real-life horror story.

A while into their relationship, Ms Williams found out that Collier was married twice before and had two children.

They had a brief break-up when she found out that he was making trips to Indiana to apparently spend time with his son but it turned out he was still married and was trying to reconcile with his second wife.

Collier, although having lied about his adoptive parents dying in a car crash, had shared with Ms Williams that he his birth mother had found him and they now enjoyed a relationship.

Collier told 20/20 about his adoption: 'I honestly had abandonment issues my entire life. I never felt like I was part of anything. I was reminded that I was adopted a lot. I was told that my mother was a whore. You know, she's a horrible person, trailer trash, and blah blah blah'.

But his mother turned out not to be what he claims his adoptive parents called her and is in fact a realtor living in Atlanta with an affluent plastic surgeon.

She apparently searched for him for years before finally tracking down her long-lost son. A DNA test proved their relationship.

For a while everything was great in both relationships with Ms Williams spending time with Collier's mother and even spending Thanksgiving together.

But in the summer of 2008, Collier told Ms Williams he was no longer speaking to his mother, saying it was because she had bad-mouthed his girlfriend.

But in truth, Collier's mother had uncovered the murders committed 25 years earlier by a troubled 14-year-old boy named Peter Zimmer - Collier's real name.

Collier's mother was oblivious to her birth son's past up until that summer but her family soon grew suspicious enough to hire private investigator Robin Martinelli to dig into his past.

Mr Martinelli said: 'There was just something different about him. The birth mother's husband thought there needed to be some background checked out'.

What he found out led for Collier's birth mother to abandon her son once again.

In May 1983, sheriff deputies from Mineral Point, Wisconsin drove to the Zimmer home on an isolated country road and made a gruesome discovery.

On the back porch of the house, police found the father, Hans Zimmer, shot five times. The mother, Sally Zimmer, had been stabbed to death and carried into a shed behind the house with a rosary placed on her body.

Bob Hille who was one of the first sheriffs on the scene said it was one of the worst murder scenes he had ever witnessed.

'The knife went through the thickest part of the skull above the ear and completely penetrated the skull', Mr Hille recalled.

10-year-old Perry, who had also been adopted by the Zimmers was found murdered in the house - he had been stabbed more than 25 times and was covered in defensive wounds.

Perry's 14-year-old brother Peter was immediately suspected of the heinous crimes.

'One car was gone. One member of the family was gone... He was nowhere to be found.. and just became immediately the suspect to look for', Mr Hille said.

Peter was quickly found and pleaded no contest to the killings and served just over a year for each murder, in Ethan Allen School for Boys - avoiding time in the state penitentiary because of his age.

But records show that although Peter refused psychiatric help - he did decide to get rich. While serving time for his family's murders - he declared his plan to claim his family's estate as the sole surviving heir.

The law fell in his favour and in 1987 he walked out of the school tasked with reforming juvenile offenders as a free man with a clean record, a trust fund and a new name - Jovan Collier.

During his time at Ethan Allen he apparently had nightmares about the killings and would wake up screaming and crying.

Collier struck up a friendship with 19-year-old counseling volunteer Belinda who said he was not discouraged about his past and said, 'He was charming... I was like his princess'.

'I didn't think about it that much', she said about his crimes. 'I mean, I concentrated on who he was now. I believe in second chances'.

The couple started dating when Collier was released and had a daughter together, Nicole, who grew up oblivious to her father's dark past.

The couple married and Missouri court records shows his wife won a default divorce judgment in 1993.

His daughter Nicole, now 22, said: 'It's not something that I ever was prepared for. When I found out about his past, I wasn't sure at all how to feel'.

She added: 'I wasn't sure if I should be mad at him or scared of him. I had no idea how I should be with him'.

Having not spoken to his daughter Nicole for 6 years, Collier was rebuilding a relationship with her around the time he started dating Ms Williams.

Nicole said: 'It was very neat to see that. I mean my dad was getting his life back on track, settling down, hopefully for good.

Unaware of his past, Ms Williams and Collier's relationship lasted 4 years and continued until 2009, when Ms Williams found Collier's profile on a racy dating website.

'I made him move out. He moved out. I called it off', she said.

As soon as she ended their relationship Collier started inundating her with hundreds of emails.

Initially the emails were loving, if not obsessive saying: 'You are the love of my life and I have been so happy to have found you. Please see how this is really a big misunderstanding'.

Collier claims the notes were harmless but the love notes soon turned sinister.

'I hope your world caves in', he wrote. 'I hope all your pets die. I hope the house falls down while you are in it. I hope you get into a physically altering car crash'.

Ms Williams finally took out a restraining order against Collier after he threatened her with a knife in public.

She had also received packages in the mail at home and at work - flowers, sex toys, a dead piglet among other things.

According to the charges, Collier created profiles at online sex sites using Ms Williams' name and address and posed as her in online chats with men, some of whom then turned up at her house.

'I would sleep, two, three hours a night. I would be sitting on the couch watching doors'.

Ms Williams only found out about Collier's murderous past when she received an email saying that her ex-boyfriend, who she now feared, had hanged himself in an Orlando hotel.

'I just thought, if anyone's going to know if this is true, his birth mother will know', Ms Williams said.

'I called and Joe's stepdad answered the phone... He's like, "Well you know  about the murders don't you?" I was like, I have no idea what you're talking about. And right then, I could feel like all the blood just, like drained from me'.

Prosecutors claim that Collier then became incensed and blamed Ms Williams for exposing his long-hidden secret past.

'What comes around goes around, so just remember that', he wrote to her. 'You took my life from me and I am very lost and angry at you for that... I am here in St. Pete and hope to hell I run into you. You messed me over and I will pay you back, your rep, your job, all of it'.

Collier was subsequently charged with felony stalking and arrested in Georgia in October last year. He was sentenced to 3 and a half years in a Florida state prison.

Ms Williams said that she's been advised to relocate but she likes where she lives and thinks Collier could find her anywhere.

'All I ever wanted was for him to leave me alone. If he had, none of this would ever have come out'.

Collier had met his second wife Leah at a company picnic while both worked in a newspaper print plant and they moved to her home state of Indiana. They married in 1994 and had a son, now a teenager. They're divorce was finalised in December 2005.

Nick Chochos who knew Collier and his wife in Indiana for about 10 years said he hired him as a subcontractor a few times.

He said when he heard Collier's real story he called him and asked, 'You know you're on the news in Tampa Bay?'

Collier's response was, 'How about that. That's something, isn't it?' Chochos said adding there was no apology no explanation and no remorse.

When Mr Chochos' wife later asked him why he killed his family - he apparently told her that it was because his father beat him, his mother didn't protect him and he was jealous of his brother whom his parents considered the perfect son.

Outrage about Collier's case led to changes in Wisconsin law that now allows juveniles as young as 14 to be charged as adults in some murders and prevents anyone guilty of homicide from collecting inheritance or other benefits from the victims.

 
 

Collier, who killed Zimmer family as teen, sentenced to prison in Florida

By Bruce Vielmetti - The Journal Sentinel

May 17, 2010

A man who killed his family when he was 14, then left Wisconsin at 19 with an inheritance to build a new life that kept his past a secret until last year, pleaded guilty Monday to stalking a woman in Florida and was sentenced to prison.

The Journal Sentinel recently chronicled Jovan Collier's life after the Wisconsin crimes, during which he married twice, had children, reunited with his birth mother and had planned a third marriage until a difficult breakup led to the stalking charges - and unearthed his violent past.

Collier, 41, was charged with misdemeanor stalking last summer in Pinellas County, Fla., related to ongoing phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages directed at his former girlfriend, who ended their relationship in May 2009. He later was arrested, posted bail and left the area. The woman then learned about Collier's past, the stalking intensified, and he was charged with felony stalking and arrested in Georgia in October.

On Monday, Collier pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking and was sentenced to 3 1/2  years in a Florida state prison. He will get credit for the time spent in jail since his arrest.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that Judge Joseph A. Bulone asked a series of standard questions before accepting Collier's plea, including whether he had a history of mental illness. Collier paused, appeared to grin and looked at his attorney.

"No, no history," he said.

Neither Collier nor his victim made statements to the court, according to the Times.

In 1983, when he was known as Peter Zimmer, Collier killed his adoptive parents and younger brother at their farmhouse in Mineral Point. Charged as a juvenile, he pleaded no contest and could be held only until he turned 19.

Because he was found delinquent, not guilty, he was able to make a claim against the family's estate as the sole surviving heir. He reached a settlement with the victims' other relatives and left Wisconsin for Florida with a trust fund.

Outrage about the case led to changes in Wisconsin law that now allow juveniles as young as 14 to be charged as adults in some homicides and prevent anyone guilty of homicide from collecting inheritance or other benefits from the victims.

 
 

A teen killer's dark secret

After decades, the ultimate second chance goes bad

By Bruce Vielmetti - The Journal Sentinel

April 26, 2010

Peter Zimmer, 14 when he murdered his adoptive parents and brother at their Iowa County farmhouse in 1983, got the kind of second chance that would be impossible today.

Wisconsin law at the time - since changed because of his case - did not allow Zimmer to be charged as an adult. He pleaded no contest to the killings and was found delinquent. There was no trial. He never expressed remorse or explained his crimes. He never accepted clinical counseling and therapy during his four years at Ethan Allen School, a state-run detention center in Waukesha County.

As he was about to turn 19, he was set free with a new name, a plane ticket to Florida and a six-figure trust fund pried from his dead parents' estate.

How did things turn out?

For a long time, on the surface anyway, just the way advocates for a more forgiving juvenile justice system might have hoped. He learned a trade, attended some college, briefly joined the military and started a business. He got married, divorced, had children and reunited with his birth mother. He seemed to stay out of serious trouble.

As Jovan Anton "Joe" Collier, he managed to keep Peter Zimmer hidden in closed juvenile files and some newspaper clips too old to pop up on an Internet search.

"I was successfully reinvented," Collier said.

Twenty-three years after his release, however, Collier might have to reinvent himself again. A run-in with the law in Florida has left him facing charges, magnified by his long-hidden past.

"There are things you can never quite forget, and this (case) is one of them," said Joseph Tregoning, who as a member of the state Assembly at the time introduced the bill to allow those younger than 16 to be charged as adults.

Tregoning, who represented the district where the crime occurred, said he wasn't surprised to hear about Collier's new trouble.

"It's hard to think," Tregoning said, "that unless they have a complete change of life, they won't reoffend."

Life as a Zimmer

Collier never talked publicly about his past until a March interview with a Journal Sentinel reporter in a Florida jail, where he's charged with felony stalking and held on $500,000 bail. He offered only a glimpse of his life as Peter Zimmer.

He recalled childhood visits to Germany, where his father was born, and where he never saw any resemblance between himself and relatives. He noticed other things that made him wonder, and when he was about 12, an aunt slipped and mentioned he was adopted. He said he asked questions and his parents confirmed it.

From then, he said, relatives continually told him bad things about his birth mother and warned him never to try to look for her. He felt the family treated him like Cinderella.

He called his father "someone who puts on a nice, humble persona to the public. Behind closed doors, in my face, it was not pretty."

Collier said he kept a diary at Ethan Allen and has been writing more in jail, to understand himself better.

He wouldn't talk about the murders but said he still cries over them.

"I've seen the same picture for 27 years," he said. "Time doesn't change it. It's sad. It hurts my heart."

During most of the two-hour conversation, though, he tried to appear upbeat, like a smooth salesman, talking up travels, high-paying jobs, his children, his biological roots.

"I've got good blood," he said. He clearly seems proud of making what he did of his life on his own.

But he said he's saving most details to help him market his story. He said he's working on a memoir, has been in discussions with publishers and a TV production company. He also talked of plans for an agency or organization to work with adopted children and their families.

"It's a serious subject, a serious case," he said. "It's not me cashing in."

He initially wanted $200,000 for an interview; he eventually talked without payment.

But he couldn't completely hide his anger that his new persona had been tainted with the full truth of his life. He thinks relatives of his adoptive family are responsible for outing him.

"They had the resources" to keep track of him all these years, Collier said. "They were committed to ruining my life at some point."

Tom Sokol, whose aunt adopted Collier, denied that theory.

"We're not bothering him, he's not bothering us," Sokol said. "We've had nothing to do with him. We just wanted him to go on and have a successful life."

Candy Williams dated Collier in Florida for more than three years. She loved him for his good qualities but broke up because he cheated on her and then endured events that led to his stalking charges. Today, she only shakes her head at his claims.

"He's a compulsive liar," she said. "He has no remorse. It's all about Joe."

Move to Wisconsin

Hans Zimmer immigrated to the Chicago area from Germany as a young adult. He married Sally Sokol, and in 1968 they adopted a newborn boy they named Peter, after Hans' father. Four years later, they adopted another son and raised the boys in Wauconda, Ill.

When Hans lost his job as an airline mechanic, the family moved to Mineral Point, where Sally's brother owned a company that made crystals for radios.

They lived in a farmhouse a few miles from town. Peter Zimmer enrolled as a freshman at Mineral Point High School, where he was considered a popular new kid and a fast addition to the track team. Some friends in Illinois recalled at the time that Zimmer didn't seem too happy about the move.

In May 1983, the family had been in Wisconsin about two months. That's when a Mineral Point High counselor received a call from someone at Zimmer's former school in Illinois, saying a boy there had said Zimmer told him that Zimmer was going to kill his family.

When Iowa County sheriff's deputies went to the Zimmer house, they found Hans, 48, dead on the porch from five gunshot wounds. His wife, Sally, 44, had been stabbed at least 15 times and dragged to a shed. Their son Perry, 10, was found dead in an upstairs bedroom, stabbed more than 20 times.

Zimmer had fled with his father's car. He picked up another youth hitchhiking, and they went to Kansas City, where they were arrested after Zimmer used his father's credit card. There were six handguns in the car.

Zimmer eventually pleaded no contest to the murders and was adjudged delinquent. He was kept at the Ethan Allen School until shortly before his 19th birthday, the limit of the law at the time. News stories about an annual court review of Zimmer's confinement indicate that he refused clinical counseling and therapy. But he read voraciously and carried on correspondence with teens he knew in Illinois and Wisconsin, according to a 1984 Milwaukee Journal story.

Because he was never found guilty, just delinquent, he was able to claim the Zimmers' estate as the sole heir - another loophole state lawmakers closed after his case.

His uncles fought the payout but in the end reached a settlement. Zimmer got to keep a couple of custodial accounts his parents started for him, and a new trust was set up for his education and support. He would get rent, tuition and a $100 a month for four years, unless he violated the agreement by returning to Wisconsin, Illinois or Arizona, where his victims' relatives lived.

In July 1987, now named Jovan Collier, he got on a plane to Fort Lauderdale to start a new life on his own.

Restless ambition

Based on Collier's words, those of friends and public records, a picture emerges of restless ambition.

He spent his first few weeks of freedom on the beach in Fort Lauderdale meeting girls, he said. "I had to re-socialize," he said.

About a year later, he had a daughter with a woman from Wisconsin. He would tell people later that he had gotten a minister's daughter pregnant while at Ethan Allen. But the girl would have been conceived soon after Collier left the facility. Her mother declined to comment for this story.

A couple of years later, he was attending a college in St. Louis, according to court records. He served in the Air National Guard for eight months in 1990, at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, according to national archives.

He told other people that he was in the Navy until 2005, but the archives had no such record. Collier said he was married in a Jewish wedding. The union lasted less than a year, he said. Missouri court records show his wife won a default divorce judgment in 1993. She could not be reached.

He met his next wife at a company picnic while both worked in a newspaper printing plant, and they moved to her home state of Indiana. They married in March 1994.

Collier owned a couple of construction companies, and one wound up in bankruptcy. His wife had a personal training business that also failed. They had a son, now a teenager. Collier said his second wife didn't know about his past at first, but she found out later and agreed to stay with him anyway. She told police in Florida that she learned of the Zimmer murders only during her divorce from Collier, which started in 2004 and was finalized in December 2005. She declined to discuss Collier with a reporter.

Collier admits that he never volunteered the truth about his family during his post-Wisconsin life.

"That would pretty much be an automatic deal breaker, don't you think?" he said.

Instead, according to friends, he said he was orphaned when his parents were killed by a drunken driver. He even took his Indiana family to visit their graves, where he would cry and place flowers, one friend recalled.

Around the time Collier's second marriage was falling apart, he was starting yet another life near St. Petersburg.

A new love interest

Candy Williams said she met Collier on St. Petersburg Beach in the second half of 2005, and a whirlwind romance ensued.

"He was instantly likable," she recalled in an interview. "He knew just what to say. He was charming, slick."

Within three months, he moved in with her. At one point, they planned to marry.

At first, she said, Collier said he was divorced, had a son in Indiana and flew there several times to visit him. Later, she learned that he was still married and spent weekends trying to reconcile with his wife.

That led to a short breakup, but Williams said he talked his way back into her good graces. He admitted then that he had a daughter, now 21, in Wisconsin with a different woman.

According to Williams and Collier, he also was spending a fair amount of time in Atlanta with his birth mother.

Collier said his mother first contacted him about five years ago, and DNA tests confirmed their relationship.

"I figured she was looking for a kidney, or the blocks had fallen out from under the trailer," he said, explaining his expectations that she would be someone looking for some kind of handout.

Instead, she turned out to be a successful Atlanta real estate agent married to a plastic surgeon.

"We had a nice reunion," he said. "For 37 years, I didn't know where I came from, except for what people told me, like, 'Your mother's a whore.' You hear that as a kid, it sticks with you and you believe it."

Collier said he assumed his mother knew his history because she hired a private detective to help find him. In fact, she didn't know about the murders.

They got along fabulously, Collier said. He moved into her Atlanta home while he worked for Noble Investments Group as a project supervisor, a job that landed him in Milwaukee on the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee hotel renovation for a while in 2008. She introduced him to her country club friends and to the rest of his family, at his grandmother's 80th birthday celebration in Chicago a couple of years ago.

"There were people who looked like me," he said. "It was really neat."

Through a lawyer, Collier's mother declined interview requests for this story. But in 2008, records show, she hired a private investigator to get records of his Wisconsin case. The Georgia investigator said the woman did not go looking for Collier as he contended. Rather, he showed up on his mother's doorstep one day. She later developed suspicions about his claimed background, the investigator said, and she ultimately learned the truth about Collier in 2008.

It appears Collier's mother largely kept the information to herself.

Collier said he almost can understand why she abruptly ended contact with him when she learned what he had done as a boy. But he called it unfair to his children that she stopped communicating with them, "after she'd gotten them to call her 'Nana' and everything."

He said he felt abandoned a second time.

Breakup in Florida

Williams, who briefly broke up with Collier when she learned he was married in Indiana, said she later learned that Collier wasn't always with his mother in Atlanta but had a girlfriend there. Then after he lost his job with the investment company in August 2008, he moved back in with Williams in Florida, where he got another construction job until he was let go. He was spending lots of time on the computer. When Williams discovered he was posting his profile on two dating sites, she kicked him out for good in May.

She said the harassment and stalking began almost immediately. He sent hundreds of e-mails about his love, his commitment to change, his explanations of the dating sites.

Then her home was repeatedly vandalized.

"He wanted me to feel scared and ask him back for protection and to fix the stuff," she said.

Instead, she called police and got a domestic violence injunction against Collier. He kept calling and e-mailing her about getting back together while he stayed with a former co-worker in Sarasota.

Williams was getting more annoyed, angry and scared - and she still didn't know about Peter Zimmer.

The Journal Sentinel obtained the discovery material in Collier's pending criminal case, including the hundreds of e-mails and Facebook messages Collier sent to Williams beginning in May.

Some of the e-mails purported to be from other people Collier knew but were from fake e-mail accounts he created. Many are long, passionate descriptions of how much he loved and missed Williams and detailed arguments as to why she should take him back. Some mention business deals the phantom writers have cooking with Collier. He posed as his ex-wife, his children, friends. He even posed as an Atlanta therapist, saying Collier had checked out early from mental health treatment and the clinic hoped Williams would help persuade him to return.

"When we talked the other day he sounded different than I have ever heard in his voice before," one e-mail purportedly from a friend in the drywall business in Indiana read in part. "Like he has some serious goals and something about stepping up and growing up and proving himself to not just you but everyone. Really have been pulling for you guys."

In June, after she had ignored most of the missives, she got several that said Collier hanged himself. She replied to the writers but got no response.

Finally, she called Collier's mother in Atlanta. Though she had visited Atlanta several times and seemed to get along with Collier's mother and her husband, Williams hadn't talked with them in about a year. To explain the sudden absence, she said, Collier told her that the couple had begun suggesting he was too good for Williams, and that in defending his love for her, he had created a deep rift with his mother.

And that's what she accepted until her June call about the reported suicide.

Williams asked whether Collier was dead. His mother's husband said they didn't think so but hadn't heard from him in about a year, since they learned about the murders.

" 'What murders?' I said. He said, 'Don't you know?' "

As Williams heard how Collier had killed family members in a Wisconsin farmhouse, she leaned against the wall and sank to the floor.

Disappearance

By this time, in late June, Williams had obtained an injunction against Collier, and he had been charged with misdemeanor stalking. He was arrested but disappeared after posting bail.

Williams now told police about the Wisconsin murders. They called authorities in Iowa County and confirmed that Collier was Zimmer. A story about the connection of a local stalking suspect and a triple murder years ago appeared June 30 in the St. Petersburg Times. Collier's big secret began shrinking fast.

And then the stalking escalated. Williams got packages in the mail at home and at work - flowers, sex toys, a dead piglet. Collier approached her at the beach in violation of the injunction. She had her car checked for a GPS tracking bug and bought a gun.

According to charges, Collier created profiles at online sex sites using her name and address and posed as her in online chats with men, some of whom then appeared at her house.

Local police followed tips about Collier in Atlanta, Indiana and around the Tampa Bay area all summer but could not find him.

Prosecutors now contend Collier's motive for the stalking had changed from expressions of "I love you/ I hate you" to blaming Williams for exposing his long-hidden secret past.

"What comes around goes around, so just remember that," he wrote in a September e-mail from the court records. "You took my life from me and I am very lost and angry at you for that. . . . I am here in St. Pete and hope to hell I run into you. You messed me over and I will pay you back, your rep, your job, all of it."

Armed with the new information, prosecutors charged Collier with felony stalking, based on a credible threat, and his violations of the domestic violence injunction. They asked the U.S. Marshals Service for help in finding Collier, and three days later, on Oct. 21, they arrested him at a motel in Savannah, Ga., where he had gone on a trip with a new girlfriend from Indiana who said she had no idea he was wanted for stalking or that he'd killed his family.

Williams said she got the news via e-mail at work and collapsed in tearful relief.

Prosecutors wanted to use the details of Collier's juvenile crimes to help show how his recent threats were credible, but a judge ruled against them. All prosecutors can say is that Collier has a violent past, unless Collier or his attorney mentions facts that "open the door" to further inquiry.

At a hearing last week, lawyers noted that Collier refused a plea agreement. If convicted as charged, Collier could face up to five years in Florida prison. The Zimmer murders would be fair game at sentencing, prosecutors think.

Williams feels safe for now but has had to miss work more than 10 times for court hearings.

"It's going on a year now, and it's really not even started," she said, referring to the criminal case. "It's consumed my life."

And she knows that when Collier gets out, the fear might return.

"I've been advised to relocate," she said, but she likes Tampa Bay and thinks Collier could find her anywhere.

"All I ever wanted was for him to just leave me alone," Williams said. "If he had, none of this would ever have come out."

Friend feels betrayed

Many others who knew Collier wouldn't talk about him.

But one friend who took Collier in even after he learned the truth feels betrayed.

Nick Chochos knew Collier and his wife in Indiana for about 10 years. He said he hired him as a subcontractor a few times and hung out with him socially, too. Chochos said that after he heard in early July that Collier was in trouble in Florida - and had killed his family in 1983 - he called him and asked, "You know you're on the news in Tampa Bay?"

Collier's response was, " 'How 'bout that. That's something, isn't it?' There was no apology, no explanation, no remorse," Chochos said.

And yet, when Collier called a month later begging for a place to stay and visit his son, Chochos agreed because he felt sorry for the boy. "Call me na´ve. Call me stupid, or a bleeding heart liberal."

Chochos' wife asked Collier why he killed his family. He told her it was because his father beat him, his mother didn't protect him and he was jealous of his brother, whom his parents considered the perfect son.

Collier stayed about a week, then moved into a rental house owned by Chochos to do repairs. In September, he also did some work for Chochos' father-in-law. A handgun that turned up missing there later was recovered from the woman Collier was with when he was arrested in October.

"People should be forgiven, given a second chance," Chochos said, "but Joe, he's had more than a second chance."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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