The Murder of Suzanne Marie Collins
It was Thursday, July 11, 1985 in Millington, Tennessee, a city roughly 15 square miles large, less than ten miles outside of Memphis and home to Memphis Naval Air Station (since renamed Naval Support Activity Mid-South). As a major training center for both the Navy and the Marines, the base covers nearly 4,000 acres and both the active duty and retired military personnel contribute to Millington’s economy.
Around 11 p.m., two marines, Private First Class Michael Howard and Private First Class Mark Shotwell, were jogging on base when they saw a very pretty, tall blonde girl wearing a Marine Corps t-shirt jogging in the opposite direction. Only moments later, they noticed a dark colored 1970s Ford station wagon with wood-grain paneling and its high beams on, traveling in the same direction as the pretty girl.
That girl was Suzanne Marie Collins. In that summer of 1985, 19-year-old Suzanne was a marine, assigned to Naval Air Station Memphis and preparing to graduate. The only daughter and youngest child (brother Stephan was just a bit older) of an American Foreign Service officer and attorney and his wife who adopted both Suzanne and Stephen, the Collins family did stints in Greece and Madison, Wisconsin before settling in Springfield, Virginia. A pretty little girl, Suzanne grew into a lovely young woman who was popular and outgoing at school, if not the most devoted student. Her devotion to sports and socializing left her without any college prospects upon graduation and not wanting to attend the local community college and live at home while she worked a minimum-wage job, she instead enlisted in the Marine Corps.
The decision was apparently a surprise to everyone, from her family to her friends to her high school teachers. When quizzed about why she would choose to enlist, Suzanne said she wanted to challenge herself and the marines were the very best.
In June of 1984, the same month she graduated from high school and turned eighteen, Suzanne began her basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina. She excelled during the grueling boot camp and it allowed her to give serious consideration to her future. Her plan was to go to the…