Colee’s body found in ravine

Published 10:12 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

The body of Virginia Colee was discovered Friday off the intersection of Alabama Highways 219 and 183. She had been missing for five weeks.

Workers with the Alabama Department of Transportation found her red 1990 Oldsmobile Delta 88 in a ravine, authorities said.

“Mrs. Colee was found laying beside the car,” Dallas County Chief Deputy Randy Pugh said.

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Authorities said forensics would complete an autopsy to finally confirm the body is that of Colee of Selma.

“The body was wearing the clothes Mrs. Colee was wearing when she was last seen leaving Wal-Mart,” Pugh said. “The groceries she bought were in the car.”

A call came into the Perry County Sheriff’s Department at 1:30 p.m.

“Some Department of Transportation workers were patrolling the area and one saw the car,” Perry County Deputy Roy Fikes said. “The grass had been cut yesterday. I don’t know if they could have seen the car if it hadn’t been for that.”

Dallas County Sheriff’s Department had searched the area twice using the Alabama State Trooper’s helicopter and the Civil Air Patrol airplane.

“There were trees laying on top of the car,” Pugh said. “Someone in a helicopter or airplane would have to be looking directly down on the car to see it.”

Once the car was found, the removal proved to be a task. Alabama Department of Transportation engineers James Fisher and Tim Stone used chainsaws to free the car from the tangled branches and undergrowth.

“We couldn’t have gotten to the car if it hadn’t been for James and Tim,” Perry County Coroner George Pullom said.

Colee was last seen Sept. 10 leaving the Selma Wal-Mart parking lot. Prior to leaving Colee asked directions to Highway 219.

“She wanted to see a doctor who lived on the highway,” Pugh said. “We found out the doctor she wanted to see didn’t live on 219.”

That conversation marked the last time anyone spoke to Colee.

The body was transported to Kirk Funeral Homes in Marion, where the Department of Forensics in Montgomery, will take custody.

“An autopsy will give the official death, but we know she didn’t die in the car wreck since she was found outside the car,” Pullom said. “The cause of death could be exposure, but we won’t know until the autopsy results.”

Alabama State Troopers Lt. Durwood White and Jeromy Johnson conducted the investigation at the wreck.

“It appears that [Colee] was heading south on 219 and drove straight through the stop sign,” Johnson said. “However, the accident is still under investigation.”

Many volunteers helped the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department search for Colee.

“We want to thank everyone especially the Civil Air Patrol and the Alabama State Troopers,” Pugh said. “If it is any kind of comfort, Mrs. Colee still had her Bible in the front seat.”