The Crimes-Picayune

The Murders of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins

February 07, 2021
The Crimes-Picayune
The Murders of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins
Show Notes Transcript

The bodies of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins were found in December 2002 off of a dead end road in Alexandria, LA. The relationship between the two has not been established almost 20 years later and authorities still don't know how they ended up together and murdered. 

If you know anything about the murders of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins, please call the Alexandria Police Department at (318) 449-5099 or call the Rapides Parish Crimestoppers line if you would like to remain anonymous at (318) 443-7867. 

Episode 5: Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins

  • Hey y’all! I’m your host, Peyton, and today I’m going to tell you the story of another unsolved case from central Louisiana. Two people were left on a dead end road towards the end of 2002 and authorities still can’t figure out the relationship between the victims. This is The Crimes-Picayune. 
  • On Friday, December 20th 2002, the badly decomposed bodies of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins were found off of Sugar House Road in Alexandria, LA. Alexandria is located within Rapides Parish and sits dead-center in the middle of the state. 
  • Roderick Wayne Collins was born in December of 1970. As far as I could see, Roderick remained in the Alexandria/Pineville area for the majority of his life and had been living in Pineville at the time of his death. 
    • Pineville is a small city just across the Red River from Alexandria. 
  • He was employed by the state and was working with the sanitation department. 
  • Roderick was last seen on Friday, November 1st by his girlfriend. I read that he had just received his check from work and his girlfriend said he told her he was headed to the Paragon Casino in Marksville, LA. 
    • This would’ve been about a 40 minute drive from his home in Pineville to the casino.  
  • But by November 4th, 3 days after not having seen Roderick, his worried girlfriend reported him as missing.  
  • Rebecca actually hadn’t been reported as missing. 
  • According to her family, it wasn’t odd for her to go missing for days or even weeks at a time. 
  • The mom of 5 was born in June of 1972 to Jerry and Kathy Miller. 
    • And just an unrelated side-note, Rebecca’s mom, Kathy, died under suspicious circumstances when she was 12 years old. 
    • According to a local newspaper called The Town Talk, on May 1, 1984 “Katherine Miller, 30, suffered [an] apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound following a family disturbance” … “She was shot at 7:45am and died at 11:07am in Rapides General Hospital in Alexandria.” She had been shot with a pistol in her stomach. 
    • I wasn’t able to find a follow-up article but there doesn’t seem to have been any additional investigating done on the case and her death was ruled as a suicide. 
  • When she was 18, Rebecca married a man named Michael Embretson in September of 1990. They eventually separated and she remarried in 2000 to a man named Thomas Vanzandt - and his name will resurface a little later. 
  • Rebecca started getting into some trouble, and according to The Town Talk, she had been booked into the jail 10 times, mainly in 2002 - which is the year she was murdered. She had accumulated some drug charges, in April she was arrested for unauthorized use of more than $1000, and her last arrest was that October.  
    • She was arrested on October 20th at her sister’s house for remaining on the premises and resisting an officer. She was sentenced on the 22nd and received 7 days in jail. 
    • Her daughter, Shay, said she had gotten out of jail and was last seen on October 31st at a gas station a few blocks down from the jail. She’s alleged to have been waiting in line to use the pay phone and was carrying the paper bag of her belongings she had received upon her release from the jail. 
  • Rebecca’s drug use and jail stays often lead her to be MIA for days at a time, so this is why she wasn’t ever reported as missing. I’m also not sure if her family was even aware that she had been released? 

  • A part of the case that investigators just couldn’t seem to figure out was the connection between the two. Almost 20 years later, the relationship between Rebecca and Roderick is still unknown. 
  • Interestingly though, according to an old job application filled out by Rebecca for a Ryan’s restaurant in Alexandria, she was previously employed by the Marksville casino that Roderick was said to have been headed to the night he was last seen. The dates she was employed at the casino are unclear on the application and her reason for leaving was listed as “open for discussion.” 
    • I also learned that there was allegedly a lot of sex work coming out of the casino and Rebecca was said to have participated in it. 

  • On the Ryan’s application, Rebecca’s most recent employment listed was for Honey Bear Escort Services. “February to April” was listed under the dates of employment section. I can’t find the date this application was filled out, but I assume it was in 2002 because Rebecca had been arrested in April of that year for unauthorized use of more than $1000, which would make sense why her employment ended that same month, but that’s just a guess. 
  • On the application, Rebecca drew through the spot for the address of Honey Bear Escort Service, which isn’t weird because escort services don’t typically have a place of business or headquarters that they serve out of. But, I did hear that Honey Bear Escort Services were allegedly run out of a nightclub called Sugar and Spice which was located at 1801 North MacArthur Drive. This was said not to have been done by the owners, but by a woman named Jamie, who on the streets went by “Mama Bear.” 
  • In a January 2004 article by The Town Talk, “Mama Bear’s” illegal activities were brought to light following the arrest of her and her boyfriend, who goes by “Papa Bear.” 
    • The article says the operation had been underway for at least 5 years until the couple was arrested at a MacArthur Dr. hotel on prostitution and drug activity charges. 
      • Just a side-note, I wanted to add that I respect sex-workers and the use of the word “protitution” is only going to be used within direct quotes from articles or other sources. And to reiterate from my episode about Robert Browne, on this podcast we respect people, their choices, and their occupations. Each and every person on this Earth deserves the same amount of respect regardless of if they partake in what society calls high-risk behavior, like sex-work and using drugs.
    • Anyway, the article outlines the method used by “Mama Bear” and her clients. It says “the ring would set up operations in various hotels in Alexandria. Sometimes they selected 1 hotel and rented 3 rooms. Other times they rented 2 rooms at 2 different hotels located nearby. Clients called Mama Bear on her cell phone and then set them up with “a date.” Once the client was with his date, the woman would ask if he was interested in purchasing drugs. If the client showed interest, “Mama and Papa Bear” then arrived at the motel room with the drugs.” They were found in possession of Viagra, meth, and ecstacy. 
  • That bust happened on January 26th, and just 3 days later on the 29th, Sugar and Spice - the nightclub that was believed to have been where Mama and Papa Bear were running out of, was a part of a citywide sweep to find drugs. 
    • Authorities were at the club because of information they heard about suspected underage patrons and drug activity. They found that, on that night, everyone in the club was of age and 2 of the employees were found to be in possession after a K-9 hit on their lockers. 
    • Had Mama and Papa Bear not been arrested within that same week, I believe authorities would have found a lot more. 
  • Just a week after being arrested in that MacArthur Dr. hotel, Mama and Papa Bear were arrested again, this time for charges of conspiracy to produce methamphetamine and are believed to operate in Rapides, Grant, and LaSalle Parish. 
  • The couple’s second arrest included 3 of their friends that are believed to contribute to the production and distribution of methamphetamine. 
    • One of the men that was arrested gave consent for authorities to search his home and in the attic they found parts of a previously-operating meth lab so charges of operating a clandestine lab, reckless handling of hazardous material, and possession of marijuana were added. 

  • So how does a multi-parish drug and sex-work ring relate to the deaths of Rebecca and Roderick?
    • Well, because we don’t truly know how the two were connected and/or knew each other, we can only speculate. 
    • There are so many scenarios that I’ve gone through trying to figure out what possibly could have led to the pair being murdered, and I always come back to the cause of death. 
      • Roderick’s cause of death has never been publicly listed but I assume it to be the same as Rebecca’s which was multiple stab wounds. 
      • There are so many variables that go into profiling a killer such as the method of killing, the amount of injuries to the person, and the placement of those injuries on their body. All we know about Rebecca is she was killed by an unspecified number of stab wounds to an unspecified part of her body. 
        • Knowing more details about her cause of death would allow me to make a better guess about the who and why, but we generally know stabbings to be very personal or that there’s rage behind the killing, that someone is mad about something. 
        • It’s not clear if Rebecca’s arrest the previous April for unauthorized use of more than $1000 is connected to her murder, but with Rebecca’s past including being heavily involved in drug activity and sex-work, in addition to her writing hot checks, I feel like this attack was personal against her - especially how soon it happened after she was released from jail. I wonder if Rebecca was being targeted and Roderick unfortunately and unintentionally also became a victim. 

  • Rebecca and Roderick were found at the end of Sugar House Rd. by a hunter. 
    • Sugar House Rd. is right off of I-49; so you can enter the interstate and exit off the interstate from this road
    • Sugar House Rd. is a dead end street
    • If you were exiting the interstate from I-49 South, took a left, and drove 800 feet, you would come to a stop sign. From the stop sign to the end of Sugar House Rd. is only about 6/10ths of a mile. 
    • This is a residential street, though there were only a handful of houses around 2002 and the few houses that were on this street were pretty spaced out. 
    • To give you an idea of the area, after taking that left from the interstate exit ramp and you stop at the stop sign and continue straight, as you’re driving to your left you would’ve seen the few houses that were built but to your right is pretty much nothing but woods and brush. 
    • As you near the end of Sugar House Rd. there is a house on the very end of the street to your left, right before the paved road ends. 
    • But, even though the pavement ends, there was still a dirt road that could’ve been accessed by a car. 
      • From Google Earth, it looks like this dirt road was intentional and was in the process of being made maybe for future production of more residential areas? But the dirt road leads to and stops at a bayou that runs perpendicular to Sugar House Rd. called Hynson Bayou. 
      • If you’re not from Louisiana or are maybe unfamiliar with what a bayou is, bayous, as defined by National Geographic, are just slow moving creeks or swampy sections of a river or lake. They are usually shallow, sometimes heavily wooded, and usually found in flat areas where water collects in pools. 
      • National Geographic actually has a really informative encyclopedic entry that talks about the importance of bayous for Indigenous people and Cajun and Creole culture. I’ll have it linked on my Facebook page - The Crimes-Picayune - if you want to check it out! 
  • Going back to the location of the bodies - I’m not surprised that Rebecca and Roderick were found by a hunter because this area was, and still is, heavily wooded. 
  • I’ve not been able to find the exact location of their bodies, though, so I’m not sure how far down the dirt road they were or if they were still on the dirt road or if they had been left within the woods, but this makes me wonder: were the two murdered where they were found or were they killed somewhere else and Sugar House Rd. was just used as their dumping ground? 
  • The bodies were stated to have been in the woods for about 5-6 weeks and were badly decomposed, which might be hard to believe because Rebecca and Roderick were missing and presumed dead in November and December of 2002. 
    • You probably know that when anything is cold, whether a body or vegetables in your refrigerator, the growth of bacteria slows and it helps preserve its state. 
  • Katharine Woollen of Illinois State University analyzed the effects of cold temperatures and weather conditions on the decomposition process in pigs in her 2019 thesis. Within this paper she provides a brief section about human decomposition and the variables that could affect or change the rate at which humans decompose. She cites another source stating, “The most influential variables include temperature, moisture or humidity, and oxygen content.” 
  • She explains how the temperature of the environment where the body is left can greatly alter the rate of decomposition and how, of the other variables, temperature has the greatest effect. 
  • In addition to halting or slowing the decomp process, cold temperatures “inhibit the presence of insect and scavenger activity, resulting in greater preservation of the remains.” 
  • She also explains how microorganisms can survive and adapt in climates like the Arctic but die in environments with different distinct seasons. I won’t be going into that but I will also have this paper linked on my page as well if you’d like to read more about that. 
  • Woollen continues, stating warmer temperatures, defined as 70-100 degrees F, “are known to promote a greater degree of bacterial and insect activity, aiding in the acceleration of the decomposition process.”
  • Now this is becoming more relevant to our case - Woollen writes that when temperatures fluctuate between warm (70-100º F) and cold (less than 40 degree F) decomposition rates can slow and then accelerate it will cause bacteria to dramatically reproduce. 
  • During November of 2002, the month we assume Rebecca and Roderick were killed, the weather fluctuated like crazy. 
    • The average overnight temperature was about 44º and the highest recorded temperature for the month was almost 85º F! There wasn’t much of a change in December either. The average overnight temperature being 39º and the highest reached 77º. 
    • The area also had about 15 inches of rain during those 2 months
    • In her thesis paper, Woollen also explained the effects of moisture and humidity on the rate of decomposition as well and cited a study that proved increased humidity promotes the growth of insect activity. In the same study it found that rainfall didn’t affect the activity of maggots because they just remained inside the body and continued to feed. 
  • I say all of this to possibly explain why the police are only able to assume how long the bodies were left there. Each of these variables make it difficult to find the PMI (postmortem interval). The PMI, in Woollen’s paper, is defined as the estimation of the amount of time that has passed since death. 
  • The estimated time authorities believe the bodies to have been in the woods works out to be around that first weekend in November, or November 1st and 2nd. 

  • Something I haven’t mentioned yet is that the day after he went missing, so November 2nd, Roderick’s car was found on Hudson Blvd, burned, just 4 streets over from where their bodies would eventually be found. 
    • At the time of the murders, Hudson Blvd did have a few houses on it but it was mainly just a 2 lane road surrounded by heavily wooded areas on both sides. 
    • I’ve not been able to find any articles about his car or where it was found on the 2 ½ mile stretch of road. I also haven’t been able to find the condition of his car and how badly it was burned. There wasn’t anything published that I could find about a burned vehicle that had been found in early November and his car is only briefly mentioned after his body was found. 
    • This leads me to believe that Rebecca and Roderick were killed the night of November 1st or in the early morning hours of the 2nd and the perpetrator, or perpetrators, tried to destroy evidence by setting his car on fire and leaving it on Hudson Blvd. 
      • But, again, I have more questions. Was Roderick’s own car used to drive down Sugar House Rd. to dispose of the bodies before being set on fire and abandoned 4 streets over? Were the two actually killed in his car and that’s why it was set on fire? Because of the abundance of blood and potential DNA? 
  • Almost 20 years later and we still don’t know why Rebecca and Roderick were found murdered in December of 2002. 
  • Rebecca’s daughter, Shay, still frequently posts about her mom in different Facebook groups about unsolved cases and even on local garage sale pages in hopes that someone will come forward with information that will lead to the person that took her mother’s life in 2002. 
  • If you know anything about the murders of Rebecca Miller and Roderick Collins, please call the Alexandria Police Department at (318) 449-5099 or call the Rapides Parish Crimestoppers line if you would like to remain anonymous at (318) 443-7867.