In her younger years, Kenyatta Collier was a basketball star at Chester County High School in Henderson, Tenn., who earned a scholarship to Jackson State Community College.
The Tennessee native was smart, outgoing and devoted to her family even when she moved away to cities including Indianapolis and Detroit.
But the 37-year-old mother, who had dealt with depression and paranoid schizophrenia for the last few years, died alone on Airport Freeway the night of Aug. 11, hit by a car as she walked in the traffic lanes.
“I’m still in shock,” her younger sister Jodeci Davis of Lexington, Tenn., said Wednesday. “We don’t know why she moved to Texas because she had no family or friends that we knew that lived down there.”
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The family believes that Collier stopped taking her medications and became disoriented that night.
“It’s still all a mystery to us,” sister Janada Brasher of Indianapolis said Tuesday. “As far as I know, she didn’t tell anyone she was moving to Texas.”
One of the last people to see her alive was on a Trinity Railway Express train that night. After Collier was killed, Randy Hutcheson of North Richland Hills sent an email to the Star-Telegram saying he encountered a woman on the TRE who seemed disoriented.
Shown a picture of Collier on Wednesday, Hutcheson confirmed that it was her.
“She was trying to figure out how to get on I-35 to walk north,” Hutcheson said in an email. “She could not manage to tell me where she was going … where she was from … what she did all day.”
Hutcheson offered to help her and even contacted the conductor and a police officer, both of whom talked to her.
“She teared up and said she misses home and needs to get back,” Hutcheson said. “When I got in my car at Richland Hills station, I saw her standing on the platform.”
At 10 that night, police were dispatched to an auto-pedestrian accident on westbound Airport Freeway near Interstate 35W. A motorist called 911 to report hitting someone.
Collier was walking westbound in the traffic lanes when she was struck, police said.
Born in Henderson, Tenn., Collier was the second-oldest of six children. She spent most of her life in Tennessee.
She had a daughter, 15, and a son, 9, who lived in Illinois and Tennessee. Her life was somewhat normal until about five years ago.
Something just happened to her. She became paranoid. She would say people were listening to her on the phone, [that] the FBI was involved.
Jodeci Davis, younger sister of Kenyatta Collier
“Something just happened to her,” Davis said Wednesday. “She became paranoid. She would say people were listening to her on the phone, [that] the FBI was involved.”
But Collier received medications and moved to Detroit, where she landed a job at a car factory, got an apartment and bought a car. An aunt also lived there. Collier stayed there about a year and apparently moved to Dallas-Fort Worth just before summer.
“We don’t understand how she could have left all that and moved to Texas,” Brasher said. “No one knew where she had gone.”
Davis said her family didn’t know Collier was in Texas until last month, when she called her grandmother.
“She called and told her that she had checked into a clinic,” Davis said. “And that was all we knew at the time.”
Collier had no identification, so it took authorities several days to contact relatives. Her funeral is Saturday in Henderson, Tenn.
“She would have helped anyone who needed it,” Davis said. “And, oh, did she ever love her kids.”
The family has set up an account at gofundme.com to help with funeral expenses.