Family hopes for break in Roane Co. woman's 2003 suspected murder

Family hopes for break in Roane County woman's 2003 suspected murder

Cheryl Payne (source: Roane County Sheriff's Department) Cheryl Payne (source: Roane County Sheriff's Department)

6 News Reporter

HARRIMAN (WATE) - In December 2003, a Roane County woman got into a fight with her boyfriend after they left a Harriman bar. No one has seen her since.

The boyfriend's story is that he dropped off Cheryl Payne, 33, on the side of the road close to the Big Orange Bar.

Investigators and Payne's family believe she was murdered.

The family and the sheriff say Payne and her boyfriend, Terry Collins, had a documented history of domestic violence. He's a strong suspect in her disappearance.

However, detectives haven't been able to find Payne's body or collect enough evidence to make any arrests.

Payne's older sister Tammy Braden, says Cheryl had a mild, loving personality that was taken advantage of by Collins.

"I mean she loved him, but he always was a very violent person. He did drink a lot. He'd go to work. She'd have his supper ready, and she did basically what he told her," Braden says.

Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton confirms the violence. There are plenty of sheriff's reports that document what happened between the couple.

For example, one report says Collins broke into Payne's house, took all her clothes, broke all her dishes, threw food out of the refrigerator and vandalized the house.

"They had a hot and cold relationship. They were good one day and assaultive another day. He had assaulted her before," Sheriff Stockton says.

Payne's sister agrees. "The whole 10 years they were together, they did nothing but fight."

In December 2003, the family reported Payne missing. "It was unusual for Cheryl not to call her son or father throughout the day," Sheriff Stockton says.

Terry Collins was the last person to see Payne. When detectives interviewed him, he told them about getting into a fight outside the Big Orange Bar. Then he said she got out of his truck and he never saw her again.

"Even during the interview, the detective noticed bite marks on his hand which he claimed he got from the night she went missing," Sheriff Stockton says.

The sheriff says they have this very strong suspect in the case, there's no body and not enough evidence to make an arrest.

Payne's family keeps working to make sure her isn't forgotten.

"There is no day that goes by where I don't think of her and where she's at. There are many times I have cried just thinking of what her last moment was," Braden says.

Very recently, two cold case detectives from Florida started exclusively investigating the Payne case. The sheriff hopes their work will help crack it.

If you have any information about this case, call the Roane County Sheriffs Office at 865-376-5582.

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