'My Dad Killed My Mom. No One Believed Me'

I woke up to the sound of a scream and two thuds in the middle of the night. It was December 31, 1989, and I was 11 years old at the time.

Following the scream, I counted the footsteps that came down the hallway; they stopped in front of my bedroom door and something told me not to look up. I knew it was my father.

The night that changed it all

When I awoke the next morning, I ran to my mother's bedroom and saw her bed was in disarray. I immediately began looking for blood stains because I knew that something had happened to her.

I was angry and scared for my mother, myself, and my sister, but I was determined not to let my father get away with this. I was going to find out what happened to her, even if it killed me. I came downstairs and my father was sitting on the couch. He had just taken a shower. I asked: "Where is my mother?" He responded: "Mommy took a little vacation, Collier."

He explained that he had fought with my mother the night before. He said she had thrown her purse at him, walked out of the house, and got into a car that was waiting for her. I did not believe anything that my father was saying; I knew that he was lying to me. In my heart, I felt that he had killed my mother.

Collier Landry's Mother Was Murdered
Collier Landry's mother was murdered by his father in 1990. Collier Landry

My father then said we were not to call the police or the FBI. I found it very strange that he quickly began speaking of such things, considering that he had already said my mom wasn't in danger.

My parents got married in 1968 and I was born in 1978. I found out that my dad was having an affair when I was 11, as I had met his girlfriend. My mom had found out too, and wanted a divorce. But my father was a rageaholic.

I remember, one time, my mother and I were making breakfast. I accidentally dropped an egg on the floor and my father went into a state of rage and threatened to kill me and my mother. He slammed the door of the house and broke all of the windows.

Finding out what happened to my mother

My mom had bought a cordless phone for the house, so I went into the bathroom and began calling all of my mother's friends. I told them I believed that my dad had killed my mom and that they should call the police.

Later that day, two police officers showed up at our house. My grandmother was shocked as before this, she had told me to not call the police. I didn't get the chance to explain that I believed that my dad had killed my mom because my grandmother was with me the whole time.

So the next day, I continued to call people my mom knew, as well as the police again, but they all told me that my mom's case was a missing person's one. I tried to tell them that something bad had happened to my mom, because I knew she would never leave me.

A few days later, a detective came to our house while my father was away with his girlfriend. My grandmother screamed at the detective from inside the house and told him that he could not come inside. But I opened the door for him.

While my grandmother was on the phone with my dad, saying that a detective wanted to speak to him, I told the detective to give me his card. I explained that something had happened to my mom and that she was either dead or trapped. Then, I called the detective the next day, from my principal's office. He came to the school and I told him everything.

I told him about my father's history of abuse towards me and my mother and about his proclivity for violence. I also told him that my father was having an affair behind my mother's back before she disappeared. Of course, he looked at me like I was crazy. I was 11 years old at the time. But I told him that I would keep reporting back to him.

Collier Landry's Mother Was Murdered
Collier Landry and his mother. Collier Landry

Over the next 25 days, my father behaved strangely. Usually, he loved violent movies and was very aggressive with me. But he saw that I was playing a fighting game on my Nintendo and became upset, saying: "I would never have gotten this for you."

I thought to myself: "Who is this person?" I noticed he had marks on his hands that looked like scratches.

Halfway through January, my father took me to his office. On the drive back, he stopped at a gas station. While he was inside, I rummaged through his truck, in hope of finding evidence. At that point, my mother had been missing for about two weeks.

I opened the center console of my dad's car and found two polaroid pictures. One was of a house, and the other was of his girlfriend and her two children in front of a fireplace that I had never seen before. I had also never seen that house before in my life, so I thought it was very suspicious. I told the detective about the strange house and the polaroids, but for the following few days after that, I did not hear back from him at all.

The day that my dad was caught

On January 24, 1990, I was woken up at 6:00 am by child protective services in my room. They told me and my sister to pack our bags because we had 20 minutes to leave our house. As I was coming down the stairs, I saw that our house was filled with men and women in white coats, along with many police officers. At the time, my dad was away at his girlfriend's house and my grandmother was looking after us.

Though I knew that what was happening was going to end in the police finding my mother, I was in a daze. Like: Is this really happening to me? Am I in some kind of bad movie stuck on repeat?

The uncertainty you feel at that moment is overwhelming, but I knew my mother would have wanted me to be strong for my sister and for her.

I was taken to the principal's office at school and was met by a caseworker and that night, I stayed at my principal's house. But I had a bad asthma attack and was taken to the hospital in the morning as I did not have my medication with me. I thought I was going to die because I couldn't breathe.

My dad was a doctor so he had many friends in that industry, so at the hospital, one of his friends treated me. I was then taken into a small room and the principal of my school who had come to the hospital with me sat down to tell me the bad news that I had been waiting for.

She told me my mom had been found. A small part of me hoped that the statement would be "she was shopping in a mall" or "she was staying with a friend. She didn't want you guys to know because she wanted to be safe."

But, of course, the principal said my mother was found dead.

I later discovered my mother's body was buried in the house that I saw in the polaroid. My father had purchased the house with his mistress in the state of Pennsylvania. He buried my mother's body underneath the basement floor and covered it with carpeting. He built shelves on it and repainted the whole basement as if nothing had happened.

I remember at the time, I was staring at an electrical outlet in the wall. The first words out of my mouth were: "That b******."

A part of me was relieved because I knew that I was not crazy. But, of course, I did not want to believe that my mom was completely gone.

The aftermath of my mother's murder

After that, my father's case took a life of its own. We lived in a small town in Ohio and news of my father's numerous affairs trickled out. Although my father had a lot of patients who loved him, many people in the professional community had no respect for him because he was seen as a womanizer and sloppy with his business and his personal life.

After processing the sequence of events, I realized that I was the reason that my father was caught. Before my involvement, my mother's case was only a missing person's case. I believe that the Mansfield Police Department was not suspicious of a doctor at all. But the detective kept reporting back to his colleagues that I was convinced that my mother had been murdered. I was thankful for him because he had listened to the words of an 11-year-old.

My father's trial was held in Ohio, between May and June 1990. I testified at the trial for two and a half days, and it lasted for a month. The whole trial was televised; I believe that it was the trial of the century in my small town of Mansfield, Ohio. I testified at the grand jury, securing his indictment for the murder, but I wasn't allowed to go to my mother's funeral because I was the chief witness for the prosecution in his case.

I was sad and disheartened; not only because I couldn't be there to say goodbye, but because my family turned their backs on me shortly thereafter. I had no one from my family in my corner; I was essentially an orphan.

I felt my family had abandoned me after the trial, during the darkest time of my life. My mother's side of the family said they did not want anything to do with me because I looked like my father. My father's side didn't want anything to do with me because of my involvement in his case.

So, I was remanded to the foster care system for a little under a year. It was a horrific experience, as my foster family was not very kind to me. Eventually, I was awarded custody by the court to a loving family in the area who took me in and raised me until adulthood.

Moving past murder

I have always felt that as a society, we often look at murder cases without examining the consequences of violence and how it impacts communities and the victims involved. That's why I moved to southern California at the beginning of 2001 and then to Los Angeles the next year, in hopes of telling my mother's story.

After dropping out of music school and moving to L.A., I ended up getting into the film business. I taught myself everything about film and taught myself how to become a cinematographer and a director. I did all that in pursuit of learning how to be able to tell my story.

After pitching my movie idea to a friend, I was put in contact with Barbara Kopple in 2009, who had won two Academy Awards. Before this, I was cultivating a relationship with my father to gain his cooperation in making a film about what had happened. I have not seen my father since the trial, but I have communicated with him via email.

A few years later, in November 2018, my documentary film A Murder in Mansfield premiered. But this only covers a small part of what happened, and focuses on my coming home to Ohio to examine the consequences of violence on my community, and to confront my father in prison. I have yet to tell my whole story.

In mid-2021, I also began a podcast called Moving Past Murder. I use the platform to share my story with other people. My intentions were to share how I survived my traumatic experiences and to help others understand the true crime landscape in general. I believe that my father is a psychopath and a narcissist. So, often, my advice helps others who are dealing with the effects of narcissism, betrayal, and dark trauma.

I wanted to offer my story as a way to show people that they can make it through extraordinary circumstances. You may have some bumps and bruises, but you are going to be OK. In telling my story, I also want to speak directly to any child who is in foster care, and who has been abandoned by their entire family. I want to say that you will make it through all of this.

I believe that I carry my mother's legacy and my legacy. My story is one of hope, that's what it is.

Collier Landry is the host of the Moving Past Murder podcast, and the filmmaker behind the documentary, A Murder in Mansfield. Being a survivor of a tragic trauma, Collier's message of human resilience, hope, and personal triumph over adversity has inspired audiences across the globe. You can find out more about him here.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor Carine Harb.