Gatlinburg man remembered as a good friend

Colbert among three slain in Knoxville homeless camp
May. 02, 2013 @ 11:37 PM

Collin Colbert had only been here a few years, but it was long enough to make a lasting impression on the friends and family members who filled the Calhoun's banquet hall Monday.

Colbert was one of three people found murdered in a homeless camp in Knoxville earlier this month. He was 29. His friends say he had been in treatment for alcoholism, but had apparently checked himself out and had been living on the streets

Many of them said they would have given him a place to stay if he'd asked.

"We think he didn't want us to know (that he had left rehab and had been living in a homeless camp)," said Beth Kizer, who helped organize the service. "I feel like he thought we'd be disappointed, but we wouldn't have."

She said police believe that three other people at the camp had murdered the first two victims, and then killed Colbert because he wouldn't keep silent about the other murders.

They want people who've heard about his murder to know who he was beyond how and where he died. And they wanted to remind his friends to be ready to let a judge know the impact of his loss when the time comes.

Colbert moved from Chicago to Gatlinburg a few years ago to stay with his aunt, one of his last living relatives, after the grandmother who raised him died.

The first thing his friends and family mentioned was his love of sports, and of all the teams from his home in Chicago. Many wore White Sox caps as a tribute to him.

After moving here, he started working for the Copper Cellar chain of restaurants. Many of his friends were people he'd met through work.

They said it was hard to imagine Colbert getting into any kind of altercation. He rarely lost his temper.

"He was never stressed," said Lauren Beebe. "He was a good friend. Just talking to him made you feel better."

They acknowledged he had struggled. He had a difficult childhood, and some of them said he often seemed to feel he was alone despite the friends he made.

Delivering his eulogy, Cris Corneliussen said Colbert's coworkers had become an extended family to him.

"For all the problems he had, he was always there and always gave you a smile," he said.

Now, he said, they need to stick together to see that, when the time comes, justice is done for him.

"If we remain Collin's family, I think we can all get through this," he said.