On a sunny beach in Florida, second-grade teacher Candy Williams met the man of her dreams in what felt like an instant connection. The two began dating, and their relationship blossomed into a 4-year romance until the chance discovery of a devastating photo led to her lover’s 33-year secret hidden in a farmhouse.
Candy Williams was looking for love and someone to share her life with when it found her in the most idyllic location — under the sun, on a pristine beach, in front of the crystal blue water. Jovan “Joe” Collier struck up a conversation with Williams that ended up lasting for hours since they connected through so many shared life experiences.
However, there was one detail they didn’t talk about, and it would leave her sick months later after finding out who Collier really was. His secret was darker than anyone could have imagined, and it would leave Candy downright frightened when she finally found out.
According to ABC News, Williams told 20/20 that she had been through some tough times in her life, suffering the loss of several family members, which she opened up to Collier about. He sympathized with her on that heartache, detailing his similar experience with the loss of his parents, who he said were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.
Collier expounded on his tragic family history, explaining that his deceased parents were his adoptive parents and that he hadn’t talked to his birth parents in years until they recently reached out to him. Collier’s mother had apparently been searching for her son for years and finally found him.
After spending some time reacquainting with the biological mother and father, Collier had a falling out with them, which he blamed on his mother not liking him. However, as Williams would soon find out, it was because the birth mom learned of the man’s dark secret and wanted nothing to do with him.
Suspecting her boyfriend was cheating, Williams’ fears weren’t unfounded, which she soon realized when she came across Collier’s online dating profile. Unfortunately, his infidelity was the least concerning of what she was about to learn of him.
Upset that he was dating other women behind her back, she broke it off with her boyfriend, which sent the man into an obsessive rage, causing him to send Williams hundreds of emails that ranged from begging her to take him back to hostile threats.
Concerned about his psychotic behavior, Williams called Collier’s birth mom, and that’s when the bomb dropped. Candy was about to learn that Collier’s secrets were much darker than she could have ever imagined in her wildest dreams — or should we say nightmares.
The woman’s husband answered the phone and, not knowing if she knew about Collier’s past, asked if she had heard about what happened in Wisconsin. Candy Williams was unfortunately clueless as to what the man on the other end of the line could be talking about.
That’s when he explained that in 1983, Joe Collier, who was actually named Peter Zimmer and only a teenage boy at the time, had brutally murdered his adoptive parents, Hans and Sally Zimmer, and their 10-year-old adoptive son, Perry, by shooting and stabbing them to death. He then dragged their bodies to the porch.
Peter was found guilty of the murders, but since he was a juvenile at the time, he was only sentenced to three years in jail (one year for each death). In a sick twist, when Peter was set free, he was awarded all of his victims’ money, which he used to start a new life as Jovan Collier.
The Journal Sentinel outlined the events as Peter Zimmer became Jovan “Joe” Collier in an infographic, outlining the timeline from Peter’s birth and the murders that he committed in the 1980’s up to his harassment of Candy Williams decades later.
Horrified that she had been dating a killer, who had now become her psychotic stalker, Candy Williams was afraid for her own life and reported her ex-lover to the police. Having left a massive trail of evidence, Jovan Collier was quickly charged with felony stalking and sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars in a Florida state prison.
Thankfully, this woman found out who her lover really was before she became his fourth victim, but it should have never come this far. He proved himself to be a threat when he killed his entire family. Unfortunately, he was given a shorter sentence than what those who have done less are serving, simply because of his age at the time.
To make matters worse, he was financially awarded for his homicides, which allowed him to create a new identity for himself and, in turn, allowed him to hide his past from those he would later become involved with, like his unsuspecting ex-girlfriend Candy Williams. If that’s not a defunct judicial system, I don’t know what is.