Two family members of the woman found dead in a car lodged in a Yellowstone snowbank Saturday say her traveling companion is out of jail on bond.
Michael McCollum, originally of Texas, was charged with drug possession and traffic violations after authorities found him outside his truck Saturday night on Craig Pass, with Catheryn Griffin, 38, dead in the truck.
Griffin’s mother and brother confirmed that McCollum was Griffin’s traveling companion and that the pair were dating, though authorities have declined to say so publicly.
Both family members believe U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Hambrick released McCollum from jail Thursday because Griffin’s death was a suicide.
Griffin had been working with a construction crew in Montana, said Beth Morris, Griffin’s mother, in a Friday interview with Cowboy State Daily.
Griffin and McCollum went to Yellowstone that weekend together, Morris added, drawing from her conversation with an investigator on the case.
“Witnesses said they were arguing in the truck,” said Morris, adding that it sounds to her like it was only a verbal argument.
Griffin then apparently shot herself, Morris related from the investigator’s statements.
Morris said she feels badly for McCollum, but she still has many questions about her daughter’s final moments.
Griffin’s oldest brother, Eron Griffin, also has the impression her death was “self-inflicted,” but said he can’t say definitively since the investigation is ongoing.
“We were all kind of blindsided,” Eron Griffin said.
‘She Was My Baby’
Griffin was the youngest of Morris’ three children, and the only girl.
“She was my baby,” said Morris. “All I wanted was a little girl. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my boys. It took me three times to get her.”
Morris said Griffin was a beautiful baby and a lovely child with black hair, dark eyes and tan skin. She grew up in Mississippi, though she moved to Florida a few years ago.
“She was just a country girl,” said Morris.
Both Morris and her son Eron said Griffin had a fiery temper.
“She might have got mad at you, but a few days later she’d call you back and apologize for her language and actions,” said Morris with a chuckle. “She’d say, ‘I’m not gonna tell you it won’t happen again; I’ll just apologize.’ At least she didn’t lie!”
A Mother’s Memory
As a child, Griffin would climb up onto the couch, put her head in her mother’s lap and say, “Mama, rub my head,” Morris recalled. “And she’d go to sleep with her head on my leg. I know it sounds weird, but that was her favorite thing to do.”
Eron Griffin said his sister unleashed her signature hot temper the day their father shaved off his beard. The girl was 5 years old at the time.
“When your father walks around looking like Jesus on a Harley Davidson and all of a sudden he’s got a cleft chin, you’re like, ‘What happened?’” he said.
Catheryn Griffin was having no part of this new hairless father, said Eron.
Eron was reluctant to reminisce too much, citing his Southern roots.
“Men in the South — we just take care of shit and handle business and move on,” he said, adding that he now lives in Oregon though he was raised in Mississippi.
He found wry humor in the tragedy, though, because Friday was his 42nd birthday.
“The ongoing joke is, Catheryn had a way of ruining birthday parties,” he said. “We’ve joked about that forever.”
The family has held onto that joke so long and still finds meaning in it after Catheryn’s death, said Eron Griffin.
“Just one of those family quirks,” he said.