At 5:45 AM on the morning of May 5, 32-year-old Chris Coleman, a former USMC military policeman, allegedly left the Columbia, Illinois home he shared with his 31-year-old wife, Sheri and their two sons, 9-year-old Garett and 11-year-old Gavin, on his way to Gold's Gym for an early morning workout session. By 7:00 AM Coleman attempted to call his home, and when his call went unanswered, he called police and asked them to check on the status of his family. Police found Sheri, herself a former USAF military police officer, and her two sons dead in the home, all from ligature strangulation, each victim in their own bedroom. Someone had reportedly spray painted a number of graphic messages on the walls of the home,, words to the effect of "I told you this was going to happen and f--- You B----, and Deny your God or else..."
Coleman, a former USMC military policeman, was a night shift security guard supervisor for the Joyce Meyers Ministry, but had not worked the night before the murders. Although he had reported being the recipient of threats related to his employment, he had also recently changed the title of the home from one of joint ownership with his wife to one reflecting him as the sole owner. He was also allegedly involved in an extramarital affair with a former high school friend of his wife. His believed "girlfriend" was identified as a stripper in a Florida men's club, someone with whom he allegedly maintained an affair while traveling for his job. Now police have found a "suspect" glove along the route that Coleman would have taken from his home to the gym that fateful morning, a glove that may have been worn by the person spray painting those deadly words on the wall of the Coleman residence.
Whatever the relationship between Coleman and his murdered wife, his actions and affairs bring to mind Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, convicted for the 1970 murder of his pregnant wife Colette and their two daughters. In that case Dr. McDonald, who called authorities to report a "stabbing," brought police into a terrible crime scene. His wife had been clubbed and stabbed to death (with a knife and ice pick). On the headboard of their bed was written the word "pig" in blood (something like was done in the 1969 Charlie Manson family murders in LA). Both McDonald daughters, ages five and two, were similar murder victims. Then there was Scott Peterson, convicted of the December 24, 2002, murder of his 8-month pregnant wife Lacy, noting Peterson had a girlfriend at the time and may simply have wanted to avoid divorcing Lacy and paying alimony and child support. That brings us to Mark Hacking, convicted of the July 2004 murder of his pregnant wife, Lori, this after he had tried to live out an elaborate lie including his alleged college graduation and his faked acceptance to medical school. After acknowledging his lies, Hacking shot his wife in the head, cut her body up on their mattress, and threw her remains in a local dumpster.
Now, of course, we have everyone's favorite narcissistic psychopath, Drew Peterson, accused of abusing his second wife, indicted for the murder of his third wife, and suspected in the disappearance and assumed death of his fourth wife. In this Peterson's case, he is a former cop who apparently didn't want to share the marital proceeds as would be required in a traditional divorce, so many believe that he, as a cop, knew how to make a murder look like an accident and how to make a body disappear.
For some, it appears that conventional divorce proceedings simply do not work, or required too much of the husbands in the above cases, i.e., money and responsibility. For others, the allure of an extramarital affair allows one to escape the daily responsibilities of marriage and a family, living out a contrived relationship until the reality of the situation comes crashing down on them. Then, in either a moment of frustration, anger and rage, or in a well thought out plan of "permanent separation," the husband and father in one action releases himself of his responsibilities and, perhaps, becomes the ultimate victim, this as he attempts to move on with his life and his girlfriends.
Not to place too much emphasis on men who kill their family members; a 57-year-old Japanese man in Hiroshima was recently murdered by his 40-year-old wife and her 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. The wife had reported her husband to police for domestic violence, but police just conducted an interview and left the home. When he again began hitting the woman both she and her two teen-aged children knocked the man to the floor and allegedly strangled him, this while two other family children slept on the second floor. Some men just don't learn their lesson…
Back to Chris Coleman: police indicate their belief that the three murders were not random and that they know the identity of the killer. Investigators have told the community that they have nothing to fear from an enraged killer walking the street as the victims were specifically targeted by their killer. It appears that police are awaiting the results of lab tests to link their suspect to the murders, i.e., awaiting linking physical evidence, like fingerprints, DNA, etc., that will place the killer at the scene. While Chris Coleman appears to be the "killer of choice" to almost everyone who knows this story, convictions take place in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion. Many remember Stephen Grant, convicted of the February 2007 murder of his wife, Tara Lynn Grant. In that case he had reported her missing after she allegedly drove off with an unknown person. The needed physical evidence was found by police when they searched Grant's home and found a portion of his wife's dismembered body hidden in their garage. He confessed to strangling her before cutting up her body, and was sentenced to 50 years.
The challenge with physical evidence in the case of someone who shared a residence, like the Colemans, is that the evidence must link directly to the murder(s) and not just show the person was present in the home. While unlike CSI Miami, the evidence, shootout and arrests do not really take place in one hour, and much evidence is circumstantial vs. direct, over 50% of the 16,000 + homicides in the U.S. are solved every year. But there are the O.J. Simpsons of the world who are able to beat the charges and, according to many, literally get away with murder. Whether Chris Coleman is such a person may be determined relatively quickly. Meanwhile Sheri, Gavin and Garett Coleman have been laid to rest and Chris has been fired from his job. What future fate awaits him has yet to be determined. Another chapter in endless book concerning man's inhumanity to man...
UPDATE: Authorities announced on Tuesday the arrest of Chris Coleman for the murder of his wife and two sons. He has been charged with three counts of first degree murder and after arrest at his nearby parent's home was incarcerated pending his first legal appearance in court on Wednesday. Authorities indicated that at least 25 detectives from the local major case squad, investigators from various law enforcement agencies joined together to investigate such high profile offenses, had pooled their resources with their work leading to Coleman's arrest. Evidently authorities had always suspected Coleman but had withheld arrest until the receipt of the results of certain forensic tests relating to the scene of the triple murder, this while they maintained surveillance of Coleman to insure that he did not flee the area.
On Thursday (5/21/09) authorities announced that the time of death for the three victims was somewhere between 3 AM and 5 AM. By his own admission Chris Coleman was in the home at that time, therefore tightening the case against him.. While some question the accuracy of such forensic pronouncements, it is obvious the the window of time that an unidentified intruder could have entered the home and killed the three victims is very small, continuing to suggest that the husband and father is the logical suspect.
Reports have also surfaced that a receipt for spray paint was found inside of the home and that the father/husband/suspect had scratches on his arm, probably evidence of his role in these terrible crimes. If all of the above is true, it appears that Chris Coleman may have preplanned the murder of his wife and sons and carried out an elaborate but otherwise poor attempt to commit a triple homicide and somehow get away with it. In this case police will probably be able to link the murders to Coleman and he, like many before him, will not get away with these crimes, meanwhile the family of the victim's have filed a wrongful death suit against Coleman, little satisfaction, though, for the loss of three innocent people.