Chris Coleman was an ex-marine, employed as head of security for a well-known TV evangelist, and seemingly living an idyllic life with his wife and two kids in Illinois.
But that all changed dramatically when that wife and children were discovered brutally murdered in 2009. What came to light after the savage killings was a lurid tale of murder, sex, and betrayal.
It all started on the morning of May 5, 2009. That was when police found Thirty-one-year-old Sheri Coleman and her sons, 11-year-old Garret and 9-year-old Gavin, strangled to death in their beds. It would take two years and thousands of hours of police work before they would have justice – and the killer revealed to be her husband!
Sheri Weiss met Chris Coleman at a K-9 training seminar at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in May 1997. Weiss, 21, was an MP in the Air Force; Coleman, a Marine, was 22. They dated just a few months before Weiss was pregnant with Garret, and the two married. Gavin was born about two years later.
Chris Coleman grew up the son of Ron and Connie Coleman, evangelical pastors in Monroe County, Illinois.
Joyce Meyer, a televangelist and head of an international Christian ministry who knew the Colemans hired Chris to work on her security team. It wasn’t long before Chris became Joyce’s personal bodyguard, earning a salary of over $100,000 per year.
Chris, Sheri, and their boys lived in a two-story home in the 2800 block of Robert Drive in Columbia, Illinois, a short drive away from Chris’ parents in Chester. Friends and neighbors described Chris and Sheri as a wonderful couple and, with Gavin and Garret, a beautiful family. However, something dark was lurking below the surface.
Suspicious Letters and a Secret Affair
Around mid-Nov. 2008, a threatening email filled with obscenities was sent to Chris Coleman, Joyce Meyer, and her son. In early Jan. 2009, Coleman reached out to a neighbor who worked for the Columbia Police Department, Det. Sgt. Justin Barlow. He told Barlow and local authorities about a threatening letter that had been left in his mailbox. Police agreed to patrol the neighborhood, and Barlow installed a security camera pointed at the Colemans’ mailbox. Neither the camera nor the extra patrols yielded any results.
During the same time that this was all going on, Sheri would tell friends that Chris’ demeanor had changed. She suspected he was hiding an extramarital affair. She also confided to a friend that “If something happens to me, Chris did it.”
In late April of 2009, Chris Coleman contacted local police again about another note with threats against his family.
Then, a few scant weeks later, on the morning of May 5, 2009, Chris Coleman left his home to go work out at a gym in south St. Louis County. He called Sheri’s cellphone and left a message. He texted her again while at the gym and called once more when he was on his way home.
Getting no answers, Chris called Barlow and the Columbia Police Department and requested they check on Sheri and the boys.
Barlow met a Columbia police officer in front of the Coleman residence. They soon discovered a basement window had been opened. The pair entered the basement and made their way through the house. During the search, they saw spray-paint on the walls saying, in big red letters, “I am always watching,” “U have paid,” and “punished.”
Police found the bodies of Sheri, Garett, and Gavin in their beds. They had ligature marks on their necks, indicating they had been brutally strangled with a cord or rope.
While police were searching the house, Chris had pulled into the driveway just before 7 a.m. Another officer had arrived and kept Chris outside the residence. Barlow and the other Columbia officer exit the home and inform Chris his entire family is dead.
Police found his reaction to the news “unusual.” He was taken to Columbia Police headquarters and interviewed. Investigators suspected Chris could be involved in his family’s deaths. Digital evidence recovered from Sheri’s phone and Chris’ laptop pointed to marital problems and revealed an affair he was having with a woman named Tara Lintz.
As detectives grilled Chris, they learned Lintz was actually a friend of Sheri’s who now lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. Chris told authorities he knew Lintz and the two were friends themselves. At this same time, officers in Florida were questioning Lintz about the nature of her relationship with Chris Coleman.
As the investigation continued, a picture emerged of a man engaging in an illicit affair with his wife’s close friend. The two had rendezvous in Arizona and Hawaii while Chris was traveling for work and exchanged numerous texts, pictures, and videos of “a sexual nature,” according to the authorities.
Coleman’s family held funerals for Sheri, Gavin, and Garett on May 9 at Evergreen Cemetery in Chester. Sheri’s family had the bodies brought to a funeral home in a Chicago suburb days later for a visitation. Chris Coleman did not attend that service.
All the while, detectives with the Major Case Squad were piecing together a case against Chris. Computer and data specialists inspected his laptop; handwriting analysts looked at the threatening emails, notes, and spray-painted messages in the home; and forensic examiners poured over police paperwork and the autopsy reports on the victims.
Evidence was also recovered from a stretch of Interstate 255 that authorities searched near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge – the same route Coleman would typically take going to and from the gym. However, cellphone tracking would later show Chris took a longer route home on the morning of May 5.
Investigators had very good reason to suspect Chris Coleman killed Sheri and their sons. In an interview with reporters days later, the head of the Major Case Squad, Major Jeff Connor, said he believed he knew who killed Sheri, Gavin, and Garett.
After a conference call with famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, in which the doctor said Sheri and her kids were almost certainly murdered before Chris left the house that morning, police believed they had their man.
Chris Coleman was arrested on May 19, 2009, at his parents’ home in Chester, Illinois, and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Police said Coleman sent the threatening letters himself and spray-painted his walls to make it look like someone else killed his family.
Trial and Conviction
At his trial, prosecutors attempted to paint a picture of a man desperate to get out of a marriage and run off with his mistress by pinning his family’s murders on a mystery assailant.
Dr. Baden testified on behalf of the prosecution about the time of death of Sheri and her boys – they were likely killed hours before Chris Coleman left his home that morning. A computer forensic analyst told jurors the threatening emails sent to Chris in the months prior to the murders were actually sent from Coleman’s own laptop.
After 15 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts on May 5, 2011 – the two-year anniversary of the murders.
Coleman was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. To this day, he proclaims his innocence and says someone hacked into his computer to send the messages and that someone else had broken into the home to murder his family.