We are continuing the series on family annihilators with the case of Chris Coleman. There are many similarities with this case and the Chris Watts case. In Columbia, Illinois on May 5, 2009, police walked into the home on the 2800 block of Robert Drive to a gruesome scene. Chris’ wife, Sheri (31), and their two sons Garret (9), and Gavin (11), were found strangled in their beds.
In the early morning hours, around 5 am, Chris left the home to go to the gym. He called and text his wife, both with no response. Once he was leaving the gym, and still had no response from his wife, he called his neighbor, a Columbia police officer, Justin Barlow to check on his family. Barlow entered through an open basement window. They found spray paint on the walls reading things like, “I am always watching,” “punished,” and “U have paid.”
Police found Sheri and her sons in their beds with ligature marks around their necks, indicating use of a cord or rope for strangulation. Chris pulled into the driveway just before 7 a.m. He is immediately a suspect and is taken to the station for questioning. He was also seen to have scratches on his arms at this time. In searching digital devices in the home, police discover Sheri had discovered Chris was having an affair with a longtime friend of hers, Tara Lintz. She also told a friend that Chris had asked her for a divorce.
Through interrogation, police discover that Chris had held several rendezvous with Lintz while traveling for work. Chris worked as a bodyguard for a traveling preacher, making over $100,000 a year. Chris and Lintz exchanged countless texts, pictures and sexual videos. After deep investigation of the digital devices in the home, police discover numerous emails to Chris from an unknown sender. This sender threatened to kill Chris and his entire family if he did not stop working for the traveling preacher, as the sender did not agree with her views. The emails were incredibly threatening, saying things like, “YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!”
Chris did not attend his wife and sons’ funerals. Police began putting together a case against him. Cell records would show that Chris had taken a different, longer path home from the gym than he would normally take. Given his call to the neighbor in concern for his wife and sons, why would he chose to do this? Autopsy reports revealed that Sheri and her sons were most certainly deceased before Chris had left for the gym that morning.
Chris was arrested May 19, 2009 at his parent’s home in Chester, Illinois. He stood charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police believed he had spray-painted his home walls to set up the scene. The trial began in April 2011.
The prosecution created a picture of a man desperate to be with his mistress and leave his stressful family life behind. They claimed that the spray paint and emails were sent by Chris himself to set up the story of an unknown killer. A computer forensic analyst testified that the emails (from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’) were sent from Chris’ own laptop in the months leading up to the murders. Police also found a receipt for red spray paint in the home, tracing it to a local hardware store.
Chris’ mistress claimed the two met in November of 2008 while the family vacationed in Florida. She claimed that he was to serve his wife divorce papers in May. He had also given her a promise ring, which she wore while testifying. The defense claimed that someone had hacked into Chris’ email and sent the threats, and that another person had broken into the home to murder his family. Chris did not testify during his trial.
After 15 hours of deliberation, the jury found Chris Coleman guilty of all counts. The jury also came to the conclusion with photographic evidence that the affair with Lintz had began at least a month before the two claimed. Coleman was eventually transferred to Dodge Correctional Facility in Waupun, Wisconsin due to safety concerns.
In an interview with ‘Crime Watch Daily’ in 2018, Coleman claimed that he kept two laptops (one at work and one at home), insinuating that someone had taken his laptop to email himself.
“Actually, what never came out in court is I had two laptops and I traveled with one and I left the other one either at home or at the office,” he said during a phone interview. “They were never both on me at the same time and the one that was connected to the threats was the one that I would leave either at home or at work.”Chris Coleman, True Crime Daily
Some speculate that the murder could have been committed by convicted serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards. He was arrested in 2011 for several murders from the 70’s up to his arrest. He was active in the Ohio and Wisconsin area, but has not been linked to this crime. One would have to question his motive for being so involved in Coleman’s work life. Edwards has been suspected by armchair sleuths of involvement in the Zodiac killings, the Steven Avery case, and the JonBenet Ramsey murder. Coleman has appealed his conviction which has been denied several times.