Witness Tara Lintz answers Kris Reitz's questions on the witness stand. (Credit: Dan Martin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
A video of Christopher Coleman's interview with police plays in the darkened courtroom. In this segment, Coleman explains how he got some marks on his arm. (Credit: Dan Martin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Waterloo, IL (KSDK) - A key witness in the Chris Coleman murder trial, the suspect's mistress, took the stand Thursday afternoon.
Tara Lintz was spotted leaving a hotel and arriving at the Monroe County courthouse just after noon. She testified under subpoena.
The prosecution claims Coleman killed his family so he could be with Lintz and feared he could lose his job as a bodyguard for televangelist Joyce Meyer if he got a divorce. During previous court hearings, it was revealed that Lintz told investigators that Chris told her he was going to give his wife, Sheri, divorce papers on May 5, 2009.
Sheri, and their two sons, Gavin and Garrett, were found dead that same day.
Coleman admitted to detectives in a taped interview after the murder that was shown to the jury on Wednesday, that he was having an affair with Lintz, but that Sheri did not know.
In court Thursday, Lintz testified that she had been having an ongoing affair with Chris Coleman. The two would meet up whenever he traveled for work with Joyce Meyer Ministries. Lintz said the two planned on getting married, and they had even bought promise rings, which they would wear when together. Lintz wore her promise ring to court.
Lintz said she was best friends with Sheri Coleman in high school in Florida where Lintz still lives. Lintz said her relationship with Chris Coleman began when she attended a Joyce Meyer event in Florida at Sheri's recommendation in November of 2008.
In earlier testimony, police said they found a note on Coleman's computer that read, "11-5-08 the day Tara changed my life."
Prosecutors also introduced evidence of an extensive list found on Coleman's computer. It contained detailed information about Lintz including her birth date, clothing and shoe sizes, favorite foods, fantasies and gift ideas for her.
Police said they also found an entry that read, "Zoe Lynn Coleman, our daughter's name."
Lintz admitted on the stand when she found out Coleman was planning a vacation with his wife and two sons to Disney World she called the resort and pretended to be Sheri Coleman in an attempt to get the trip canceled.
Lintz testified she and Chris Coleman would call and text each other "constantly" including the night before Coleman's family was murdered.
Lintz said she had not spoken with Chris Coleman since May 2009, shortly after the murders while Coleman called while she was meeting with Illinois investigators in her Florida home.
"Oh, really? Interesting," she recalled Coleman saying.
She also remembered that one of them commented, "they're looking for a motive," when talking about the investigators.
Lintz was also asked about contact she had with two other men close to the case. She told the jury Sheri Coleman's brother sent her a message that said he wanted her to "have his baby."
She also said Coleman's younger brother Keith sent her explicit photos. Coleman's family tells NewsChannel 5 it was a modeling photo of Keith Coleman from college and that Lintz never responded to the message that contained the photo.
Lintz's followed former Columbia Police Detective Jason Barlow and Granite City Police Officer Ken Wojtowicz on the witness stand.
Barlow, now a U.S. Marshal, was the first person to respond to the home the day of the murders. Barlow testified that he, along with Dave Bivens of the Illinois State Police, interviewed Coleman for six hours on May 5, 2009.
Barlow lived across the street from the Colemans and had been investigating the threatening letters and emails the family was receiving. About a week before the murders, Barlow said he put up a camera on his property pointed at the Coleman mailbox to try and catch the person who was sending the letters. The Colemans knew about this and consented. He received a call from Coleman at 6:43 a.m. on May 5, saying he was nervous because he couldn't reach Sheri and asked Barlow to go check.
The defense asked Barlow why he was the person to interrogate Coleman, hinting at a conflict of interest because he lived next door. Barlow answered that he was not friends with Coleman and never spoke with him until he started investigating the letters. The defense said Coleman was cooperative in the murder investigation, voluntarily giving his phone and computer records, as well as providing DNA, blood and hair samples.
Defense attorneys asked Barlow if there was a third letter sent to the Colemans' mailbox while Coleman was out of town? Barlow testified Coleman told him that Sheri received a letter but they never brought it down, nor did Sheri say anything to police, adding it was just only Chris Coleman who said weeks later that Sheri got a letter when he was out of town.
Barlow was asked why investigators hired noted to forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to look into the time of deaths when the local forensic pathologist said an accurate time of death could not be given.
"Was there a feeling that Dr. Baden would give you the testimony you wanted," defense attorney Jim Stern said.
Dr. Baden previously testified that Sheri and her sons had to be killed between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Chris Coleman said he left his home that morning to go to the gym at 5:43 a.m.
Barlow said the reason investigators used Dr. Baden is because he was "the best of the best."
The defense asked if there were other suspects in the investigation. Barlow said they were looking at other possible suspects, including Coleman's brother, Keith Coleman, who lives in Arkansas. Keith was to stay with Sheri and boys when Chris was out of town on business, but Sheri felt uncomfortable, according to Barlow.
Barlow testified that Keith also sent a video to Chris once of a deer being strangled. The defense pointed out that at one time Keith asked Chris if he had a life insurance policy on Sheri. Barlow said Keith checked out and had an alibi - he was spotted on an ATM camera in Arkansas.
Barlow said once other potential suspects were checked out, they only had one true suspect and that was Chris Coleman.
Officer Wojtowicz took the stand after Barlow. Wojtowicz works in computer forensics for the Granite City Police Department and worked on the case, examining Coleman's phones and computers and his girlfriend Tara Lintz's phone and computer. He testified said he found hundreds of images containing explicit images. They showed 20 photos on screen that showed Lintz and Chris Coleman together. They were kissing in some of them.
Prosecutors displayed some of the nude pictures Coleman and Lintz exchanged, with the private parts blacked out for the jury. Coleman's family looked away when these images were shown.
Webcam videos that Coleman sent Lintz were shown next. He was exposing himself in both and in one video was naked in the shower.
Jurors heard, but did not see, video that Coleman shot of himself and Lintz nude together in Coleman's hotel room in Hawaii where he was traveling with Joyce Meyer.
NewsChannel 5's Ryan Dean and Casey Nolen are at the trial and are tweeting updates about the case @ksdknews.