Coleman verdict could come on second anniversary

1:42 AM, May 5, 2011   |    comments
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Chris Coleman

Waterloo, Illinois (KSDK) - The jury in the Chris Coleman murder trial has ended its first day of deliberation without coming to a verdict.

Closing arguments began at 1 p.m. The case was turned over to the jury around 3 p.m.

The defense team for the accused family-killer rested around 12:00 p.m. after calling two witnesses. Chris Coleman was brought before the judge and waived his right to testify.

Coleman is accused of murdering his wife, Sheri, and their two sons, Gavin and Garett, on May 5, 2009.

Thursday will mark the second anniversary of the murders at the Colemans' Columbia, Illinois home.

The prosecution and the defense were given equal time for closing arguments Wednesday with the prosecution going first and with the opportunity for rebuttal after the defense attorney Jim Stern's closing argument.

Monroe County State's Attorney Kris Reitz told jurors the case was not about Chris Coleman, but instead about Sheri, Garett and Gavin.

"Who had the motive, and who had the opportunity?" asked Reitz saying only Chris Coleman could have killed his family.

Reitz told the jury Coleman "back himself in to a corner" when he told his mistress Tara Lintz that he would leave his wife and marry her. But Coleman, Reitz argued, was afraid a divorce would cost him his "unlikely, incredible dream job" as the bodyguard for Joyce Meyer.

Reitz reminded the jury of testimony that Coleman told Lintz he was planning to serve his wife with divorce papers first on May 4th, but he told her there was a typo with the documents and had to delay serving the papers until May 5th - the day of the murders. Reitz said there were never any divorce papers or even a divorce attorney.

Reitz also recounted testimony by Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who Reitz called his "star witness" and who put the time of death for Coleman's family around 3 a.m. - more than two hours before Coleman said he left for the gym the morning of the murders.

Defense attorney Stern challenged Dr. Baden's testimony by reminding the jury the well-known pathologist also testified for the defense in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and suggesting Baden gave the prosecution the answer they wanted about the time of death.

"The prosecution has presented to you an entirely circumstantial case," said Stern. "There is no direct evidence against Christopher Coleman."

Stern said the Columbia Police had "tunnel vision" during their investigation. Saying within an hour after the bodies of Coleman's family were discovered investigators believed he was the killer - implying other leads that did not point to Coleman were not adequately checked-out.

"What else is out there we don't know about?" Stern asked and repeatedly reminded the jurors that prosecutors are charged with the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stern also told the jury Coleman is the son of a pastor and a former Marine.

"People like this don't all of a sudden wake up one day and slaughter their family," said Stern.

"I guess the defense would have you believe he's not a murderer. He's just a very unlucky, flagrant adulterer," rebutted Reitz who was passionate and graphic in his final remarks.

The prosecutor told the jury Sheri Coleman was killed first and had the marks on her face to show she fought for her life.

And Reitz told the jury there was a reason the boys were found dead still under the covers in their beds.

"They didn't get up and run. They didn't scream," said Reitz. There was no intruder in their rooms, "it was just dad."

The jury will continue deliberations Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

NewsChannel 5's Ryan Dean and Casey Nolen are in Monroe County covering the trial. Follow their updates on Twitter @ksdknews.


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