Time of death big factor in Coleman murder trial

9:11 PM, Apr 26, 2011   |    comments
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Video: First full day of testimony in Chris Coleman trial

Video: Expert: Coleman family dead before Chris went to gym

Video: Chris Coleman murder trial update

  • Christopher Coleman listens to Dr. Michael Baden's testimony. Credit: Dan Martin St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLtoday.com
  • Dr. Michael Baden explains the basics of pathology to the jury. (Credit: Dan Martin St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLtoday.com)
  • Defense attorney Jim Stern cross examines Dr. Michael Baden about the time of death. (Credit: Dan Martin St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLtoday.com)
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  • Waterloo, IL (KSDK) - A famous forensic pathologist who has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies said Sheri Coleman and her two sons, Garrett and Gavin, were killed before Christopher Coleman left for the gym the day of the murders.

    Dr. Michael Baden, the host of HBO's Autopsy, said he was asked by the Major Case Squad to determine the time of deaths in May 2009.

    Dr. Baden testified, that based on numerous photos that showed rigor mortis and discoloration of the bodies, the victims died around 3:00 a.m.

    He said the victims certainly died before 5:00 a.m. and "it wasn't a close call" to determine if they died before Chris Coleman said he went to the gym at 5:43 a.m.

    Coleman told investigators his family was alive when he went to the gym on May 5.

    Dr. Baden also is a forensic science contributor for FOX News and a former New York City Chief Medical Examiner.

    A forensic pathologist who testified on Monday and conducted the initial autopsy said she didn't feel she could make an accurate time of death.  When she was pushed on the stand, she said they died sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

    The defense pushed the point that the doctors disagreed on their findings and that Dr. Baden said he doesn't find any fault with the inital forensic pathologist's findings.

    Dr. Baden told the defense he thought he was more qualified because he has been to more than 1,000 crime scenes while working in New York.  He said the other doctor does not go to the crime scenes because that is how Illinois' system is set up.

    Dr. Baden said they both agreed the murders happened before 5:00 a.m.

    The defense pointed out that Dr. Baden testifies for the prosecution 90 percent of time. But Baden said he has testified for defense in cases. He testified for the defense in the OJ Simpson murder case. He said "science is science" no matter what side he's testifying for.

    The defense also tried to make the point that all methods used to make time of death have a degree of error. Dr. Baden agreed. The defense asked him if rigor mortis could set in right after death, if there was a struggle during death?

    Dr. Baden said there are cases when someone's hand is clenched when they were trying to hold onto or grab something. He said it was rare.

    It was revealed during testimony that Sheri had two black eyes.  Dr. Baden said it was not from strangulation, but direct trauma.

    Also, a black hair was found in the bend of Gavin's elbow.  Dr Baden said other tests showed it was Sheri's and it's his opinion it likely came off the same cord that was used to strangle Sheri and then Gavin.

    A Columbia, Illinois police detective also expected to testified on Tuesday afternoon.  Investigators said Coleman called the detective, who was his next door neighbor, to tell him to check on his family because he could not get a hold of them on May 5. 

    Jurors watched a tape of Coleman being questioned by the Columbia police detective. Detective Justin Barlow asked Coleman if he and his wife Sheri had fought the night before the murders, and Coleman said, "she fell asleep in my arms on the couch..." and then started to cry as he said, "If only I'd been there," talking about the morning of the murders.

    Barlow, now with the U.S. Marshals, testified that he and Coleman became acquainted when Coleman reported to police that his family was receiving threatening letters and emails because of his job with televangelist Joyce Meyer.  Coleman worked as Meyer's personal bodyguard.

    Trying to gather any potential evidence about how could be leaving the alleged threats, Barlow set up a surveillance camera in his son's bedroom window -- pointed at Coleman's mailbox and driveway.

    The camera was recording when Coleman left his home the morning of the murders.  The tape shows him driving forward out of his driveway at 5:43 a.m.

    In the taped interview, Coleman told investigators he remembered slowing as he backed out of the driveway to wait for a dark colored car to pass that he didn't recognize.  No car was seen on the tape shown to the jury.

    Coleman's parents were inside the courthouse Tuesday, again showing support for their son, but they had to leave the courtroom when the taped interrogation showed Coleman alone, and sobbing in a room of the Columbia police department.

    The jury is made up of 10 women and two men.  They were selected in Pinckneyville, Illinois and are being bussed 50 minutes each way for the trial.

    NewsChannel 5's Ryan Dean and Casey Nolen are at the trial and are tweeting updates about the case @ksdknews.


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