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Coleman trial wraps up first week: Prosecution witnesses include Coleman's employer, mistress

 
Carrie Myers
updated: 5/18/2011 5:16 PM

WATERLOO - Day four of the trial started out with the defense's cross-examination of Justin Barlow, lead investigator on the Coleman case. Barlow was questioned for approximately two hours on the witness stand.

The defense began by asking Barlow if Chris Coleman willing provided a swab sample, blood samples, hair samples, and fingernail samples. His response was yes to all. Barlow stated Coleman was cooperative to an extent when it came to him providing hand writing samples. He went on to say that he believed Coleman wrote for approximately 25 minutes.

"He said he did not want to give samples anymore," stated Barlow. "Coleman stated he was tired of writing and he didn't write cursive," he added.

Barlow went on to tell how he was neighbors, they resided caddy-corner to each other, with the Coleman's for 4 to 5 years. When the defense asked him if he and Coleman were friends, he response was no.

Barlow told the defense that when the threatening letters came to the attention of the Columbia Police Department, himself along with the assistance of Illinois State Police Special Agent Byran Workman mounted a camera on his house and aimed it at the Coleman's mailbox. The defense asked Barlow if he was aware of the two hand delivered threatening letters that were received at the Coleman house. He stated he was aware of them. The defense asked Barlow is he was aware of the letter that came on April 6. He said Coleman told him about the letter and stated that Coleman informed him that Sheri was supposed to bring it up to the Columbia Police Department.

"Chris told the Columbia Police Department that his wife was going to bring it up, but no one ever brought the letter to the police department," said Barlow.

On May 5, Barlow received a phone call from Chris Coleman at 6:43 a.m. to check on his family, because he had called them and no one answered the phone. Because of the previously reported threats to the Coleman's Barlow called the dispatcher, then proceeded to walk across the street to check on the welfare of the individuals. By this time, Sgt. Donjon of the Columbia Police Department arrived on the scene. Once on the scene, Sgt. Donjon went to the back of the house as Barlow went to the front. Discussion between the two officers was had and a decision was made to enter the house. Barlow went in. The defense asked Barlow if anyone was covering the front of the house and Barlow said no. When questioned of what he saw upon entering the basement, Barlow responded with saying he saw a screen laying up against the back of the house. Barlow stated from there he went up the stairwell to the kitchen. The defense asked Barlow if he  performed a thorough search and he said he did to the best of his ability.

"Was anyone out front at this time?" The defense asked. "No," said Barlow.

"When did you realize something was not right?"

"When I saw the spray paint and confirmed something was wrong," said Barlow.

"I heard the garage door open and went to the kitchen and saw Chris Coleman. Coleman was then guided outside where he asked what happened. I told him they didn't make it.

Barlow went on to tell the jury, that the Major Case Squad (MCS) was activated at approximately 9:00 a.m.

Major Jeff Connor of the MCS lead investigator asked me to interview Coleman.   Barlow met with Sgt. Bivens at the Columbia Police Department within 20 to 30 minutes of arriving at the police department Coleman was interviewed.

 The defense then asked if Coleman was being treated as a suspect and Barlow said yes.  The defense stated even though you, Barlow, had background information on the threats? Yes stated Barlow.

"When you interviewed Chris Coleman for 6 hours did he willing give you his cell phone, computer, mail car, house, and hair samples?" said the defense. "

"Yes with the exception of the hair sample he gave us. That we obtained with a search warrant," stated Barlow.

The defense asked the question -- Chris Coleman did not have to give you these items but he did? "Yes he did with the exception of the hair," said Barlow

The defense asked if there were other suspects that were looked at. Barlow stated yes.

"Who else was interviewed?" the defense asked.

"Keith Coleman, the defendant's brother," Barlow said. "We checked his alibi."

"Didn't in fact Keith send Sheri two videos -- 1 of a deer being strangled and one of a dog being strangled," asked the defense.

Isn't it true that Keith Coleman called his ex-wife 14 times that day? the defense asked and Barlow said yes.

"Isn't it true that he, Keith, became upset during the investigation." said the defense. Barlow again answered yes.

 The defense noted that Sheri was being stalked on Facebook and MySpace.

Barlow told the defense that more than 100 people were interviewed during the investigation.

Barlow told the defense that at 11:23 a.m. a liver probe performed on Garret and the reading was 91.8, according to Michael Baden who testified earlier in the week regarding the autopsy, a normal reading is 98.6.

On redirect the prosecution asked if the liver probe supported the leads of the investigation that the subjects were dead at 3:00 a.m., maybe around midnight

Keith Wojtowicz of the MCS specializes in computer forensics analyzing computers. He stated he recovered a blackberry, dell laptop, dell computer tower and an apple laptop from Chris Coleman. He went on to state he recovered a blackberry and Sony laptop from Tara Lintz. When asked if photos were found on the electronic items Wojtowicz said yes they were found on Chris Coleman's blackberry, Tara's blackberry and a thumb drive belonging to Chris Coleman.

The jury was shown numerous photos that were found on the Chris and Tara's blackberry's. They also viewed two explicit videos that were found on?Coleman's laptop.

The judge told the jury he narrowed down the photos and videos they were being shown to prevent prejudice . He noted they were a representative of the others.

Wojtowicz testified to the fact he found an electronic not on Coleman's blackberry. He stated it was named Tara and that it included notes such as her birthday, height, show size, ring size, likes, dislikes, jean size, address, fantasies, sports team, Christmas gifts - promise rings, gloves, and a cross. The note also included the date November 5, 2008 and read 'the day Tara changed my life.' There was also an inclusion that read 'our daughter Zoe Lynn Coleman.'

Wojtowicz spoke about how he reviewed the threatening letter from the  Coleman's mailbox. He  noted that the word opportunities was misspelled.

"During my investigation I had several hits with several misspellings, of the word opportunities, were found. In a note to Joyce Meyer from Chris Coleman regarding leaving his job and on an email to Dan Meyer.

Tara Lintz was next to take the stand. She testified she and Sheri had been best friends in high school. She stated she knew Chris through Sheri. She said she and Chris started talking more in November 2008 and that it became physical in December 2008.

The prosecution asked Lintz when and where it became physical. Lintz stated in the middle of December in Orlando. Lintz answered yes when asked if Chris came to her condo but answered no when asked if his family ever came to the condo with him.

Lintz told of how they kept in contact. She stated they talked on the telephone and texted. She said it started in November 2008 and continued through May 2009.

The prosecution asked her if Coleman often professed his love for her she replied yes.

When asked if she made plans to meet up again, she said they made plans to meet up in?Arizona and in Hawaii.

The prosecution asked if they discussed marriage, and she said yes. When asked if she received a ring, she said "yes , we got matching promise rings and I am wearing it today. Lintz went on to say Coleman told her about his plans for divorce and told her that he had filed the paperwork.

"Did he do it on May 4?" asked the defense.

"No," said Lintz.

Lintz stated she was informed there was a typo in Sheri's name and that Chris told her it would be ready on May 5.

Lintz went on to testify that the pair had future plans for a cruise to St.?Thomas in June.

Lintz stated she talked with Coleman on May 4 stating she knew he was at the gym because she could hear the weights making noise. She said he texted her the night of May 4 up until the time of approximately 10:30 p.m. his time.  She stated that on?the afternoon of May 5, Coleman texted her saying he was in interrogation.

Upon cross-examination Lintz was asked if she was aware of the threatening letters, to which she answered yes.

Lintz wrapped up her testimony her just under 20 minutes.

Tara Lintz's former friend, Elizabeth Macniel took the stand for just under 3 minutes. She testified that she met Chris Coleman right before Christmas 2008. When asked if they, Tara and Chris, were a couple, she answered yes.

Day 5 - Friday,?April 29

Sgt Micheal Grist Crime Scene Specialist with the Illinois State Police was the first one to testify on Friday. He told of how he and two other CSI agents, arrived at the scene to investigate.

I noticed foot impressions to the right off the door and placed evidence markers down. I then informed everyone not to walk there (in the foyer). I obtained footwear impression by taking photographs. I also used gel lift, then sealed it for evidence," stated Grist.

The prosecution asked if he checked the front door, Grist responded yes sir.

"I applied powder to the door. I did not find fingerprints on the front door. I did find spray painted messages on the North wall of the living room. I lifted the spray paint off the wall for evidence," Grist said. "

What was found in the basement" asked the prosecution.

"By the open window I found a footprint impression. I photographed them and used gel lift then sealed and packaged it for evidence. I also found clover and grass like substances." stated Grist.

Grist went on to state he proceeded to the garage area where he processed Sherri Coleman's vehicle as well as Chris Coleman's vehicle.

"From the garage I went upstairs and I saw paint on the stairway wall that read 'U have paid'. I went into the master bedroom and noticed Mrs.?Coleman on a circular bed. I took the photographs and looked for string or wire - anything that would create ligature marks. I then fingerprinted the open dresser drawers. Once done I proceeded to Garret's bedroom. I noticed him on his bed. I processed the room by taking photographs. After Garett's room I went to Gavin's rooms. I proceeded to take photos and saw red spray paint on his sheet. I went downstairs to take photos and noticed all the first floor windows were unlocked," Grist testified.

Under cross-examination by the defense Grist explained how many exhibits he collected.

"I collected 17 exhibits - more than 100 photographs, 9 latent lifts, bed sheets, blood on Sheri's sheet," testified Grist.

When asked if he collected any hair at the scene, he answered no.

Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigator Abby Keller took the stand and testified that she video taped the entire scene as well as diagramed it. Keller testified that she also video taped Chris Coleman at the Columbia Police Department and took photos that showed two scratches and a marking on his arm.

Under cross-examination, Keller was asked how may rooms she video taped in the basement and she stated she video taped the family room and the room with the open window.

The defense asked if she was in the interview room with Coleman and she stated yes.

"Was he cooperative?" asked the defense.

"Yes," stated Keller.

"Spoke in a calm manner," the defense asked.

"Yes," stated Keller.

Christine Cincotta, Sheri's friend, took the stand and under prosecution questioning told the jury how her and Sheri were good friends.?She said they met at the ministry and had known each other for 6-7 years.

"We texted and talked on the phone and I saw her about once a month." stated Cincotta. "We had conversations regarding her marriage. In late December 2008, Sheri texted me and said Chris wanted to divorce her because she was messing up his life and work," she added.

The defense asked one question of Cincotta "Did she tell you they were doing better?" Cincotta responded by stating she told me in May they were doing better as she was crying."

Megan Turnbaugh took the stand next. She told the prosecution that Sheri had worked for her for two years at Joyce Meyer Ministries. She also stated that she and Sheri went to the gym together and that Sheri had assisted her with fundraising for her sister who had cancer. She stated she had communicated with Sheri two to 3 times a week during late 2008 and early 2009. When asked if Sheri ever discussed her marriage with her Turnbaugh stated yes. The prosecution asked her what they conversed about and Turnbaugh said that she had received a text message from?Sheri that said Chris had beat her. The defense immediately objected and the Judge informed the jury to disregard the statement they just heard.

Turnbaugh moved on to tell of the nature of another conversation she had with Sheri.

"She, Sheri,  stated Chris wanted to leave her, she stated she had ruined his life due to the fact his position would be terminated," testified Turnbaugh.

Under Cross-examination Turnbaugh was asked if Sheri told her things were getting better. She replied "She has indicated things had improved."

Sheri's friend Cathy Laplante took the stand next. She told the prosecution that she and Sheri had went to church together and that they worked together.

When asked if they spoke about Sheri's marriage, Laplante said yes.

She was then asked in early 2009 if she was aware of the status of their marriage was and she testified Sheri told her Chris wanted a divorce. He was tired of her and that she and the children were keeping him from his destiny.

The defense cross-examined Laplante, asking her if she was aware that Chris Coleman was looking for other job opportunities. She said yes, she knew that in January 2008 he was interested in a gym business, security surveillance, but then he ministry gave him a raise.

Were you aware that Chris was seeking time off in the  Fall of 2008 to spend time with his family," asked the defense.

"Yes," answered Laplante.

And his superiors denied him time off?

"Yes," she replied.

"Chris said he had a video of someone putting something in the mailbox. Sheri said they had a hoodie on ." said Laplante.

"So the dependent told you about the video? asked the defense.

"Yes," stated Laplante.

Another friend, Jessica Wade took the stand and told of how she knew Sheri from Destiny Church where they both worked in the youth department.

"We communicated daily in late 2008 and early 2009," stated Wade.

The prosecution asked her about specific conversations regarding their marriage.

She stated to me on Christmas eve 2008 'Chris wants to leave me, said me and the boys were in his way'.

Stephanie Jones, another friend of Sheri's took the stand and told of a text she had received from Sheri.

"I received a text message from Sheri on December 27, 2008 at 11:29. The text read:

Can you pray for me?

 Chris wants a divorce. A couple of days ago he said me and the kids are in the way of his job.

The prosecution then produced the saved text and projected for the jury to see.

The defense did not cross-examine Jones.

Up next, the prosecution played the April 6 taped deposition of Joyce Meyer.

In the tape, Meyer was asked if she knew and for how long Chris Coleman and she stated yes, I've known him since he was a little boy. Meyer went on to state he has been employed with her for 11 years  and that he has served in the capacity of security, supervisor and her personal security.

When asked if he travels with her, she said yes, he did for conferences and my speaking engagements. She stated she travels for 13 conferences and approximately 21 speaking engagements a year. The prosecution asked Meyer is Coleman traveled ahead of her.

"Yes, sometimes. Sometimes, no." stated Meyer.

How much did he make? asked  the prosecution

Meyer: "$100,00 a year," said Meyer

Prosecution: Did he have a laptop?

Meyer: Yes, he always had his laptop with him.

Prosecution: Were you aware of marital problems?

Yes.

"Sheri talked to my son Daniel, then he told me, then I talked to Chris. He told me he felt Sheri was controlling and no matter what he did she was not happy," Meyer said. "We offered counseling and they went."

Prosecution: Were you aware of any threats?

Meyer: He told me he got an email threatening his family if he didn't stop working for me.

Prosecution: When did you become aware of the threats?

Meyer: I became aware from Chris, late March  April 2009.

Prosecution: Do you have other security? Have they ever received threats?

Meyer: One other employee, no threats to him.

About one month prior (in April) Meyer said she  began noticing he wasn't attentive - just in general not engaged.

"I had noticed he has a personal cell phone in his care, I asked about the cell phone. Chris said it was a person phone," said Meyer.

Prosecution: Did he go to Florida?

Meyer: Yes, he stayed there after our trip, was over a couple of days. Said he wanted to visit one of Sheri's friends.

Prosecution: Was it unusual?

Meyer: Yes.

Prosecution: If Chris was having an affair what effect would it have on his employment?

Meyer: It could of affected his job.

Prosecution: Where there other employees who were terminated?

Meyer: Yes, Each situation is handled differently. A person is not necessary going to lose his job.

Prosecution: How did you find out about the affair?

Meyer: The police told me he confessed he was having an affair.

Prosecution: He resigned?

Meyer: He asked to resign and I accepted his request.

On cross-examination the defense asked if Chris was an excellent employee and Meyer said yes.

Defense: started security?

Meyer: Yes

Defense: No complaints?

Meyer: Nope

Defense: You testified about some marital problems. Your understanding of these problems that they were typical?

Meyer: Yes

Defense: Asked Chris if he wanted counseling?

Meyer? Yes

Defense: Immediately?

Meyer: Yes.

Defense: What was your general attitude of Chris taking off with his family?

Meyer: I encouraged him, suggested him to spend more time with Sheri.

Defense: Where you aware of time off he asked for to spend time with his family?

Meyer: Yes.

Meyer stated "to the best of her knowledge he loved his wife and kids, to the best of my knowledge."

Daniel Meyer, CEO of Joyce Meyer Ministries, told the prosecution that he knew Chris Coleman while he worked for Joyce Meyer Ministries and when asked if they were friends, he stated they were work associates.

Prosecution: Were there concerns over the cell phone?

Meyer: Yes, the bill started getting high. There was a particular number from?Florida that he called all the time. I called the number and there was a female voice on the other end. I asked Chris about it and his response was it was a friend of Sheri and he said he called her husband for advice.

Prosecution: Did you ever see anyone else use his laptop?

Meyer? No.

Prosecution: Were you aware of marital issues?

Meyer: Yes., Sheri called me and I approached my mom with information.

Prosecution: Were you aware of threats?

Meyer: Yes, directly from?Chris , they were forwarded to me - 1 by email, couple other forwards.

Prosecution: Chris showed them to you himself?

Meyer: Yes. I asked if he wanted to stop traveling since he received the letters in the mailbox. Chris said no. I then asked him id he wanted extra security at his home. He said no.

The video then showed the defense cross-examine Daniel. The defense asked about their marital problems , Daniel responded by saying they seemed normal and typical. Daniel told the defense that Chris readily accepted the offer of counseling.

"Chris told me that things were better at counseling," said Daniel.

When asked about a ministry divorce policy, Daniel said correct.

The prosecution called Jonathon Peters . Peters serves as the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia and is the Chaplin for the Columbia Police Department.

"I was called to the Coleman residence as I arrived I saw Chris Coleman sitting on the driveway. ?I spoke with Chief Edwards and he requested I tell Chris about his family.

"I told Chris that his family had been killed. He was stoic, quiet," said Peters. "I went with him into the ambulance. Jerry Paul joined us. I was sitting on the bench with him."

The prosecution's last witness for the day was Columbia Police Captain Jerry Paul. Paul said that he arrived on the scene at 7:36 a.m. and met with Chief Edwards briefly. Chris Coleman was already in the ambulance.

"I introduced myself to Chris and spoke with him. I asked what happened to his arm and he told me 'I don't know how that happened, then he abruptly changed the subject. Shortly after tha he raised his arm and then hit the gurnee.

Chris then talked with Ron, his dad, about contacting Sheri's family in?Chicago. He also asked Ron to contact Sheri's best friend in Florida.  

Chris turned arm over and Ron said what happened? Chris told his dad 'I did it by the gurnee'.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up there case by midweek.

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