WATERLOO, Ill. (CBS/AP) Shocking new revelations in the case of a mother and her two sons found murdered in their suburban Illinois home have emerged from court documents unsealed Wednesday.
According to the documents, Sheri Coleman, 31, and her two sons, Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, were murdered in their own beds. Sheri Coleman was found naked. All three bodies were beginning to stiffen and turn purple by the time first responders arrived on the scene.
Chris Coleman, 32, Sheri's husband and father to the two boys, has been in custody since May 20. He faces three first-degree murder charges. He pleaded not guilty.
Police believe Coleman used a ligature to kill his wife and children.
One of the newly released documents details orange twine fashioned into a noose found near a Mississippi River bridge. The twine is said to resemble cord tied around straw bales found behind the Coleman home. The bridge, where the noose was found alongside Interstate 255, was on the route Coleman would have taken to a gym from his home the morning of the slayings.
The reports, unsealed at the request of the Belleville News-Democrat, also detail for the first time threatening anonymous notes Coleman said he received before the killings involving his work as a bodyguard with Joyce Meyer Ministries, a Missouri-based evangelical group.
One letter that Coleman said was in his mailbox on Jan. 2 read, "(Expletive) you. Deny your God publically (sic) or else! No more opportunities. Time is running out for you and your family!"
Coleman said he got another letter on April 27. "I am giving you the last warning!" the letter said. "You have not listened to me and you have not changed your ways. I have warned you to stop traveling and stop carrying on with this fake religious life of stealing people's money."
Investigators have said they believe Christopher Coleman acted alone in the killings, suggesting that he perhaps sent the threatening notes to himself and spray-painted vulgar slogans on some of the home's walls. One of those graffiti messages, according to an attorney for Sheri Coleman's family, read, "I saw you leave. (Expletive) you. I am always watching."
The graffiti echoed language in the April 27 letter.
Referring to an unidentified woman, the note said: "You think you are so special to do what you do protecting or think you are protecting her. She is a (expletive) and not worth doing it. Stop today or else. I know your schedule. You can't hide from me ever. I'm always watching. I know when you leave in the morning and I know when you stay home.
"I saw you leave this morning," the letter continued. "I will be watching. You better stop traveling and doing what you are doing. THIS IS MY LAST WARNING! YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!"
Coleman's attorney, William Margulis, declined to discuss the newly released documents, saying, "Unfortunately I can't get into any of that."
Coleman told police his wife and children were asleep when he left the house on May 5, but grew concerned when he could not reach them by telephone and asked police to check on them, Columbia police Detective Karla Heine said in an affidavit.
Sheri Coleman's mother and brother sued Christopher Coleman on Tuesday, accusing him of negligently causing the deaths of his wife and children.
The legal action prevents Christopher Coleman from immediately selling the home or its contents, at least for now, said Sheri Coleman's cousin, attorney Enrico Mirabelli. Sheri Coleman's name was taken off the deed last year, but her family questions whether she knew about it or was coerced into signing off on it, Mirabelli said.
The lawsuit seeks financial documents about Chris Coleman, including work history and financial information such as life insurance policies, profit-sharing and other possible assets.
Any proceeds from the lawsuit, which seeks at least $100,000, would be used to erect a monument to the victims, attorneys said.