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Amid Shouts Of "Baby Killer," Coleman Murders Unsettle Rural County

(AP Photo/Belleville News-Democrat)
Chris Coleman, 32, at the Columbia Police Department.

WATERLOO, Ill. (CBS/AP) Folks in this largely rural yet fast-growing St. Louis suburb aren't accustomed to violent crime - certainly nothing like the case of Chris Coleman, a former Marine accused of strangling his wife and their two boys in their beds.

So it was with curiosity and some venom that a couple dozen people gathered outside the Monroe County courthouse recently when a shackled, sullen Coleman arrived in a sheriff's car for arraignment.

"Murderer!" some jeered. "Baby killer!" others shouted. Most applauded as the car disappeared into the sally port, vocally lauding police for cracking the case.

(Family Photo)
That reaction still upsets seven-term Sheriff Daniel Kelley. But he's convinced Coleman, whose alleged crimes were splashed across the national news, can get a fair trial in a county that hasn't had a murder since 2003.

"We're not a lynching community," said Kelley, 61, who's been sheriff since 1982. "The average person is willing to see what the courts produce and are not jumping to conclusions, wishing evil on this person."

After Coleman's May 20 arraignment on three counts of first-degree murder, his attorney, William Margulis, said he'd likely try to have the trial moved to another county. He refused further comment, but it's not difficult to guess why he might try.

Thirty-two-year-old Coleman is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 31-year-old Sheri Coleman and their children, 11 year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin. All three were found dead in their Columbia home on May 5. He maintains his innocence.

Coleman has admitted to police that he was having an extramarital affair with a woman in Florida. The woman, Tara Lintz, was a friend of Sheri Coleman and once worked at a strip club.

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