Crime Spree: May-July 1984
In 1984, at age 21, Debra Brown ended a marriage engagement, left her family and joined Alton Coleman, a sadistic rapist and murderer. During the summer of 1984, in what her attorneys described as a slave-master relationship, the two went on a burglary, rape and killing spree in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
Targeting African-Americans, the couple would often befriend strangers, then assault, sometimes raping and murdering their victims, including children and elderly.
Their crimes began in May 1984 when Alton Coleman befriended Juanita Wheat who lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and was the mother of nine-year-old Vernita. On May 29, Coleman abducted Vernita to Waukegan, Illinois. Her body was discovered on June 19, 1984 in an abandoned building, four blocks from Coleman's grandmother's apartment. The body was badly decomposed and the cause of death was ligature strangulation.
On May 31, 1984, Coleman befriended Robert Carpenter in Waukegan, Illinois, and spent the night at his home. The next day he borrowed Carpenter's car to go to the store and never returned.
In June 1984, Coleman and Debra Brown appeared in Gary, Indiana, where they encountered two young girls, 9-year-old Annie and 7 year old Tamika Turks. Tamika's partially decomposed body was discovered on June 19, 1984. The cause of death was ligature strangulation. Annie survived, even though she was sexually assaulted by both Coleman and Brown.
The day Tamika's body was found, Coleman befriended Donna Williams, 25, of Gary, Indiana. On July 11, 1984, Williams' badly decomposed body was discovered in Detroit, about a half-mile from where her car was found. The cause of death was again ligature strangulation.
On June 28, 1984, Coleman and Debra Brown entered the home of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer Jones of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Palmer was handcuffed by Coleman and then badly beaten. Mrs. Jones was also attacked. Coleman ripped the Jones' phone from the wall and stole their money and car.
The day after Independence Day 1984, Coleman and Brown came to Toledo, Ohio, where Coleman befriended Virginia Temple, the mother of several children. Her eldest child was Rachelle, aged nine. When Virginia dropped out of communication with relatives, they became concerned about the children and entering the home found the young children alone and frightened. Virginia's and Rachelle's bodies were discovered in a crawl space. A bracelet was missing from the home and later was found in Cincinnati under the body of Tonnie Storey. The cause of death of both Virginia and Rachelle was strangulation.
The same morning as the murders of Virginia and Rachelle, Coleman and Debra Brown entered the home of Frank and Dorothy Duvendack of Toledo where Coleman proceeded to bind the couple with appliance and phone cords which had been cut. Coleman and Brown took money and the Duvendack's car. One of Mrs. Duvendack's watches was stolen and found later under another victim.
Later that same day, Coleman and Brown appeared at the home of the Reverend and Mrs. Millard Gay of Dayton, Ohio. They stayed with them in Dayton and then accompanied them to Lockwood, Ohio, on July 9, to a religious service. On July 10, the Gays dropped off Coleman and Debra Brown in downtown Cincinnati.
By this time, Coleman had come to the attention of the FBI, which on July 12, 1984, added him to its Ten Most Wanted List as a "special addition". Coleman was just the 10th person since the initiation of the list in 1950 to merit inclusion in such a manner.
Coleman and Debra Brown bicycled into Norwood, Ohio, on July 13th at about 9:30 a.m. Less than three hours later they drove away in Harry Walters' car, leaving Harry Walters unconscious and his wife, Marlene, dead.
Harry Walters survived. He testified that Coleman and Debra Brown inquired about a camper he had put up for sale. Walters sat on the couch as he and Coleman discussed the trailer title. Coleman picked up a wooden candlestick and, after admiring it, hit Harry Walters on the back of the head. The force of the blow broke the candlestick and drove a chunk of bone against Mr. Walters' brain. From that point on, Mr. Walters remembered little else.
Sheri Walters, Harry and Marlene's daughter, came home from work at about 3:45 p.m. and at the bottom of the basement steps, she found her father, barely alive, and her mother, dead. Both had ligatures around their throats and electrical cords tied around their bare feet. Her mother's hands were bound behind her back and her father's hands were handcuffed behind his back. Her mother's head was covered with a bloody sheet.
The coroner indicated Marlene Walters had been struck on the head approximately 20 to 25 times. Twelve lacerations, some of which were made with a pair of vice grips, covered her face and scalp. The back of her skull was smashed to pieces. Parts of her skull and brain were missing.
The living room hallway, and basement, were splattered with blood. Fragments of a broken soda bottle, bearing Coleman's fingerprints, were found in the living room. Strands of Marlene Walters' hair were found on a blood-stained magazine rack located in the living room. Bloody footprints, made by two different kinds of shoes, were found in the basement.
The family car, a red Plymouth Reliant, was gone. Money, jewelry, and shoes had been stolen. Left behind were two bicycles, clothes and shoes.
Two days later, the Plymouth showed up abandoned in Kentucky. The couple then kidnapped Oline Carmichael Jr., a Williamsburg, Kentucky, college professor and drove back to Dayton with their victim locked in the trunk of the car. On July 17, in Dayton, they abandoned this stolen vehicle and Carmichael was rescued by authorities.
Coleman and Debra Brown reappeared at the home of Millard and Kathryn Gay. The Reverend Gay recognized Coleman, who was by this time the subject of a huge nationwide manhunt, and he and his wife were accosted with guns. The Reverend Gay asked Coleman, "Why you want to do us like that, like this," and according to Gay, Coleman responded: "I'm not going to kill you, but we generally kills them where we go." Coleman and Brown took their car and headed back toward Evanston.
On the way back home, they take time to steal another car, killing the 77-year-old man who owned it.
FBI Ten Most Wanted
On July 17, 1984, Alton Coleman became the 388th fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list. Three days later the pair were caught and a multi-state coalition of police formed to strategize on how to best prosecute Coleman and Debra Brown. Wanting the pair to face the death penalty, authorities selected Ohio as the first state to prosecute the couple.
In Ohio, Coleman and Debra Brown were sentenced to death in each case of the aggravated murders of Marlene Walters and Tonnie Storey. During the sentencing phase of the trial, Debra Brown sent the judge a note which read in part, "I killed the bitch and I don't give a damn. I had fun out of it."
In separate trials in Indiana, both were found guilty of murder, rape and attempted murder and received the death penalty. Coleman also received 100 additional years and Debra Brown received an additional 40-years on charges of kidnapping and child-molesting.
Debra Brown's death sentence in Ohio was later commuted to life because of her low IQ scores and non-violent history prior to meeting Coleman and her dependent personality, making her susceptible to Coleman's control.
Alton Coleman was executed on April 26, 2002.
source: murderpedia |Charles Montaldo
This site contains affiliate links. We may, at no cost to you, receive a commission for purchases made through these links