Coleman was born November 6, 1955 in the Chicago suburbs. His mother,
Mary Bates, was a prostitute who drank and did drugs throughout her
pregnancy. Alton never met his father, nor did he have any idea who he
was. According to Alton’s grandmother, Alma Hosea, Mary never wanted
Alton and threw him in a trash can, which she rescued him from. After
that, Alton was taken in by his grandmother (Mary had four other
children, all of which were raised by relatives)and raised by her, but
his childhood was anything but idyllic. Alton still lived close to his
mom and neighbors recall the small child being beaten by his mother with
a chair and a baseball bat.
Alton’s grandmother Alma ran a
brothel and gambling parlor out of her home where Alton slept on a
pallet made from rags. Alma was a voodoo practitioner who would send
Alton out to kill animals so she could use the carcasses for her
practices and collect dirt from cemeteries. Alton was subjected to
sexual and physical abuse at home and often neglected. At school, Alton
was frequently bullied due to his wetting his pants until the age of 12
and on occasion, being sent to school wearing girl’s clothing.
Schoolmates and family alike would refer to Alton as “Pissy”. Alton
dropped out of middle school and it wasn’t long before he gained a
reputation with local law enforcement as a troublemaker. His first
arrest was for breaking windows in a housing project.
teens, Alton was known for his strong sex drive. People in his
neighborhood reported that Alton was bisexual and willing to have sex
with anyone, any time. His sexual appetite only seemed to increase in
time and become much more deviant. Between 1973 and 1983, Alton was
arrested on numerous occasions for various sex crimes, often taking plea
deals and other cases being dismissed, including one from his own 8
year old niece. Alton informed people he was able to stay out of legal
trouble due to his grandmother teaching him voodoo, however, in 1973,
his luck would change. He kidnapped, robbed and raped an elderly woman.
While he was able to dodge the rape charge due to the victim being too
scared to testify, he did serve 2 years for the robbery. Once released
from prison Alton continued on his rape and robbery spree, once being
acquitted for rape and had an upcoming trial for raping a 14 year old
girl. It was around this time that Alton Coleman met Debra Brown.
came from a well respected family. During her childhood, she suffered
from a head trauma which doctors stated had made her “borderline
mentally retarded” with a dependent personality. Debra was 21 years of
age and engaged to be married when her paths crossed with Alton. Debra
immediately fell for Alton, left her fiancé and moved out of her parents
home to be with him. Shortly thereafter, Alton and Debra would
purportedly develop their relationship into a master/slave role
with Debra anxious to please her man in any way he saw fit.
1984, when Coleman found out he was a wanted fugitive for the rape of
the 14 year old girl, he and Debra fled to Wisconsin. Once there, Alton
befriended Juanita Wheat, a mother of a 7 year old boy and 9 year old
girl, Vernita. Alton used aliases for Debra and himself. On May 29th,
Jaunita gave Vernita permission to go with Alton and Debra to their
apartment to pick up a stereo. Instead, Alton and Debra kidnapped
Vernita and drove her back to their home in Illinois. On June 19th,
Vernita’s badly decomposed body was discovered in an abandoned building,
approximately 4 blocks from Alton’s grandmother’s home. Her cause of
death was ligature strangulation and one of Alton’s fingerprints was
discovered at the crime scene. By this time, Alton and Debra had stolen
an acquaintances car and were staying in Gary, Indiana.
It was in Gary where the couple spotted Annie (9) and Tamika Turks (7). The girls were walking home to their grandmother’s from a candy store when approached by Alton and Debra, who convinced them to play a game in the woods. Once in the woods, the two girls were bound and gagged with Annie being forced to have sex with the couple. While raping Annie, Tamika began crying loudly and Debra covered her mouth while Alton stomped on her chest, followed by strangling her. Annie survived, although she had extreme injuries and suffered severe blood loss. Some cuts were so deep, her intestines were protruding into her vagina. Tamika’s body was discovered on June 24th with the cause of death being strangulation. Annie and Tamika’s grandmother took her own life after the ordeal. After raping Annie and killing Tamika, the couple kidnapped 25 year old Donna Williams and took her car. Her decomposed body was discovered in an abandoned house on July 11th in Detroit, Michigan with the cause of death being strangulation. While in Michigan, they robbed a couple and beat them, stealing their money and car.
Pictured above victim Tamika Turks
July 5th, Alton and Debra drove to Toledo, Ohio. Once again, they
found themselves meeting and befriending a young mother by the name of
Virginia Temple. They took particular interest in Virginia’s nine year
old daughter, Rachelle. Days after their meeting and befriending
Virginia, family members became worried that they had not heard from
Virginia or the children. They went to Virginia’s house only to find the
young children alone, scared and hungry. After searching the house,
both Virginia and Rachelle’s bodies were discovered in a crawl space.
They were both raped and strangled to death.
While still in
Ohio on July 11, 15 year old Tonnie Storey would become the couples next
victim. Tonnie was on her way to a junior high computer class, but
never showed up. Her parents reported her missing after she didn’t come
home after school. 8 days later her body was discovered in an abandoned
apartment building. She had been beaten, raped and strangled to death.
Alton’s footprint was discovered at the scene of the crime and Debra’s
fingerprint was found on a Michael Jackson button the girl was wearing.
It was around this time that the FBI had placed Alton Coleman on the
“Ten Most Wanted” list, linking him to several of the murders. Two days
after killing Tonnie, the couple arrived at the home of Darlene and
Harry Walters. The couple inquired about a camper for sale in the
Walters’s’ yard. Harry excused himself to search for the title for the
camper, while his wife Darlene went to get the couple some lemonade.
Alton followed after Darlene and proceeded to hit her with a wooden
candlestick, raped her and beat her to death. When Harry returned, he
too was beaten with the candlestick. Harry survived the ordeal, but with
brain damage. His wife Darlene did not survive the attack. Alton and
Debra stole Harry’s car and quickly left the state.
Pictured above victim
The couple stole yet another car in Evanston, Illinois
and killed the man who owned the car, 79 year old Eugene Scott. On July
20th, while still in Evanston, Alton and Debra were walking along the
street when a car passed them. The driver of the car was from Alton’s
neighborhood where he grew up and he immediately recognized Alton and
Debra. Since it was all over the news that the couple was wanted, the
man pulled over at a gas station and proceeded to call the police and
inform them that he knew the whereabouts of the couple. Shortly after,
the police discovered Alton and Debra at a nearby park. When asked if he
was Alton Coleman, Alton denied and stated he had no identification to
prove who he was. Debra was searched and a gun was found in her
possession. Both were taken to the police station and identified through
Over a two month span, Alton and Debra
had killed 8 people traveling across 6 different states. Law enforcement
officials from each state held a meeting to consider which state would
charge the couple first. Michigan was immediately ruled out due to their
not having capital punishment. It was decided Ohio would be given the
first opportunity, as it is known for its stricter laws on punishment
and they were likely to be executed there much more quickly than the
other states. Both Alton and Debra were sentenced to death for the
murders of Tonnie Storey and Marlene Walters. Additionally, the couple
were both sentenced to death in Indiana for the murder of Tamika Turks.
Alton Coleman also received a death sentence in Illinois for the murder
of Vernita Wheat. He became the first person to ever receive the death
sentence in three different states.
During the sentencing phase of Debra’s first Ohio trial, she had passed a note to the judge, which stated in part, “I killed the bitch and I don’t give a damn. I had fun out of it.” While she has a death sentence in Indiana for her part in the murders, she had her death sentence commuted to life in prison in Ohio due to her low iq cited as the reasoning as well as the master/slave relationship she was in with Alton and the influence he had over her. Since serving time in prison, Debra has become extremely religious and in 2005, she made a video apologizing to her victims. She remains in prison in Ohio without the possibility of parole.
Alton continuously worked on his appeals while in prison, but 18 years after being apprehended, he was scheduled for execution on April 26, 2002. Alton had spent his last day in prison watching religious programs, writing letters to family and friends and visiting with his spiritual advisors. At the time, Alton ordered the largest final meal that had ever been requested to date. His last meal consisted of: A New York strip steak (he requested filet mignon, but the prison didn’t have it) sauteed mushrooms, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream, biscuits with brown gravy, broccoli with cheese, french fries, cherry coke, a salad with French dressing, collard greens, onion rings, fried chicken breast and corn bread. All the food came from the prison kitchen, except the ice cream.
Alton Coleman’s last words were
“The Lord is my shepherd,” which he repeated over and over again. Due to
how many victims and victims family came to the execution, the prison
had to set up a viewing venue outside of the prison to watch over closed
circuit television. Alton Coleman is buried at Warren Cemetery in Lake