On the morning of May 5, 2009, Christopher Coleman returned home from the gym to a scene of chaos and unimaginable horror.
The Coleman family. From left, Colin, Chris, Sheri and Garett (The Coleman family)
“I told him, ‘Hey, they — they didn’t make it’ — being the family,” Detective Justin Barlow of the Columbia Police Department said. “[Chris] sat down on the driveway and started sobbing. Said he felt like he was gonna throw up. And then kind of curled up in the fetal position.”
Detective Barlow had been the Coleman’s neighbor for five years and was the first to respond when Chris could not reach his wife.
“This crime scene, it wasn’t bloody,” he told “48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Maureen Maher. “…but that didn’t mean it was less gruesome.”
“Were you at all prepared for what you were about to walk into?” Maher asked.
“I don’t think anybody could be prepared for that,” said Barlow.
Upstairs, where they should have been safe in their beds, were 31-year-old Sheri and the couple’s two young boys, 11-year-old Garett, and 9-year-old Gavin.
“What is the lasting image you have in your mind from that day?” Maher asked Barlow.
“I would say the one that sticks out the most would probably be Garett, just because he’s the one that — that, you know, I — I discovered,” he said.
“Is that a haunting image for you?”
“Yeah. Little bit,” Barlow nodded.
The killer had not only taken Garett’s life, but had desecrated the body by leaving another disturbing message.
“The spray paint in his room was actually on the sheet that was over his body?” asked Maher.
“It was and there was some remnants of the spray paint on him as well,” said Barlow.
“We knew that — that this case was gonna be probably the biggest one — of our lives — definitely our careers, probably our lives,” said Chief Joe Edwards.
Columbia, Ill., is a small, quiet suburb outside of St. Louis. Chief Edwards calls it “a wonderful place to live and raise a family.”
Chief Edwards immediately recognized that his two investigators were going to need some help and called in a special unit – Major Jeff Connor and the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, which brought in an army of 25 seasoned cops.
“It’s typically your smaller departments that need the resource — need the help,” Maj. Connor explained.
Source: CBS News | Sara Ely Hulse and Clare Friedland