Christopher Coleman, the former security chief for televangelist Joyce Meyer, was found guilty this week of murdering his family. Jurors also determined that he is eligible for the death penalty.
Coleman was convicted Thursday of strangling his wife and two sons, who were 11 and 9, in 2009. The trial will continue Monday when the jury decides whether he should receive the death sentence.
"If there was ever a reason for a death penalty I think it would be for a father who murdered his wife and two defenseless young boys, innocent as they are, in their beds," prosecutor Ed Parkinson said, according to The Associated Press.
The son of a pastor, Coleman had called police from a gym on May 5, 2009, and asked a police officer who had investigated prior threats related to the family to check on them after calls to the house allegedly went unanswered.
When police got to the house later that morning, they found the bodies of his 31-year-old wife and two children all strangled with some type of wire, rope or cord. Spray-painted across the walls of the house, meanwhile, were obscenities that appeared to have been directed at Sheri Coleman, including the words “punished,” “wh*re paid,” “u have paid,” and “I saw you leave, [expletive] you, I am always watching.”
Coleman resigned soon after from his position at Joyce Meyer Ministries after being questioned about a violation of the ministry's moral conduct policy. He had served as a bodyguard to Meyer while she traveled.
Pulled into the case, Meyer testified that she was unaware that Coleman was having an affair until she was informed by the police. According to the Belleville News Democrat, the well-known evangelist and speaker said he would have been fired if he was having an extra-marital affair.
Prosecutors argued that Coleman carried out the murder to keep his job and continue his relationship with the other woman, who was his wife's friend.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed earlier this week in Monroe County in Illinois by the wife's family against Joyce Meyer Ministries "for its failure to recognize that accused family murderer Christopher Coleman was a threat to his wife and two sons," according to a statement.
The lawsuit claims that the organization should have been aware of Coleman being a threat because he was sending threatening messages to his family from his employee issued computer and cell phone.
"This tragic murder would have been preventable if Joyce Meyer Ministries had responded to the threats and the extramarital affair and warned Sheri appropriately," said Antonio M. Romanucci, an attorney.
The death penalty was abolished in Illinois and it takes effect on July 1. Gov. Pat Quinn said he'll commute any death sentences to life in prison.