(Photo: AP Images / Belleville News-Democrat, Tim Vizer)
A pastor and a prominent Christian ministry have been pulled into a murder case due to their ties with the alleged killer.
On Tuesday, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against 32-year-old Christopher Coleman, who has been charged with the first-degree murders of his wife and two sons.
The lawsuit also named Coleman’s father, Ronald Coleman, and Joyce Meyer Ministries as “respondents in discovery” to allow lawyers to obtain information pertinent to the suit.
Coleman, whose father pastors Grace Church Ministries in Chester, Ill., was working as a security guard for Joyce Meyer Ministries until he resigned after being questioned about a violation of the organization's moral conduct policy.
He stayed with his father and mother in their home in Chester – 48 miles southeast of the crime scene in Columbia – after the killings and before his arrest there last week.
Roby Walker, a spokesman for Joyce Meyer, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the organization is working "together with representatives of Sheri Coleman's family and are gathering the information requested."
He declined to tell the press, however, what violation the ministry had questioned Coleman about.
According to investigators, Coleman called police from a gym on May 5 and asked a Columbia 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 Coleman’s wife, Sheri, 31, and their children, 11-year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin - 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.”
Though some of the Colemans’ neighbors said the family had received threatening letters and that their mailbox was tampered with, police arrested Coleman last Tuesday after more evidence came forward.
Coleman, who pleaded “not guilty” last Wednesday, has since remained in jail and denied bond by a judge.
A preliminary hearing has been set for June 10.