When sexual predator Alton Coleman met eager-to-please Debra Brown, the couple spread an orgy of violence across America.
After a number of arrests for sickening sex crimes in the 70s and early 80s, Alton Coleman, 28, was already well known to Illinois police. But as a charming courtroom performer, Coleman had beaten many of the sex assault charges he’d faced.
He was on bail for the knifepoint rape of a 14-year-old girl when he met Debra Brown. Coleman’s charm struck again. Debra became immediately besotted with Alton Coleman and the couple embarked on what would later be described by authorities as a ‘master-slave’ relationship.
And though she’d never been violent before, Debra Brown happily joined her new lover in a murder spree that spread across six states, leaving eight dead.
The rampage began in Wisconsin, in May 1984. After befriending the mother of 9-year-old Vernita Wheat, they abducted the child. Her strangled body was found weeks later, in an abandoned warehouse.
The following month Alton Coleman and Debra Brown struck in Indiana. They assaulted Tamika Turks, 7, and her 9-year-old friend. Tamika too was murdered. Her friend survived and told police the depraved couple had made her watch as they killed young Tamika.
Next, another Indiana woman, Donna Williams, 25, vanished. She too was raped and strangled. It seemed that the FBI was always step or two behind Alton Coleman and Debra Brown, who were collecting ever more victims.
Like Virginia Temple, 30, and her 10-year-old daughter Rachelle, whose bodies were found raped, strangled and left under their house, where Virginia’s surviving children were cowering in terror. Or Tonnie Storey, 15, whose strangled corpse was found in an abandoned building.
Harry and Marlene Walters, 44, were tortured with a candlestick and pliers in their Ohio home. Harry, 45, survived the brutal attack, but his wife perished. Their daughter found the bloody scene. Eugene Scott, 79, was killed so the couple could steal his car.
With Alton Coleman on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, the whole country was looking for him and Debra. Finally, they were spotted. Police swooped, arresting the pair.
Alton Coleman was sentenced to death for his role in the murder spree. He entered the history books for facing the death penalty in three different states.
Authorities believed Debra Brown had been dominated by Coleman, and she too endured violence at his hands. But in court, she remained unrepentant, at one stage, even passing the judge a note which said, ‘I killed the bitch and I don’t give a damn. I had fun out of it.’ She too was handed a death sentence but it was later reduced to life in prison.
In April 2002, after 17 years on death row, Alton Coleman was executed by lethal injection. So many survivors and victims’ families wanted to witness his last moments that the prison had to set up a screen outside the execution chamber.
‘I think this guy is the poster boy for capital punishment,’ the county prosecutor said at the time. ‘If anybody deserves it, it’s him.’