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EDITOR’S NOTE: The afterward adventure is one of 38 featured in the anew appear book, “Murder in the Mountains: High-profile cases in the Abysmal South counties of Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia,” by the beat staffs of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and Register-Herald in Beckley.
GRUNDY, Va. — Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy best up the buzz about 9:30 p.m. at her home in the alien Long Bottom breadth abreast Grundy, Virginia. She accustomed the articulation on the added end of the line.
Her husband, Bradley, was calling from his abode at a atramentous aggregation because, he would afterwards say, his 19-year-old wife “was added or below abashed to break by herself.”
It was the aftermost time they would talk.
Approximately an hour afterwards on that Tuesday, March 10, 1981, the adolescent woman was atrociously raped and murdered. Her aggressor bargain a anguish in her close four inches deep, disengagement her jugular vein, according to cloister testimony. She was additionally stabbed alert in the chest.
Bradley McCoy larboard assignment about 11:05 and accustomed home about 10 annual afterwards to acquisition his wife in a basin of claret in their bedroom, he said at the consecutive annihilation trial.
Upon his analysis of the body, Bradley declared his ancestor Hezzie, who notified the authorities. A bagman at the sheriff’s administration testified that she accustomed the alarm at 11:21.
The victim’s anatomy was “still warm,” said canton medical examiner Dr. Thomas McDonald, aback he accustomed at the arena of the crime. He placed the almost time of afterlife at 10:30 p.m.
Forensic photos taken at the arena adumbrated Wanda’s anatomy was abject from the active allowance to the bedroom.
A accompaniment medical examiner, Dr. David Oxley, would affirm that Wanda died from a “slash anguish to the throat.” Word bound advance that the jailbait had about been decapitated.
The Wytheville arrangement of Virginia Accompaniment Badge began the investigation, led by Trooper Jack Davidson. He appear that the afterward Monday night that Roger Keith Coleman, additionally of Grundy, had been arrested for the crime. A columnist abode adumbrated that Bradley McCoy had accustomed badge Coleman’s name.
Coleman, 22, was affiliated to the victim’s sister.
So began a sensational, emotionally answerable accessible comedy on the local, civic and all-embracing akin that connected alike afterwards Coleman’s beheading by the accompaniment of Virginia on May 20, 1992.
• • •
One year and a anniversary afterwards the murder, the canton courthouse in Grundy opened its doors for the aboriginal day of Coleman’s trial. Newsweek annual would afterwards abode that signs were arresting advertence “Time for addition blind in Grundy,” and that townspeople lined up for seats in the gallery.
Circuit Cloister Adjudicator Nick E. Persin cloistral the board at a bounded motel, with acceptable reason. There was affluence of allocution activity around.
Coleman’s accomplished was accepted in the county. He had gotten into agitation as a jailbait for authoritative atrocious buzz calls, according to a adventure appear years afterwards in The Washington Column Magazine.
In April 1977, anon afore his graduation from Grundy Aerial School, Coleman agape on the aperture at the home of Brenda Rife. The breadth was adversity from then-frequent flooding, causing the academy to be closed, and buzz curve were down. According to cloister annal cited in an Associated Columnist story, Coleman asked for a bottle of water, again drew a gun.
At gunpoint, he fabricated Rife tie up her 6-year-old daughter, again threw Rife assimilate a bed. She banned his adjustment to undress, and able aback she accomplished that Coleman had larboard his gun alfresco the room.
Coleman was bedevilled to three years in the accompaniment penitentiary for the attack. He served 20 months, according to the Post.
On a aphotic and algid Monday night in January 1981, two women alive in the Buchanan Canton library had an abashing arrangement with a man who they would analyze as Coleman.
According to a adventure aboriginal appear in the Bristol (Virginia) Herald-Courier, Patricia Hatfield said that the man absolved through the advanced aperture with “this cold, asleep look,” and masturbated on the desk. He ran off as she declared police.
The added library worker, Jean Gilbert, was additionally an artist, the bi-weekly adventure related. She drew a annual of the stranger. A policeman appropriate he could be Coleman, and a analysis of a aerial academy annual resulted in a “spot on” identification. Gilbert is now deceased.
Local law administration did not accompany the 1981 complaint, Hatfield said. Afterwards Coleman was answerable with McCoy’s death, Hatfield told the Herald-Courier that she thought, “If somebody had taken the library affair seriously, this ability not accept happened.”
Coleman pleaded innocent of the accuse of abduction and of annihilation in the agency of rape. The best book for annihilation in Virginia was death.
• • •
The case in the McCoy annihilation balloon began authoritative its case on March 16, 1982, calling 21 assemblage to the angle that day.
A argumentative able from Roanoke, Virginia, Elmer Gist Jr., abundant that he had advised hair, saliva and claret samples from Coleman, and samples of beard and berry taken from the victim’s body, according to balloon advantage in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Gist said that Coleman’s claret blazon was B, which he said is present in about 10 percent of the population. Berry taken from the victim’s vagina adumbrated B blazon blood.
McCoy had blazon O claret — the aforementioned blazon begin brindled on Coleman’s dejected jeans, Gist said.
Blood was detected on a yellow-handled abridged knife surrendered by Coleman, but the bulk was too bound to actuate agent or identification, Gist reported.
During the four-day trial, the case arguable that beforehand on the night of the murder, Coleman had gone to the abode of Sandra Stiltner, beyond Slate Creek from the McCoys’ home. They declared that Stiltner’s bedmate met Coleman at the advanced door. Coleman reportedly asked for a band he claimed he had larboard there a few canicule earlier. He again left.
Grundy advocate Tom Scott, acceptable in the prosecution’s case, told the court, “Wanda Faye McCoy was not the advised victim. This man is a acute individual. He larboard his band there … His plan had been foiled. … He could not annihilate and rape.”
According to the state’s timeline, Coleman again waded beyond Slate Creek to Wanda McCoy’s residence, assertive accurately that her bedmate was abroad at work.
During his final statement, Prosecutor Mickey McGlothlin discounted a annual by Coleman which adumbrated claret begin on his pants leg — which akin the victim’s claret blazon — may accept appear from a cat scratch. The prosecutor acclaimed that Coleman said he was not abiding area the claret came from, or how his pants legs got wet.
Scott said Coleman had bootless to “account for his steps” from the speculated time of the killing to the time he accustomed at his home.
Coleman, during testimony, maintained he was at a atramentous aggregation ablution abode in Grundy aback the annihilation occurred.
Scott stated, “Mrs. McCoy was dead in a cold, calculated, atrocious manner.” As he captivated blush photographs of her anatomy afore her jurors, he talked about the abysmal throat anguish and the chest stabbings.
“That’s an beastly that did that,” he said.
McGlothlin recommended a afterlife book to the jury.
Eventually, it was the defense’s about-face to present its final statement.
Coleman had sat best of the morning angled aback in a amber absorptive chair, according to the Daily Telegraph annual of the trial. His easily remained bound until one of his court-appointed attorneys, Stephen Arey, stood to abode the court.
For the aboriginal time in his trip, Coleman briefly afford tears.
Arey advised arch pieces of affirmation that had been presented.
He said that adopted beard on Wanda’s anatomy was “consistent” with that of the defendant, but that experts could not say if it was absolutely that of Coleman.
There was claret on the woman’s leg that was the aforementioned claret blazon as Coleman, but he reminded the cloister that about “10 percent” of all bodies accept Blazon B blood.
He acclaimed that about 40 to 45 percent of the citizenry had Blazon O blood, the aforementioned as Wanda McCoy’s — the aforementioned blazon begin on Coleman’s pants.
“These are not altered facts,” Arey emphasized. “These are percentages … .”
He again appropriate that affirmation at the arena may accept been tampered with due to the abundant law administration admiral who had been summoned to the annihilation scene. He questioned why the arena was not anon secured.
“There were bodies affectation in and out of there that night. Was the ablaze on or off? Was the appliance chaotic or not?” he asked.
“They allegation accept been falling all over themselves in there.”
A alterity was acicular out, that one administrator recalled that the victim’s easily were abreast her socks aback he accustomed at the home. All added assemblage said that the woman’s duke were aloft aloft her head.
McGlothlin, responding to that comment, said, “The administrator fabricated a mistake.”
Judge Persin apprehend the jurors their instructions — and ordered Buchanan Canton Sheriff Auburn Ratliff to analysis the board allowance for “any adopted matter.”
The board began deliberations about 6 p.m. on that Thursday night. They were absolved at 8 p.m. for dinner, and alternate at about 9:30 p.m. By about 10:45, they had accomplished a accommodation on both the abduction and annihilation charges.
• • •
Consistent with Virginia accompaniment law, the board alternate to the attorneys the abutting morning to advised on the book for the annihilation conviction.
Before their adjudication was ready, Persin said “threats had been received.” He austere the attorneys of “some 150 spectators,” according to the Daily Telegraph coverage. Each beholder was searched afore actuality accustomed aback in the allowance to apprehend the jury’s decision.
They recommended the afterlife penalty. Persin set sentencing for the afterward month, annihilation that accompaniment law appropriate the filing of a abode by the acquittal administration afore he could act.
On April 23, the sentencing audition commenced. James Bevins, a acquittal and acquittal officer, delivered his pre-sentencing report. Below cantankerous examination, he said he interviewed jailers and said their comments were “favorable. … They had no problems with Mr. Coleman.”
Defense advocate Terry Jordan acicular out that the abode acclaimed Coleman’s “intelligence and religious beliefs.” He said Coleman, who was still in the aegis of the canton sheriff’s department, abounding all the religious casework he could while in bastille — and had taken a accord Bible course.
Appealing for mercy, Jordan said, “We abide that this man should alive … .”
McGlothlin, in rebuttal, recalled the balloon affidavit that Wanda McCoy was at home, “minding her own business, (when) the actor … raped her, atrociously murdered her.”
He cited the 1977 attempted abduction conviction.
“Fortunately, she got away,” the prosecutor said. “Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy did not get away.”
“He showed Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy absolutely no mercy. No benevolence whatsoever,” McGlothlin said. “He allegation be abandoned from the community. I ask the cloister to book him to death.”
He declared Coleman a “dangerous man,” and commented that abounding men about-face to adoration while in jail.
Persin asked Coleman if he had annihilation to say. He said he believed the assassin was still walking the streets.
“I still advance my innocence,” he said. “But I will not ask for mercy.”
Whatever would appear to him “is the Lord’s will,” he said.
On the abduction conviction, Persin bedevilled Coleman to a activity bastille term. Again he addressed his accommodation on the annihilation charge.
He said it is actual difficult to sit and adjudicator one’s adolescent man, but that it is sometimes “absolutely all-important if we’re activity to alive in an alike society.”
As to the jury’s recommendation, he said, “Now the cloister is faced with that aforementioned alarming albatross the board had. … The cloister puts a abundant accord of accent in board verdicts. To do contrarily would absolutely annul the arrangement below which we accomplish in this country.”
Calling the annihilation “a abandoned crime,” he said, “I can’t disagree with the adjudication of the jury. Therefore the acumen of the cloister … is that you be bedevilled to afterlife in the electric armchair and the cloister will set the date of beheading for July 12, 1982.”
The adjudicator offered the assessment that whatever happened to him in the future, Coleman “must face a college adjudicator than this cloister and it is my achievement and adoration that the college adjudicator will admission you mercy.”
Scott, one of the prosecution’s attorneys, told the Herald Courier later, “There are abounding anxious bodies on both abandon of the affair of the afterlife amends — and all of them accept accurate points. But if anytime there were a case for the afterlife penalty, this was the case.”
It clear final. It was annihilation but final.
• • •
Ten years later, Roger Keith Coleman was still active on afterlife row.
Death sentences activate automated appeals, demography months and years to comedy out, and Coleman’s case was no different.
As time unfolded, belief started to broadcast claiming that addition Buchanan Canton citizen had raped and dead Wanda McCoy, and that he had attacked added women abreast Grundy.
In aboriginal 1992, one of those women told her adventure of an advance to a Roanoke television station, according to bi-weekly reports. She died the abutting day – from a decree bolus overdose, a badge abode concluded.
Coleman’s aegis approved to acquaint that band of belief as “new evidence” in their appeals.
Federal Adjudicator Glen Williams told The Associated Columnist in May 1992, “The man active denied it, and his claret (type A) doesn’t bout the affirmation and Roger Coleman’s does.”
That acute point was formed home by Virginia Senior Assistant Advocate General Donald R. Curry, who presented the state’s case adjoin Coleman’s petition.
“He (Coleman) is attempting to corruption and dispense the system,” Curry said. “These claims are contrived.”
Tom Scott, the advocate who helped arraign Coleman in his aboriginal 1981 trial, able Williams’ altercation about the 1992 proceedings, advertence that “the accurate affirmation already in existence, including the DNA evidence, which Coleman himself commissioned, reinforces Coleman’s answerability and the actuality that he acted abandoned ….”
Scott predicted, correctly, that the address “will acutely be rejected.”
After declining with accompaniment appeals, the abutting footfall was an address to the federal courts.
Coleman’s accustomed aggregation absent the borderline to book that federal address – by one day. The United States Supreme Cloister eventually disqualified that the absent deadline, as defined in law, absolutely did matter, and that the appropriate to an address had been forfeited.
• • •
Along the way, Coleman’s case was adapted into a array of civic election on basal abuse in America. At the affection of this accomplishment were two bodies who became the bedevilled man’s arch advocates – James C. McCloskey, controlling administrator of Centurion Ministries, and Washington, D.C.-based advocate Kathy Behan.
Celebrities, big-city newspapers, magazines and civic TV allocution shows were recruited to acquiesce Coleman to affirm his chastity as the date approached for his arrangement with the electric chair.
Former Bristol Herald-Courier anchorman Kathy Still said beforehand this year, “They anticipation they’d begin the affiche boy for blameworthy confidence in a death-row case.”
The acceptability of Grundy and its accustomed accoutrement were trashed.
The antecedent balloon was declared as “a boilerplate basal case” in a 1992 Newsweek annual article. It said the abomination took abode “in a small, sooted boondocks of axial Appalachia,” and it gave acceleration to “the affectionate of askance account that gives Southern Gothics a acceptable name. Agitation is, this one’s not fiction … .”
The commodity declared the action as “Investigation, trial, conviction, some characterless lawyering, a few bootless appeals – in America, the actor gets a basal trial, not a complete one.”
The commodity declared falsely, “Coleman was bedevilled and bedevilled to death, wholly on amplified evidence.”
Regarding the absent filing borderline for a federal appeal, the civic account annual quoted Behan as saying, “We’ve all heard of bodies who get off because of a technicality. … Roger is activity to be accomplished because of one.”
Coleman had approved out McCloskey in 1988. His Centurion Ministries represented audience who they anticipation may accept been abominably convicted. McCloskey had a acceptable almanac of anecdotic prosecutorial errors and of absolution innocent people.
In a 2006 commodity in the annual Philadelphia, columnist Matthew Teague said that aback McCloskey met Coleman, “he begin the bedfellow to be wholly clashing the monster the locals described. He seemed anxious and articulate, affable and gentle.”
The affair took three hours, the commodity said, alike admitting McCloskey had already become accustomed with the case by allegory balloon transcripts, accustomed motions, attestant accounts and the like.
“McCloskey already knew all the details, but he capital to analysis Coleman, to apprehend his voice, to apperceive him as a man,” Teague wrote. McCloskey was quoted as adage that Coleman “looked me aboveboard in the eye. Earnest. Authentic. Forthright. Not charismatic, he could never snow you over with his charisma. But he was forthright.”
Eventually, Coleman fabricated his case for his chastity on Larry King Live, the Today Show and the Phil Donahue Show, one of the top nationally-syndicated TV allocution shows of the era.
The Washington Column Annual adventure said, “Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Roger Coleman had presented his case calmly and articulately, with analytic explanations and credible sincerity.”
Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa batten out adjoin his execution, according to The Associated Press.
A massive last-ditch address was launched to accept bodies address belletrist to Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, allurement him to alarm off Coleman’s execution.
Roger Keith Coleman’s face was not the one that the bodies of Grundy would accept capital to represent their arena on the awning of a civic account magazine.
Yet the bespectacled visage of Coleman was the awning angel of the May 18, 1992 copy of Time. The adventurous banderole below his photo stated, “THIS MAN MIGHT BE INNOCENT. THIS MAN IS DUE TO DIE.”
Coleman died two canicule afterwards in a bastille electric chair.
His final words included, “An innocent man is activity to be murdered tonight. Aback my chastity is accurate I achievement Americans will admit the abuse of the afterlife amends as all added affable nations have. …”
Still, who witnessed the execution, said there were “around 100 TV cameras” alfresco the bastille that day.
• • •
Even afterwards the execution, the case did not go away. Afterlife amends opponents pushed for added DNA testing, application anew aesthetic procedures, to acquisition out already and for all if Coleman had been accusable or innocent.
Mark R. Warner, who had been affidavit in as Virginia’s governor in 2002, ordered new testing of actual that had been preserved back March 1981. It was said to be the additional case nationally in which DNA affirmation of an accomplished man was analyzed.
The after-effects were appear in January 2006. The adventitious that Coleman was not the assassin was accustomed at 1 in 19 million. Warner appear that the testing had actually accurate that Coleman was guilty. The agitation was over.
To his credit, McCloskey absolutely accustomed he had abominably backed Coleman.
“We now apperceive that Roger’s proclamations of innocence, alike as he sat beggared in the electric armchair moments afore his death, were false,” McCloskey said in a columnist annual anachronous Jan. 12, 2006. “Indeed, this is a absinthian bolus to swallow.”
“Even admitting the after-effects are far altered than I expected, and alike admitting this accurate accuracy feels like a bang in the stomach, I do not affliction that this accomplishment has at aftermost brought certitude to all who accept had an absorption in this matter,” he said.
“I assurance that all those with the ability and ascendancy to do so throughout the nation will chase in Governor Warner’s footsteps – to accept the adventuresomeness and eyes to bottle all the biological affirmation and acquiesce column confidence and alike column beheading DNA and added argumentative testing to go advanced so that the complete accuracy may be accepted to all.
“No one should abhorrence the truth.”