[DTW note: Moral of the story is- Just because someone attends Church or even works at a Church does not make that person a Christian]
Civil lawsuit over Columbia, Ill., murders names Joyce Meyer Ministries
By Nicholas J.C. Pistor – 10/20/2009 from here:
WATERLOO — The Joyce Meyer Ministries did too little to prevent its security manager, Christopher Coleman, from allegedly murdering his wife and two sons, according to an addition filed Monday to a wrongful-death lawsuit.
The suit, filed here on behalf of Sheri Coleman’s family, now seeks damages “in excess of $50,000” from the international television ministry as well as Coleman.
It suggests the killings might not have occurred if the ministry had followed its own guidelines and better investigated anonymous threats against Coleman and his family.
Such an inquiry would have revealed that Coleman made the threats himself, the suit says, thus alerting police and the impending victims to the danger.
Coleman, 32, is held in jail in Waterloo pending trial on three counts of first-degree murder in the strangulations of Sheri Coleman, 31, and their sons Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, who were found dead in their beds May 5.
The prosecution is seeking a death sentence. Coleman has pleaded not guilty.
Police have previously testified in a hearing that Coleman had trysts with a girlfriend from Florida while he traveling on ministry business. They also told the court that the ministry had a policy forbidding employees to divorce, although it wasn’t specifically mentioned in a handbook released by attorneys.
Jack Carey, who filed the civil suit in Monroe County Circuit Court, told a reporter Monday that he concluded from seeing police reports that the ministry knew of Christopher Coleman’s extramarital affair. That claim is not included in the lawsuit.
The ministry, through its attorney, Michael King, called the allegations “false.”
“Joyce Meyer Ministries had no knowledge prior to these tragic deaths of an extra marital affair involving Chris Coleman,” King said in a prepared statement. “Neither did the Ministry have prior knowledge that Chris Coleman allegedly was the source of threats against his family.”
Previously, the ministry had been named in the suit only as a respondent-in-discovery, a mechanism allowing the plaintiffs to gather information.
Previously, the ministry complained that “no reasonable person would suggest that any employer should be responsible for the criminal acts of its employees committed against his or her family outside of work just because that person is an employee.”
One of the threats, received through the ministry’s website, said, “Tell Joyce to stop preaching [expletive] or Chris’s family will die. If I can’t get to Joyce then I will get to someone close to her and if I can’t get to him I will kill his wife and kids.”
An e-mail sent on Nov. 14, 2008, to Mike Cole, a ministry employee, said “Tell Chris his family is dead. They don’t deserve to live with someone that protects [expletive] Joyce.”
The ministry failed to turn over the threats to the police, the lawsuit alleges.
The ministry responded by saying, “Despite the Coleman attorney’s allegations to the contrary and upon receipt of the threats against Chris Coleman, the Ministry directed that appropriate law enforcement be contacted regarding the threats. The Ministry has cooperated in every respect with law enforcement in the investigation of these crimes.”
Search warrant documents say Coleman had called Columbia, Ill., police on Jan. 2 to complain of an anonymous threatening letter left in his mailbox.
Enrico Mirabelli, a Chicago lawyer and cousin of Sheri Coleman, said Coleman did not report the threats received electronically.
Police said the electronic messages were tracked to Coleman’s computer at the Fenton-based ministry.
Mirabelli said Monday that the ministry is at the center of the case. “The devil is in the details and the details are in Joyce Meyer Ministry.”
The operation is known throughout the world. In 2006, it reported $124 million in revenue and other support. Among the services provided in 2006, according to the report: 11.5 million meals served, 41 orphanages “fully supported” and 174,538 gift bags delivered to prisoners.
Coleman, who traveled throughout the world by Meyer’s side, was fired about a week after the killings, when the Post-Dispatch disclosed the affair.
Because he is indigent, Coleman will get a taxpayer-funded defense.
Rules governing the use of state funds in death penalty cases were revised after a Post-Dispatch investigation last year. Coleman’s lawyers met last week with the trial judge, Milton Wharton, to prepare a budget, which will be sealed until after trial
The fund disburses an average of $500,000 to $700,000 per trial, with several past cases topping $1 million, and one hitting $2 million.