CHESTER — The bodies of murder victims Sheri, Garett and Gavin Coleman will stay buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Chester at least until a hearing is held in November, despite pleas by Sheri Coleman's family to move the bodies to Chicago.
Randolph County Circuit Judge Richard Brown on Tuesday ordered the exhumation permit be stayed until there is a hearing to determine whether the Rev. Ronald and Connie Coleman have standing to oppose the move of the three bodies to Chicago, where Sheri's mother, Angela DiCiccio, and brother, Mario DiCiccio, live. Brown set a hearing for Nov. 5 to hear testimony from both sides.
Ronald and Connie Coleman are the parents of Chris Coleman, Sheri's husband and father of Garett and Gavin. Chris Coleman was convicted in May 2011 of the strangulation murders of his wife and two sons.
After the hearing, the Colemans, of Chester, asserted their son was innocent and they wanted to keep their grandsons nearby.
"We have the same right as grandparents," Ron Coleman said.
"They are our grand babies, too," Connie Coleman said. "I guess we will see what comes on Nov. 5."
Jack Carey, who represented the DiCiccios, said after the hearing that Sheri and the boys should be in Chicago. Under a law called the "slayer statute," Carey said Chris Coleman lost his rights to decide about the disposition of the bodies when he was charged with the three murders. His parents lost their rights by extension, Carey said.
"Sheri was never well received by the Colemans," Carey said. "They should be with the DiCiccio family, who love all of them."
Rich Whitney, the Colemans' lawyer, stated Ron and Connie Coleman were the boys' grandparents, too. The Colemans had a right, Whitney argued, to have the judge decide whether the bodies belonged in Chester or Chicago.
"With regard to Garett and Gavin, Ron and Connie Coleman stand on equal footing with Angela DiCiccio because they are grandparents," Whitney said. "In that regard, it's a tie."
Sheri, Garett and Gavin Coleman were found strangled in their beds in their Columbia home on May 5, 2009. Chris Coleman, a former bodyguard for televangelist Joyce Meyer, is serving life in prison for their murders. Prosecutors have said Coleman killed his family in order to marry Tara Lintz, a Florida dog-track waitress and his wife's high school best friend.
Carey sought to have the bodies exhumed and moved to Chicago more than a year ago. He filed the exhumation request, notifying an imprisoned Chris Coleman, as required by law. The law required a 30-day notice before the bodies could be disinterred. On the 29th day, Carey said he received a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction faxed to his office by Whitney.
But without the injunction or the temporary restraining order, Brown said there would be nothing keeping the DiCiccios from exhuming the bodies and removing them to Chicago.
"If I lift the order ... " Brown said.
"Then I am down in the county clerk's office," Carey said.
"If I lift this order, these bodies may be moved before we have a chance to get a hearing," Brown said.
"That's my goal," Carey said. "These people have suffered enough."
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at email@example.com or 239-2570.