Metro-East News

Chief’s ex-wife gets settlement from Columbia in eavesdropping lawsuit

Former Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards
Former Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards News-Democrat

The former wife of Columbia’s police chief has settled a lawsuit against the city and its employees.

Carla Edwards filed suit in July, alleging the city and its police officers violated her civil rights by placing spyware on her private cell phone and eavesdropping on her private conversations at the instruction of her estranged husband, former Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards.

Carla Edwards’ attorney, Russell Watters, declined to comment on the amount of the settlement, but stated it was a “sufficient amount” to satisfy the damages. He did state the settlement was “six figures.”

Charles Pierce, the city’s counsel, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The unnamed police officers provided information to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in order to embarrass and institute investigations into Carla Edwards, her private matters and her family, in an attempt to hurt her employment with Columbia Community Unit School District 4, according to the suit.

Carla Edwards sought compensatory and punitive damages against the police and the city, and the cost of suit and attorneys’ fees.

Watters said Carla Edwards intends to file suit against another public entity involved in the situation. He declined to name the entity.

The notice of settlement was filed in federal court on Nov. 3. The case was dismissed on Nov. 9.

Joe and Carla Edwards were divorced Oct. 24, 2014, but the battle over custody of the couple’s two children continues. There are several pending motions, but they have not been set for hearing, according to the Monroe County Circuit Clerk.

Joe and Carla Edwards are scheduled to appear in Monroe County Court for the divorce case on Monday.

Joe Edwards was placed on paid administrative leave in February. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department investigated unspecified allegations against Joe Edwards, who later resigned as part of a settlement with the city.

Joe Edwards headed the department during the high-profile murder case of Sheri Coleman, 31, and her sons, Garrett, 11, and Gavin, 9, who were found strangled in their beds on May 5, 2009. Sheri Coleman’s husband, Christopher Coleman, who was a bodyguard for televangelist Joyce Meyer, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Christopher Coleman admitted to having an affair with Florida dog track waitress Tara Lintz, who was Sheri Coleman’s best friend in high school.

Christopher Coleman is being held in an out-of-state prison.

Joe Edwards was also an outspoken critic of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services after Elyse Mamino delivered a baby into a toilet at a Columbia home during a family party in 2009. Joe Edwards questioned the agency’s decision to return the baby girl to Mamino’s custody.

Mamino was later charged with attempted murder of the newborn girl. During the investigation of the child abuse case, Belleville police discovered the mummified body of another infant in the basement of a home where Mamino was living. She later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on that case and is serving 12 years in prison.