The story of John Alton Coleman and Debra Brown spans five states and involves one of the largest manhunts in recent history.

In less than two months, this serial couple would murder, rape and assault their way from Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan.


John Alton Coleman & Debra Brown


Serial Couple:

In school, John “Alton” Coleman was teased and bullied.  At home, he was nicknamed “Pissy” because of a tendency to wet his pants.

Brown did his first stint in prison on a robbery charge.  When he emerged two years later, he had a tendency to dress in women’s clothing and a desire for rough sex.

Alienated from his peers, Coleman had a reputation for a strong sex drive and he was reportedly bi-sexual and willing to engage in sex any time with anyone.  It was well known that Coleman was deeply into deviate sex to achieve gratification.

A friend of Coleman’s family said Coleman could not deal with his homosexual tendencies.  “He used to dress up like a woman a lot. It was well known that the had different habits than a normal male.”

Coleman began committing a series of rapes.  Prosecutors say he put on a good show in court; he was smooth as silk as he convinced the jurors of his innocence.  He came off as a decent person and was usually found not guilty.

In 1973, Coleman and an accomplice kidnapped, robbed and raped an elderly woman.  She refused to testify to the rape and Coleman was incarcerated for two years on the robbery charge.

In 1983, Coleman’s sister went to authorities and told them her brother tried to rape her eight-year old daughter.  Three weeks later she went to court to have the charges dropped.

“It’s a misunderstanding, she said. A lot of families go through that. It doesn’t make any difference now.”  The judge who heard the testimony was astounded and said, “I think she is terrified of her brother.”

In 1984, Coleman was indicted for the knife point rape and murder of a Chicago girl whose mother was a friend of his.

Shortly afterwards, Coleman went on the run.

It is not known how Alton Coleman and Debra Brown met, what is known, shortly after they met, they went on a killing spree.

Their first victims were two young girls, Tamika Turks and her 9-year old relative disappeared on their way to the store.  Later that day, the 9-year was found beaten and raped.  The following day, Tamika’s body was found in a wooded area.

The 9-year old told authorities, she was forced to watch Coleman and Brown jump on Tamika’s chest and face until her ribs punctured and fractured her vital organs.  Coleman and Brown also had sex with the victim before they killed her.

Three other homicides would be tied to the pair.  The slaying of a 77-year old Eugene Scott in Indianapolis and the killings of Virginia Temple and her 10-year old daughter in Toledo.   From there, the pair went to Cincinnati to murder Marlene Waters who was found bludgeoned to death in her basement.

In nearby Williamsburg, the duo kidnapped Oline Carmical, leaving her locked in the trunk of the car.  An elderly couple was found beaten and gagged in their home after the fugitives stole their car.

The murderous 53-day rampage resulted in eight homicides, seven rapes, three kidnappings and 14-armed robberies.

Allegedly Coleman had self-hatred issues, the majority of his victims were black; police blamed Coleman’s “intense hatred of blacks” for the killing spree.

Coleman and Brown were disorganized serial killers because they rarely stalked a particular victim, instead, they lashed out at whomever was nearby.

An acquaintance of Coleman’s saw the pair walking near Evanston, Illinois.  He would turn them in.  The police pinpointed their location.  Coleman and Brown were watching a baseball game from the bleachers at Mason Park when officers began to approach.

They spotted the police and began walking away; when confronted; they surrendered peacefully.

Both were sentenced to death.

Today, Debra Brown is the only woman on Indiana’s Death Row.

John Alton Coleman was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville on April 26, 2002.  He was 46 years old.

Source: “John Alton Coleman & Debra Brown” by Mark Gribben, courtesy of the Crime Library.








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