Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem

A Boy Called "Pissy"

Alton Coleman
Alton Coleman
Born in Waukegan, an Illinois town about a half-hours drive north of Chicago, Alton Coleman endured the taunts of schoolchildren who teased him because he so often  wet his pants. They christened the mildly retarded boy Pissy.

Family members and law enforcement officials who had dealings with Coleman since his teen years said Alton was slow to show emotion and generally kept to himself. Clearly alienated from his peers, Coleman had a reputation for his strong sex drive reportedly he was bisexual and willing to engage in sex any time, any place with anyone.

Said one friend of Colemans late mother: He knew he was different...even as a young child.

As he grew up, (Coleman) was deeply into insidious kinds of sexual gratification.

Coleman first came to the notice of police as a teenager when he was picked up for breaking windows in his Waukegan housing project. He was quickly labeled as a troublemaker, but for the most part, his crimes were of the petty sort. There was little indication to authorities of the mayhem to come.

Interestingly, property damage, often in the form of arson, can be an indicator of serial murder tendencies. That is not to say that every youngster who breaks windows or lights fires is bound to be a serial killer, but only that many multiple murderers committed similar acts as children.

On the way to becoming a serial killer, Coleman gave the law many chances to put him away, but Alton was smooth as silk, according to those who fought him in court. Lawmen said Coleman put on a good appearance in court which often convinced jurors that authorities had the wrong man. Alton, according to friends, also relied upon the supernatural to help him escape justice. He claimed that voodoo made him invulnerable to attack by the law.

He was good at conning jurors, Waukegan Police Lt. Marc Hansen told the Detroit Free Press in 1984 when Coleman and Harris were hiding out in Detroit. He tells a convincing story in court. People are impressed with his testimony. He comes off as a decent person.

A prosecutor who watched Coleman beat a rape charge agreed.

He knows what kind of case holds up in court and which ones dont, said former U.S. attorney Fred Foreman. Hes been to the penitentiary. Hes a career criminal.

But when the façade wouldnt work and voodoo god Baron Samedi wasnt listening, Coleman resorted to more common forms of beating the rap, most notably witness intimidation.

Its difficult to get people in court to prove these charges because they are sexual assault charges, they involve kids, they involve family that dont want to see him go to jail, said Hansen.

In 1983, Colemans 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.

Its a misunderstanding, she said. A lot of families go through that. It doesnt make any difference now.

The judge hearing the motion for dismissal was astounded by the 25-year-old womans testimony I think the woman as she stands here today, is terrified of this man, the judge said.  He called her account of the incident completely implausible.

But in the end, with no victim and no witnesses, the judge had no choice but to free Alton Coleman and dismiss the charges.

Colemans rap sheet before his Midwestern spree reads like a one-man sex crime wave.

In 1973 he and an accomplice kidnapped, robbed and raped an elderly woman. She refused to testify about the rape and Coleman served two years on the robbery charge. Three months after his release from Joliet, Coleman was arrested for another rape. He was acquitted but served time for a lesser charge. Four years after that spell in the pen, Coleman was acquitted of rape. A year later he was arrested for an attempted rape the charge was dismissed. In July, 1983 he was charged with the rape of his niece. That charge was dismissed. In early 1984 he was indicted for the knifepoint rape and murder of a suburban Chicago girl whose mother was a friend of his.

Coleman learned he was wanted for that crime but disappeared, kicking off his multi-state crime spree with his girlfriend, Debra Brown.

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