Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem


Some time after the murders of the Temples and Scott, Coleman and Brown returned to the Waukegan area. Their case had inspired a great deal of notoriety across the country and Coleman had recently been named as a special addition the FBIs 10 Most Wanted list. In becoming a special addition, Coleman joined such notable felons as H. Rap Brown and Martin Luther Kings murderer, James Earl Ray.

Colemans family aside, they had few friends left after their spree and it wasnt surprising that when an acquaintance of Colemans saw the pair walking near Evanston, Ill., he would turn them in. Authorities had been watching Evanston closely because of Colemans known associates there and the fact that the duo had rented an apartment in Evanston prior to fleeing to Gary. Knowing that there were few criminals as desperate as Coleman and Brown, authorities were cautious in making the arrest.

Once police pinpointed their location the pair was spotted by undercover officers in a local park state, local and federal authorities began to converge on the couple. Shortly before noon on July 20, 1984 Coleman and Brown were watching a pick-up basketball game from the bleachers at Mason Park on the west side of Evanston as officers began to approach.

Coolly, as if he hadnt a care in the world, Coleman began walking away as plainclothes and uniformed cops neared. Wearing a torn yellow shirt and sporting a short haircut unlike the jheri-curl do he wore in published photos, Coleman surrendered peacefully when confronted.

You got the wrong man, he told arresting officers. He provided two aliases and Brown identified herself as Denise Johnson. She was carrying a loaded revolver and Coleman had a long knife hidden in his boot, but neither went for their weapon.

They looked like they did on TV, said an 11-year-old who witnessed the arrest. The capture was quick and easy.  

Coleman and Brown in police custody
Coleman and Brown in police custody

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