Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem

Deadly Duo

Maybe people shouldnt be surprised that a boy who had to endure the nickname Pissy because of a tendency to wet his pants would grow up to be one of Americas most savage spree killers. And it certainly didnt help that Pissy would go to prison on a robbery charge and emerge two years later with a tendency to dress in womens clothing and a desire for rough sex. Whatever the reasons, Alton Coleman and his girlfriend Debra Denise Brown will go down in history as a short-lived U.S. version of Great Britains multiple sex-slayers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

The story of Coleman and Brown begins in the mid-1970s, takes place in five states and involves one of the largest manhunts in recent history. It is a tale of American criminal justice that stands among the most depraved and cruel incidents of the modern age -- Coleman and Brown demonstrated a lack of respect for human life that shocked even hardened FBI agents and police officers. In less than two months, they assaulted, raped and murdered their way from Illinois to Michigan and down to Kentucky before authorities were finally able to capture them.

Coleman and Brown are behind bars, each awaiting a date with the executioner, but the evil they wrought upon their innocent victims lives on to this day. The duo have used every avenue of judicial appeal possible and seek mercy from the courts mercy they rarely showed when they prowled the Midwest.

With every new court ruling or delay, dozens of survivors relive the horror of their encounters with the murderous pair of lovers. A child victim who managed to avoid death at their hands vows that she will never marry because of her inability to trust and questions whether she is still pure. Another survivor battles drug addiction, suicide attempts, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A mother and father must adjust to the fact that Coleman will never stand trial for their daughters murder and they may never find out the circumstances surrounding her slaughter.

Colemans family, on the other hand, consider themselves victims not of their deadly relative, but of a system that they believe persecutes and plans to kill an innocent man. Debra Brown's mother continues to rue the day her daughter met Alton Coleman. Brown was a good girl, unknown to police before she fell under Colemans spell, but by the time the pair were caught, it was clear that Brown was just as vicious and murderous as her ex-con boyfriend.

Probably what is most disturbing about Alton Coleman is that he shouldnt have been on the streets to begin his rape- robbery -murder spree. Over and over Coleman managed to manipulate the judicial system in his favor, beating sexual assault charges on several occasions. Frustrated prosecutors and lawmen knew they had a monster on their hands, but could only stand by helplessly as jury after jury let the him walk, confident the system had worked to free an innocent man.

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