Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem

Odyssey of Mayhem

Debra Brown
Debra Brown
Why Alton and Debra went underground is still a mystery 15 years after they were arrested. Police blamed Colemans intense hatred of blacks, but longtime friends dismissed that reason as absurd.  The pairs victims were mostly black because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coleman stayed in traditionally black neighborhoods because they provided a place for him to hide.

That sounds so crazy to me, said one Waukegan public official who knew Coleman since he was in diapers.

Why does he victimize blacks? Black neighborhoods are the logical place for him to go. If he went into a white community, they would have found him long ago.

A friend of the 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 he had different habits than a normal male, the friend said.

Coleman is a classic disorganized serial killer. He rarely stalked a particular victim, but instead lashed out at whomever was nearby. He used whatever tools he had handy to kill or incapacitate his victims and there did not appear to be any ritual to his violence.

What probably set him off was the realization that he no longer had anything to lose. Perhaps the indictment on the aggravated rape and murder charges which could have brought the death penalty were enough to finally push him over the brink to whatever madness prompts such violence.

While the pair was on the run, Coleman was indicted on murder charges in Wisconsin and a federal warrant was issued for his capture.

Regardless of the motivation, Coleman and Brown began their spree on June 5, 1984 when the pair rented an apartment in Gary, Ind. Coleman had been wanted by police since May 31 and Debra Brown had been interrogated about his disappearance on June 1.

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