Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem

Detroit Crime Wave

While in Detroit, Coleman and Brown eluded police while instigating a small, but violent, crime wave. Warrants for their arrest were issued for the kidnapping and robbery of the 28-year-old Detroit woman who managed to escape the killers, a June 28, 1984 robbery and beating of an elderly Dearborn Heights couple and the June 30 robbery of two Detroit men.

By the time the deadly duo left Detroit, police in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, as well as federal authorities, were on the lookout. Despite Colemans disorganized pattern of murder, there were some similarities among the crimes in every case the cars stolen by Coleman and Brown were recovered within 12 hours. When authorities were not able to locate a 1975 Buick stolen by the pair after they beat and robbed a 55-year-old woman and her companion, they had good reason to suspect that Coleman and Brown had left the Motor City.

Sadly, even though the pair had fled to Toledo, the evidence of their crimes continued to surface. In an abandoned house near Wayne State University in Detroit, the badly decomposed body of Donna Williams was found on July 11. It was clear that she hadnt lived long after she arrived, as a hostage, in Detroit.

There will likely never be any closure - legal or psychological - for the family of Donna Williams. When authorities gathered to determine the best course of action against Coleman and Brown, the Williams case was not tried.

We chose to go with the strongest cases against the two that would result in the death penalty, said Lake County, Indiana prosecutor Jack Crawford. It appeared that Williams was killed in Michigan, which does not have the death penalty.

For Robert and Zenota Williams, Donnas parents, punishment is not foremost on their minds.

I will always wonder what, exactly, happened, Zenota Williams told the Detroit Free Press in a retrospective on the spree three years later.

Three other homicides tied to the pair will also probably not ever be tried: the slaying of 77-year-old Eugene Scott of Indianapolis and the killings of Virginia Temple and her 10-year-old daughter in Toledo. Scott was suspected of being their last murder victim because his car was found in Evanston, Ill. where they were arrested.

From Toledo, the pair continued south, stopping long enough in Cincinnati to murder Marlene Waters, who was found bludgeoned to death in the basement of her home. Waters husband was badly beaten in the attack and left for dead. Coleman and Brown stole the Waters car and headed to Lexington, Ky., where they abandoned the car in a cornfield.

In nearby Williamsburg, the duo kidnapped Oline Carmical and drove to Dayton, Ohio leaving Carmical locked in the trunk of his car. An elderly Dayton couple was found beaten and gagged in their home after the fugitives stole their car. Another Dayton couple reported to police that Coleman and Brown robbed them.

The trip from Tamika Turks murder to the crimes in Indianapolis took less than a month, with the pair committing felonies on the average of crime every other day.

In all, the murderous 53-day rampage from the time Coleman raped and murdered the 9-year-old in Kenosha, Wis., to the time they were arrested in Illinois -- resulted in a slew of felonies: eight homicides, as many as seven rapes, three kidnappings and 14 armed robberies.

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