Its Feb. 10th 1979. Imagine, you’re out for a drive with your spouse. You haven’t seen your brother in awhile and you decided to stop in for an unannounced visit. You pull up to his house and in the driveway is a car you don’t recognize. Perhaps they already have visitors you think. You park the car and then walk up and knock on the door. No one answers. You try the door handle and it’s unlocked. As you walk into the home, you have no idea you’re leading yourself and your wife to death’s open arms.
It’s scary to think how fragile life can be. Every decision we make could unknowingly be our last. It’s scary enough to keep you up at night if you think about it too much. The couple was John and Roxie Seward and their brutal murder would spark one of the craziest stories in Oklahoma’s Dark History.
Sixty Eight Year old Delphia Warren and her husband Del Warren returned home around 4:30PM. As they pulled up into their driveway, they noticed something odd. A vehicle was in their driveway. Mrs. Warren thought that it was her brother’s car but she wasn’t too sure about it. They walked up to their front door and as they opened it they knew instantly, they had been robbed. The house was in a mess, things were tossed about carelessly. Wondering if the thieves were still in the house, Mr. Warren checked everything room by room. Mrs. Warren went outside and waited for her husband to finish. As time went on she began to worry, had the robbers got the jump on him? But soon enough, her husband walked out the front door, pale and worried. He looked to his wife and told her “Someone’s dead in the basement.” Mrs. Warren thought of her brother, she again looked at the car in the driveway but she still wasn’t sure. They did not re-enter the home. The police arrived and when they went down into the basement, they found not one, but two bodies downstairs.
When detectives informed Mr. and Mrs. Warren, Mrs. Warren rightfully feared for her Brother and his wife.
The couple who died were indeed The Warren’s brother and Sister in Law.
The news of this double murder spread quickly through law enforcement in the state. This burglary looks a lot like the one made recently all over the county. The murdered couple were missing their wallets and an odd assortment of things were taken from the home. Police were on the lookout for vehicles that may be transporting stolen goods.
The night of the murders, a truck was reported to police to have been speeding through residential neighborhoods just east of Muskogee. County Sheriff Deputy Ralph Rose was the one to first spot it in the area. He turned on his lights and to his surprise, they began to run. Faster and Faster the case began to go, but as soon as it started, it abruptly ended.
The Officer detained the couple in the truck and placed them in the back of his patrol car. He then started to search their truck. Now, this officer was about to experience something that you don’t see often. But this vehicle contained two bloodstained blindfolds, a man and a women’s wallets and a bunch of packed cut meat. This officer was paying attention to what had been going on around him and he knew that the wallets contained the ID’s of the couple who were murdered earlier that day and one of the other things reported stolen was a bunch of custom cut meat from a local butcher.
Through their ID’s the officer Identified the two suspects as Troy Coleman and Jeanetta Coleman. When asked they stated that they were not married despite the same last name, but they were dating. Turns out, Jeanetta Coleman was Troy’s Sister-In-Law.
To quote my wife who’s from Kansas. “That is the most Oklahoma Thing I’ve Ever Heard of.” But don’t worry, I informed her why it’s so windy in Oklahoma and she didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night.
Now, A lot has happened in a short amount of time. Two people were brutally murdered during a robbery. The Suspects were caught later that day with the evidence that ties them to the scene. One thing that they don’t have however, is the murder weapon.
Little is detailed about this but one of the best things at this point was to find the murder weapons. This would set up a first degree murder charge pretty well. They could seek it without it, but The Coleman’s could argue that they didn’t have possession of the weapon and it was obvious because on the same day, they were without it. Officers started combing the area around the murder scene. They walked county roads and looked around grassy areas to see if their gun had been ditched. But after several days of searching, they came up empty handed. It wasn’t until police questioned Charles’s brother, Dale Coleman about the weapons. Dale knew that his brother was in a lot of trouble and he in fact knew what happened to the shotgun. Because he was the one who got rid of it.
According to Dale, Charles came to him asking for help to get rid of the weapon. Dale, trying to be a good brother, agreed and took the Shotgun to a bridge over the Grand River. There he ditched not one, but two shotguns. The next day, the police found the weapons.
It was at this time the police split up Charles and Jeanetta Coleman and started using each other against one another. Janetta quickly confessed to her involvement in the robbery, but not in the murders. She turned on Charles and in exchange for her testimony, she would not be charged with murder.
Jeanetta would only be charged as a material witness and was let go.
By April 22nd 1979, the district attorney was ready to proceed with the trial of Charles Coleman. The Prosecution brought the court the evidence tying the suspect ot the crime. They also brought Janetta up to testify what she knew of the murders. She was able to testify that Charles left their home about 3:30 PM with his shotgun on the day of the murders. Janetta stated that she was not at the home when the murders took place, but she knew Charles was.
This set up what would have been a June Trial. Typically, Justice is never this fast. Trials can suffer through delay after delay and can stretch on forever. This one also had a delay. But not one you would expect.
Now, working at a jail is no easy task. I speak from experience. I used to work in a county jail, one that was poorly built, horribly funded and understaffed. If something happened while you were working, it was your fault. Never those in charge of the whole mess. So, Muskogee Jail had an odd sort of setup and William Green who was a Trusty Inmate had thought of a way to escape, but he was in jail for a lesser charge and didn’t need to escape. Charles learned of this idea and Used William to help put it to the test. So one day, after visitation, the inmates were left alone in visitation. Charles had requested to speak to a minister. The guard who was assigned to these inmates left them in visitation for several hours after the visits were over. With Charles’ help, William was able to get to the ceiling where he was able to open a hole up in the poorly designed area. Charles was able to crawl through that hole to the roof where he escaped. The income, then tried to hide the evidence of the escape.
Now, Charles was a man on the run. He didn’t know the area well and he needed a car. So he slowly worked his way through a nearby neighborhood and found a house where the front door was unlocked. Checking, Charles could see a man sleeping on a sofa, nearby were his pants. He slowly entered the home and grabbed the pants. He could hear the twinkling of keys so he knew that he had the keys to their car. He snuck back outside and then emptied the pockets. He left the pants on the front lean and took the car.
Charles Coleman wasn’t spotted until the next day when he was driving though Luther Oklahoma. The officer pulled Charles over, not knowing who he was. And brought him over to his patrol car. He had him sit in the front seat and he pulled out his ticket book to start writing a ticket. It was then he saw the knife. Charles slashed his throat and then he grabbed the officers service revolver. The officer fell out of the car and Charles came over and told him not to move. The officer froze and Charles handcuffed the officer and placed him in the back of the vehicle. Charles drove the officer a few miles from the scene and then he stole the officer’s shotgun and destroyed his radio.
Lucky for the officer, the slash to the neck was not fatal.
Now, Charles made his way to Crossroads Mall in South Oklahoma City. He was spotted in the area looking for a car to steal. The one he chose was an abandoned car that had not yet been towed away.
Now, Charles was not going to wait around in Oklahoma to get caught again. He decided that it would be best to head back to California where he used to live. On his way, he again was pulled over by a Sheriff Deputy in Tucson Arizona. When this officer approached the vehicle, Charles caught him off guard and pulled his gun on him. The officer was handcuffed and then placed in the back of Charles’ car. He drove him away and then kicked the officer out of the car.
Little did Charles know, the police were in a helicopter, watching what was going on and sending backup to arrest Charles. He was captured, without intendent. They quickly figured out who he was and they charged him with kidnapping and assault.
Charles was now suspected of another murder in Oklahoma. Another robbery gone wrong in Oklahoma resulted in the death of Russell Lewis Jr. This happened while Charles was on the run and after he slashed the throat of an officer and stole his gun.
Now, Charles was extradited back to Oklahoma where he was to finally stand trial. The trial consisted of Charles Coleman’s family testifying against him. Janetta, who was now dating Dale Coleman, Charles Brother…. Yeah I didn’t tell my Wife this part. She testified to what she knew of the murder and Charles actions. Delphia Warren testified to how they found their home and the finding of his brother and sister in law dead in the basement. The ex-cellmate also testified against Charles and states that he often bragged about his crimes.
The Defense tried to argue that the timetable that was presented made no sense. There was no way for Charles to break into the home and steal several items and also commit the murders.
The Jury deliberated for two hours and then came back with a guilty verdict. The Jury imposed the sentence of death.
Charles then would back back in the court room less than a year later for the murder in Tulsa Oklahoma. It was believed that the gun that Killed Russel Lewis Jr was the service revolver that was stolen. The truck that Charles was driving in Arizona was registered to Lewis.
Again, the jury found Charles Coleman guilty and again they sentenced him to death.
This was a political win for those who supported the death penalty. The state of Oklahoma had paused executions for quite a few years and would use cases like these as a reason why the judgement was needed. Charles Coleman was put to Death my lethal injection in 1990. He was the first one to be put to death by lethal injection in the state of Oklahoma nd the first one since the pause in executions. The income that was put to death in Oklahoma before Charles was in 1966.