A Year After QAnon Surfer Killed His Kids, Members of His Church Fear More Violence - DMT NEWS

Breaking News

A Year After QAnon Surfer Killed His Kids, Members of His Church Fear More Violence

In the early hours of Aug. 9, 2021, Matthew Coleman woke his 2-year-old son, Kaleo, and 10-month-old daughter, Roxy, in a room at the City Express Hotel, where they were staying in the Mexican seaside resort town of Rosarito. He bundled them into his van and drove them to a remote ranch a short distance away. Then he murdered them both by stabbing them over a dozen times each with a spearfishing gun.

This is what Coleman himself told FBI agents just hours later, when he was arrested crossing the border back into the U.S. He immediately tried to justify his actions by citing QAnon conspiracy theories, claiming he believed he had to kill his children to “save the world.”

A year later, despite this confession, the Department of Justice is still making up its mind about whether or not to seek the death penalty, and any possible trial in the case is still months away. A recent court filing reviewed by VICE News suggested that an update on the case won’t be available until October. The lack of progress on the case has left the community of Santa Barbara, where Coleman and his wife, Abby, ran a surf school, in limbo, unable to process what has happened.

In particular, the insular and often secretive church communities to which Coleman belonged have failed to address the heinous crime. Now, some members of those communities fear that if Coleman was radicalized within the church, similar acts of violence could happen.

“I really think that the church let this family down, let these children down, and it should be a clarion call to all the churches within the Santa Barbara community that if this can happen to a loving beautiful young family that was really entrenched in the cultural aspects of Santa Barbara, it can happen everywhere. And we need to be aware of the warning signs and I do not believe that it’s been addressed yet,” a Santa Barbara resident who knew the Colemans and attended some of the same churches told VICE News. The source was granted anonymity to speak openly about sensitive issues. 

Abby Coleman was preparing for a camping weekend with her family when her husband took the two kids without warning and drove the family van to Mexico, on August 7. Initially, she does not appear to have been worried, sending her husband text messages, according to a court filing.

“We are doing this together, babe,” Abby wrote in a message to her husband on the morning he claims to have killed their children. “Praying for clarity over you and your mind this morning. Everything you’ve believed and known to be true is happening right now. I’m partnering with you from SB. Let’s take back our city. The gateway of revival for the state of California and the nation and the world. You were created to change the course of world history. Take care of my little giant slayer and my voice of heaven’s dove. They sure are special.”

The court documents that have been filed in the last year also revealed that Abby Coleman admitted to the FBI that she had been researching QAnon conspiracy theories alongside her husband, though she said he had become much more paranoid.

In the year since the tragic murders of her son and daughter, Abby Coleman has not spoken publicly about what happened. She is now living in Texas with members of her family, according to a family friend who spoke to VICE News.

The revelation that Abby Coleman was also involved in researching QAnon conspiracy theories, and that she was sending text messages to Coleman while he was in Mexico, has led some members of a Facebook group that is closely tracking the case to speculate that she was aware of what was happening.

However, one friend of the family has claimed that is completely untrue. 

“She in no way thought it was remotely possible that Matthew could harm their children,” Helen Rose, who claims to have grown up in the same house as Matthew Coleman, posted on a private Facebook group in April. “I know this because I know them both very well. She was being supportive toward him because he was her husband, and she had no idea what had transpired.”

In another now-deleted post, Rose added that she believed Coleman was radicalized at least in part within the church communities he belonged to.

“I believe that Matt has an undiagnosed mental illness to an extreme that may have been recognized in other communities, but the community he was an integral part of, the fundamentalist Christian evangelical community, seeing ‘signs and interpreting messages from God’ is accepted and encouraged,” Rose wrote.

One of the churches that Coleman attended, Veronica Springs, has been in frequent contact with Abby since last year’s horrific incident, a source with knowledge of the matter told VICE News. The church didn’t respond to VICE News’ repeated attempts to contact it to ascertain what support it was providing, but its lead pastor Bob Ryan did send a message to his congregation in the wake of the tragedy last year, soliciting financial donations for the family, according to an email reviewed by VICE News.

But the church has not publicly addressed the deaths of the Coleman children, and during a sermon livestreamed on Facebook almost a year to the day since they were killed, Ryan didn’t mention them.

“Nobody’s addressed it and if they have, they’ve only done it privately because, all these churches that [Coleman] attended, I have friends and family that go there, I occasionally go to these other churches, and all they did was just pray for [Abby] and they didn’t address the underlying narrative of why this happened,” the Santa Barbara resident said.

The family has also received over $115,000 in donations made to a GoFundMe campaign organized by Abby Coleman’s brother Amory Droogsma. The page, which is still live, says the money will go to “cover the financial burdens that come along after the devastating loss of her beautiful children.”

The page features a picture of Abby with Roxy and Kaleo, but has no photo of Matthew. The majority of the donations made to the campaign have been anonymous.

Coleman has been in custody since he was arrested on August 9, 2021, as he traveled back from Mexico. He was arrested at the U.S. border and almost immediately confessed to FBI agents that he had murdered his children.

In an initial interview, Coleman claimed that conspiratorial thinking had led him to abduct his children, who he believed would “grow into monsters” because they had inherited reptilian DNA from their mother. Coleman told the FBI agent interviewing him that he felt the only way to “save the world” was to murder his own children.

Over the course of the last 12 months, some clues have surfaced about where Coleman encountered these ideas. In one search warrant application, the FBI revealed that Abby told them in an interview that both she and her husband were researching QAnon conspiracies online, though she claimed her husband had gone much further down the rabbit hole than she had.

In another court filing, an FBI agent revealed that Coleman said he first learned about the “lizard people” conspiracy from the Twitter account of British conspiracy theorist David Icke.

The case was last before a judge on July 28, for a status hearing. The hearing was conducted by phone and Coleman was not present, according to a court filing.

The judge sought the hearing after both prosecution and defense had sought a continuance until October. In a court filing reviewed by VICE News, the parties outlined their reasons for seeking another delay: “The Department of Justice must decide whether to seek the death penalty in this case.”

The document revealed that in June, defense lawyers met with officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office and “presented mitigating information for consideration.” While the U.S. Attorney has submitted a recommendation to the DOJ, the case will now need to go through “multiple levels of review and may include another defense presentation to DOJ officials of mitigating information” before they can make an decision about whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Additionally, the application said both sides were still reviewing mountains of digital evidence sourced from Coleman’s devices and social media accounts.” For example, in June 2022, the prosecution provided Coleman with “years of unfiltered data recently received through search warrants on three social media accounts,” the application states. 

Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo initially denied the application, but at the July hearing she granted a continuance on the condition that the parties both submit a status report no later than three days after the DOJ submits their recommendation.

Prosecution and defense lawyers did not respond to repeated attempts to seek comment on the case.

For now, the case, and the community in Santa Barbara, remain in limbo. But at some point, those who knew Coleman, especially those who guided him within the church, will have to face up to the scale of the horror he perpetrated and what role—if any—they might have played in his radicalization.

“It cuts deep to the core of the Santa Barbara community,” the local resident told VICE News. “The evangelical church and surfing communities are really an essential part of the Santa Barbara culture and I don’t think it’s been reconciled [by them]. And when it comes back up, when this goes to trial, the community within Santa Barbara is going to have to deal with this but so far I don’t think that they’ve dealt with it, it’s too atrocious.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

David Gilbert, Khareem Sudlow