The Joyce Meyer Ministries did too little to prevent its security manager, Christopher Coleman, from allegedly murdering his wife and two sons, according to an addition filed Monday to a wrongful-death lawsuit.
The suit, filed here on behalf of Sheri Coleman’s family, now seeks damages “in excess of $50,000” from the international television ministry as well as Coleman.
It suggests the killings might not have occurred if the ministry had followed its own guidelines and better investigated anonymous threats against Coleman and his family.
Such an inquiry would have revealed that Coleman made the threats himself, the suit says, thus alerting police and the impending victims to the danger.
Coleman, 32, is held in jail in Waterloo pending trial on three counts of first-degree murder in the strangulations of Sheri Coleman, 31, and their sons Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, who were found dead in their beds May 5.
The prosecution is seeking a death sentence. Coleman has pleaded not guilty.
Police have previously testified in a hearing that Coleman had trysts with a girlfriend from Florida while he traveling on ministry business. They also told the court that the ministry had a policy forbidding employees to divorce, although it wasn’t specifically mentioned in a handbook released by attorneys.
Jack Carey, who filed the civil suit in Monroe County Circuit Court, told a reporter Monday that he concluded from seeing police reports that the ministry knew of Christopher Coleman’s extramarital affair. That claim is not included in the lawsuit.
The ministry, through its attorney, Michael King, called the allegations “false.”
Coleman, who traveled throughout the world by Meyer’s side, was fired about a week after the killings, when the Post-Dispatch disclosed the affair.
Joyce Meyer Ministries added as defendant in Coleman civil suit
Carey filed a motion Monday in Monroe County Circuit Court asking a judge to add Joyce Meyer Ministries as a defendant in an existing lawsuit that also names Chris Coleman as a defendant.
“The allegations in the civil suit against the ministry are false,” according to a written statement released by Michael King, the Tulsa, Okla. lawyer for Joyce Meyer Ministries. “Joyce Meyer Ministries had no knowledge prior to these tragic deaths of an extramarital affair involving Chris Coleman. Neither did the ministry have prior knowledge that Chris Coleman allegedly was the source of threats against his family.”
The motion alleges the ministry violated its own computer policies and that employees of the ministry knew or should have known that anonymous threats made via e-mail to Chris Coleman were actually written by him.
A threat sent on Nov. 14, 2008, stated, “Tell Joyce to stop preaching the (expletive) or Chris’ family will die,” and another e-mail sent the same day stated, “Tell Chris his family is dead. They don’t deserve to live with someone that protects the S.O.B. Joyce.”
The motion alleges employees of the ministry should have known who actually wrote the threats and should have “confronted Chris Coleman with the fact that JMM knew that he had written and delivered all three threats against the wife and children, warned Sheri Coleman directly, turned the matter of the written threats over to one or more agencies either in the state of Missouri or the state of Illinois or both for investigation.”
Joyce Meyer Ministries also refuted that allegation in the statement.