BANGOR, Maine — Jurors deliberated for fewer than three hours over two days at the Penobscot Judicial Center before finding Keith Coleman guilty of murdering his girlfriend and her young children nearly two years ago in the trailer they shared in Garland.
On Dec. 20, 2014, Coleman, 29, of Garland strangled Christina Sargent, 36, and her children, 8-year-old Destiny Sargent and 10-year-old Duwayne Coke.
The jury also found Coleman guilty of one count of gross sexual assault on the girl.
A sentencing date has not been set, but is not expected to be held until next year.
Coleman faces between 25 years and life in prison on the murder charges and up to 30 years in prison on the sexual assault charge. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a defendant convicted on multiple counts of murder may be sentenced to life in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said outside the courtroom that she would seek a life sentence for Coleman.
“We always believed we had a very strong case based on the evidence gathered by the Maine State Police, as well as the work by the Maine State Crime Lab,” she said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse. “This was a very troubling case. Any time you have the death of young children, it affects all of those who are involved, from law enforcement to the victim witness advocate, who is dealing with the family members and the loss and aftermath of such a violent crime, and the prosecution.”
Defense attorney Logan Perkins of Bangor said Coleman was disappointed in the verdict and that it would be appealed to the state supreme court.
“We respect the jury’s verdict and we thank them for their service and we expect there will be an appeal,” she said.
The victims’ family members wept as they left the courthouse but declined to speak to the Bangor Daily News.
Sargent’s mother Mary Worster, however, told WVII-TV that “Chrissy was looking for love. And she thought Keith was it. So he took that love and he killed her with it, and my grandkids.”
Coleman was arrested the day after the murders in Bucksport after the friends he was staying with learned he was wanted by police. He has been held without bail since then.
Detectives with the Maine State Police interviewed him the night he was arrested at their Bangor offices, when he confessed.
Last week, jurors watched a portion Coleman’s more than four-hour interview with Maine State Police detectives Greg Mitchell and Thomas Pickering, who pressed Coleman to tell them what happened at the trailer he shared with Christina Sargent and her children. Coleman broke down, and although it was difficult at times to understand what he was saying, the prosecution claimed he confessed to the slayings.
“I did it,” Coleman replied, sobbing. “I did it. I don’t want to say that word but. … I did it. I killed my girl.”
“When you say you killed [my] girl, who did you kill?” Mitchell asked.
“Chrissie and the kids,” Coleman said.
Zainea told jurors Wednesday in her closing argument that Coleman’s confession, along with DNA and semen belonging to Coleman found at the scene, proved he committed the crimes.
She also pointed to a Facebook message he sent to a friend about 2:51 p.m. Dec. 20, 2014, that said: “I need any help possible. On the run for capital murder. Could you send me anything to get me to the hood” as proof that Coleman admitted his guilt.
The bodies weren’t discovered until about 10 p.m. that night, Zainea said.
Defense attorney Martha Harris of Bangor told jurors that the state had not proved Coleman guilty, pointing to the unidentified DNA of at least two people found at the crime scene.
“It’s likely that at least two people committed these acts,” she said. “Why would the kids not scream or cry out or run outside to a neighbor’s house for help? It takes time to strangle someone.”
The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about two hours Wednesday before asking Superior Court Justice Ann Murray to recess for the night. They returned about 8 a.m. Thursday and deliberated for about 45 minutes before announcing their verdict.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.