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Appeals court reinstates Coleman family lawsuit

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 11:23 p.m. CDT

WATERLOO – An Illinois appeals court has reinstated a wrongful-death lawsuit claiming Joyce Meyer Ministries should have done more to prevent Christopher Coleman from killing his family.

A three-judge panel of the Appellate Court of Illinois’ Fifth District on Tuesday remanded the case to the circuit court. The lawsuit was filed in 2011 on behalf of the family of Sheri Coleman, Christopher Coleman’s wife.

Coleman was convicted of strangling his wife and their 9- and 11-year-old sons inside the family’s lakeside Columbia, Illinois, home in 2009. Prosecutors say Coleman was having an extra-marital affair and didn’t want to divorce because doing so would cost him his job with suburban St. Louis-based Joyce Meyer Ministries.

Coleman is serving life in prison without parole.

The lawsuit alleged the ministry should have known that Coleman was the source of anonymous threats made against him and his family before the killings. Prosecutors say the threats were part of an elaborate effort by Coleman to avoid blame.

Attorneys for Joyce Meyer Ministries argued that an employer isn’t responsible for ensuring an employee’s conduct. They also said that the organization had nothing to do with the deaths of Sheri Coleman and sons Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9.

Tony Romanucci, attorney for Sheri Coleman’s family, said he was pleased with the decision.

“Needless to say we always felt our position was correct, that Joyce Meyer and the ministry had some responsibility in the death of Sheri and her two sons,” Romanucci said Wednesday.

A message left with an attorney for Joyce Meyer Ministries was not immediately returned.

Earlier this year, Coleman asked an Illinois appellate court to toss out his conviction, claiming decisions by the trial judge fanned juror bias against him.

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