Author: PAUL DELLINGER
The Roanoke Times, May 15, 1992
Pat Hatfield has two master's degrees, is a former teacher and
now is the director of Buchanan County's public library.
She is not a hick, redneck or barefoot hillbilly, and she
resents outside newspapers, magazines and television news shows picturing people
here that way.
But what she resents even more is the implication in some
magazine and TV stories that county residents have conspired for some reason to
frame Roger Keith Coleman for murder.
"All these reporters and all these people have come out here and
tried to stereotype us as illiterate and uneducated, and people who have not
tried to give him a fair trial," Hatfield said. "We've all suffered . . .
because we have to look on national TV and see the whole legal system of the
Coleman, 33, is scheduled to die at 11 p.m. Wednesday in
Virginia's electric chair for the March 10, 1981, rape and murder of his
sister-in-law, Wanda Faye McCoy. The 19-year-old woman died from stab wounds in
the chest and a neck wound that nearly severed her head from her body.
The case has gone back and forth between state and federal
courts for years. U.S. District Judge Glen Williams rejected Coleman's latest
appeal Tuesday, but Coleman's lawyers are preparing an argument for the 4th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals. If he is turned down there, Coleman's only hope would
lie with clemency from Gov. Douglas Wilder.
The appeal to the governor has been supported by groups such as
Amnesty International USA, articles in national magazines such as Newsweek and
Time, and broadcasts on national television shows.
But no surge of support has come from Coleman's home county. In
fact, a petition being circulated here to be sent to Wilder states that its
signers are convinced of Coleman's guilt "beyond all possible doubt" and asks
that the death sentence be carried out.
"I thought they'd made him Time's Man of the Year," Tom Scott, a
private lawyer who helped prosecute Coleman 10 years ago, said of the cover
story on Coleman in the magazine's May 18 issue.
"If you want to write an opinion article, that's fine," Scott
said. "But . . . you should present both sides."
Scott held a news conference Thursday that he billed as
featuring "the women in Roger Coleman's life," including a woman assaulted by
Coleman in 1977; the woman's daughter, age 6 at the time, who witnessed the
assault; Pat Hatfield and Jean Gilbert.
Hatfield identified Coleman as the man who entered the library
where she was working late one snowy night in January 1981, exposed himself and
ejaculated before fleeing.
Hatfield and Gilbert, the circulation clerk and the only other
person in the library at the time, eventually identified Coleman from a photo in
the Grundy Senior High School annual. Gilbert confirmed the identification in a
"All at once he's Mr. Innocent," Gilbert said. "We know the real
story behind it."
Coleman has written Hatfield from prison, telling her she had
mistaken him for another man he names. Hatfield said she and Gilbert had both
seen the other man and were certain he was not the person who entered the
library that night.
"If people take the time to get to know all of us, they know
that we're truthful people, we're honest people, and we don't have any reason to
lie," Hatfield said.
Mickey McGlothlin, who was commonwealth's attorney during the
Coleman trial, ended up not prosecuting the exposure charge because of the more
serious murder case. Now some news accounts are suggesting that the exposure
charge was dropped for lack of evidence. "If I knew what I did now, we'd have
prosecuted that case," McGlothlin said.
It was Wednesday when McGlothlin came into Randall Jackson's
office waving a photocopy of the Time article. Jackson is chief deputy of the
Buchanan County sheriff's office.
"I'm absolutely flabbergasted by Time and Newsweek . . . their
inability to see the facts that are right in front of them," McGlothlin said.
"The state papers and the local papers and TV have tried to give a balanced
account, . . . but there is no balance in this. None whatsoever. This is totally
Jackson, who was Grundy's police chief at the time of the murder
investigation, chuckled when he scanned the article. "They did get the date of
the murder right," he said.
The Time article, like others, pinpoints a man who has been
named by Coleman's legal team as a suspect in the case. The man was never a
suspect, McGlothlin said, and also has taken a state police lie-detector test.
"He took it and passed it. That was only done recently."
The other man's blood type also eliminated him as the rapist,
McGlothlin said. If authorities had tried to make a case against that man,
"they'd ride us out of here on a stick."
Coleman declined to undergo a polygraph test in 1981, citing
medical reasons and referring to the opinions of two doctors who had treated him
recently. McGlothlin has obtained an affidavit from the two doctors, J.P.
Sutherland Sr. and S.M. Zamzam, who said there were no medical reasons for him
not to take the test.
Before the Coleman story became a national one, Teresa Horn, a
23-year-old Grundy woman, gave an interview to a Roanoke television station that
cast doubt on Coleman's guilt.
Horn told WDBJ-TV that the man named by the Coleman defense team
tried to rape her not long after McCoy's death and warned her he would "do her
like he did that girl on Slate Creek" if she resisted.
Horn died a day after taping her allegation from what an autopsy
showed as an accidental drug overdose.
WDBJ also aired a brief interview with the man who was named by
the defense team, and he denied the allegations.
After Horn died, former commonwealth's attorney McGlothlin
obtained an affidavit from a longtime acquaintance of hers, Linda Mullins,
saying that Horn had told her that she had been in regular contact with
Coleman's attorney. Mullins quoted Horn as saying Coleman, a former coal miner,
"could come into a lot of money if he came out of this thing, and he may want to
"The national media doesn't want to print evidence as to why
Coleman may be guilty," said Scott, the private lawyer who assisted McGlothlin
in the prosecution.
What is not mentioned in some national stories and glossed over
in others, Scott said, is that DNA tests conducted by a forensic scientist
chosen by Coleman's defense team produced strong evidence that it was Coleman
who raped and killed McCoy.
The tests showed that sperm recovered from her body had three
genetic markers, two of which occur among only 0.2 percent of males in the
United States. That percentage includes Coleman but not the man named by
Coleman's team as a suspect.
Add to that the recovery from McCoy's body of a pubic hair
consistent with Coleman's and tiny blood spots on his jeans consistent with her
blood type, Scott said, and the evidence pinpointing him is overwhelming.
McGlothlin said the personality of the victim is another
unmentioned factor. Wanda McCoy was extremely shy, he said, to the point that
she would not even answer the door if she did not know the person outside. She
would have answered it for her brother-in-law. "That's basically how we got
focused on him," McGlothlin said.
The door was locked when McCoy's husband arrived home that night
and found her body, McGlothlin said.
McGlothlin said authorities believe Sandra Stiltner, an
acquaintance of Coleman's, was his intended victim, but her husband had come
home early and was there when Coleman came by their trailer to pick up an
eight-track tape he had left there. Stiltner noticed it was 10:20 p.m. when
Coleman was there. The time of McCoy's death has been placed at between 10 and
There was plenty of time for Coleman to have made the few
minutes' drive from the trailer to the McCoy home, Scott said. "I did it with a
Japanese film crew the other day."
Scott said he has no desire to control what national news
organizations report about the Coleman case.
"But the other side is controlling them," he said. Should
Coleman be released, "I hope they're also prepared to open the doors to their
homes where their wives and female children are. I hope that."