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The Daily Herald
updated: 8/18/2017 2:52 pm
Anjum Coffland, mother of twins Brittany and Tiffany, was escorted into a St. Charles church for her daughters’ visitation in March. The girls were shot and killed by their father, Randy.
Randy Coffland knew the depths of depression well. He’d tried therapy. He’d taken an increasing amount of antidepressants. But by January 2017, Coffland began shutting out family and making threats no one took seriously until it was too late.
When all the mental health treatments failed, he erased his twin daughters’ names from his life insurance policy. On March 10, he murdered them in his St. Charles apartment, shot his wife and killed himself.
Now his widow, Anjum Coffland, is fighting to undo that change to Randy’s life insurance policy. Litigation filed this week argues Randy was not of sound mind when he made his brother and a friend the beneficiaries of his $750,000 policy.
Burt Brown, the attorney representing Anjum in the case, acknowledged his client has an “uphill battle” to reverse the beneficiary changes in the insurance policy because the holder is presumed to have a right to make changes and Randy is deceased and can’t be called to testify.
“It’s a very sad situation. Whenever kids get killed, it’s extremely sad,” Brown said. “We’re trying to say he didn’t know what he was doing when he did it right on the heels of murdering in his own children.”
Medical information in Kane County coroner’s records indicates Coffland struggled with mental health for years, pursuing firearms at the same time he pursued treatment.
From seeking help to causing harm
Randy Coffland sought treatment for anxiety and depression on June 8, 2015. He told a therapist his mother and grandmother had psychiatric histories. He began taking a prescription antidepressant.
On July 8, 2015, Illinois State Police issued Coffland a Firearm Owners Identification card. The application requires a response from the state within 30 days.
Coffland stopped taking the antidepressants only weeks later.
But for a time, it seemed, Coffland found some peace. His Twitter page at the time is filled with posts about kayaking on the Fox River, enjoying the pet parade in his hometown of LaGrange, and tips on how to stop bad habits.
But on Feb. 8, 2017, St. Charles police responded to a domestic incident between Coffland and his wife. An audio recording indicates Anjum called 911 because she wanted to go to Randy’s residence to get her work computer. But she was afraid. They had just gotten into an argument that resulted in Randy breaking her cellphone and driving off in her car.
It’s not clear what happened once the police responded to the call. St. Charles police refuse to release the report. They’ve characterized the case as involving no physical violence. No arrests were made.
Subsequent to the murders, Anjum told family members Randy had made multiple threats about killing the girls and himself as much as two months before he followed through. It’s unknown whether she told police about those threats as part of the basis of any of her fears.
Even for police, determining if Coffland had a weapon to follow through on his threats is not easy. If a threat is made about the use of a firearm, St. Charles police will check to see whether the person has a Firearm Owners Identification card, a possible indicator of the ability to carry out that threat.
But possession of a FOID card is not a guarantee someone owns a gun. Illinois does not have a gun registry for police to check for actual ownership.
In an actual domestic battery case involving physical violence, Deputy Police Chief David Kintz said, surrender of a FOID card and weapons becomes a condition of bond when an arrest is made. The February emergency call didn’t reach that level.
Whatever happened at Randy’s residence Feb. 8 didn’t end there. A Geneva police report shows Randy and Anjum ended up at Delnor Hospital the next day. That’s the same day Anjum later told police she left Randy and moved into her own apartment nearby.
During the visit to Delnor, Randy told police he didn’t own a gun. For a short time, that was true.
According to the coroner’s records, Randy found an old bottle of his antidepressants and began self-medicating about the time when Anjum left him. On Feb. 21, Coffland went to a doctor to discuss what he described as “increasing anxiety” for the prior three to four months. The doctor diagnosed him with “a major depressive disorder” and prescribed Venlafaxine.
Anjum Coffland’s new lawsuit points to one of the possible side effects of that antidepressant — suicidal thoughts — as a possible factor in the events that followed.
“In the days and weeks prior to the murder-suicide, decedent Randall R. Coffland demonstrated that he could not act in a reasonable manner, nor appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions,” the lawsuit argues.
The day after Randy received his new prescription he bought a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun. A week after that, on March 1, he phoned his doctor’s office to complain the new medication had no effect. The doctor increased the dose.
Two days later, Coffland made a change to his life insurance policy. He deleted his daughters as the beneficiaries. In their place, he substituted his brother, Russell, and a friend who lived in Glendale Heights. They would receive a 50-50 split of the money.
On March 5, a Sunday, Randy Coffland purchased a second Smith & Wesson handgun. Illinois has a 72-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. By early Friday evening, his daughters were dead.
He lured Anjum to the apartment by telling her he “had secrets, too.” When she arrived, Coffland immobilized her by shooting her in the legs. Randy then called the police to confess his crimes. On the audio recording of that call, Randy tells Anjum, “I want you to live and suffer like I did.”
He killed himself before police arrived. Officers recovered two handguns from the scene.
The lawsuit is next due in court Nov. 29. Anjum’s attorney says Randy’s life insurance policy pays out, even following a suicide, once the policy is more than two years old. Randy obtained the policy 10 years ago.
There is a separate probate hearing regarding Coffland’s other assets due in court Sept. 20. The records in that case indicate Coffland’s total estate may be worth as much as $1.5 million.
Daily Herald staff writers Harry Hitzeman, Susan Sarkauskas and Lauren Rohr contributed to this story.