Motive not given for slaying of step-grandson — (Corvallis Gazette-Times)

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Corvallis Gazette-Times

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press writer

July 19, 2005

Woman admitted killing boy, documents say

OREGON CITY –  A 43-year-old woman accused of murdering her 4-year-old step-grandson admitted trying to strangle him three times, before driving him to a wooded area where she killed him by striking him with a rock, court documents released Monday show.

Written by county sheriff’s deputies, the documents state that Christine Coffman said she tried to strangle Matal Sanchez inside and outside her car as she drove to a remote site in Estacada, where she then hit him in the head with a rock.

A test of Coffman’s car found traces of blood on the passenger seat as well as a residue of some kind of cleaning equipment ? “a Brillo type scouring pad which may have been used to clean the material off the seat cushion,” one affidavit states.

The documents reveal new details in a case that sent police officers, FBI agents and neighbors searching for the child for three days until July 2, when Coffman led investigators to the body off a rural road 25 miles from the boy’s Milwaukie home.

No possible motive is indicated in the documents.

The boy’s mother, Laura Acevedo, told investigators her mother-in-law was “psychotic, depressed and often suicidal.”

Acevedo on June 29 asked Coffman to watch the 4-year-old as she went to take a shower, according to the affidavit. When she came out of the bathroom the boy and the grandmother were gone. The child’s sandals were also missing.

That same day, Acevedo reported her son missing.

Coffman returned to the child’s house without him hours later, her clothes stained with a red substance.

Forensic tests confirmed that the substance was blood, according to the affidavit, which was filed a day after the boy disappeared.

Soon after returning to the house without the boy, Coffman, who had not yet admitted killing the child, told detectives that the child had frequent nose bleeds and that she used her shirt to wipe him clean. But the pattern of the blood on her clothes was not “consistent with her explanation,” one of the affidavits states.

The stains were on her upper shoulder, chest and stomach, “consistent with someone holding a child” over the shoulder “and blood dripping down,” the court document says.

In that initial interview, she also told detectives that she had been out berry-picking. A forensic scientist who tested the clothes said that in addition to the blood, he “also found an area on the chest of the shirt where it appeared berries had been rubbed over an underlying blood stain,” the affidavit states.

It is unclear from court documents why Coffman took so long to lead investigators to the boy’s body 3 days after he was reported missing by his mother.

In an interview conducted with Acevedo the day her son disappeared, she told a sheriff’s deputy that her mother-in-law had at some earlier point attempted to kill herself “by cutting her throat.”

The deputy goes on to say that Coffman had been taking “mental health medication” but her demeanor during the three days police were searching for the boy appeared “very carefree.” He goes on to say that she also seemed well-oriented and able to understand and answer questions.

Jenny Cooke, the attorney for Coffman, said at a court hearing last week that her client was suffering emotionally.

“My client has been on suicide watch. I think that says everything you need to know about her mental state,” she said at the time.