WISE COUNTY, VA (WJHL) – A Southwest Virginia man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges Friday and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.
According to Commonwealth’s Attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton, Va. Chuck Slemp, Mark Edward Coleman, 43, of Wise, Va., pleaded guilty to the charges before Circuit Court Judge Chadwick S. Dotson. Coleman also waived his right to appeal the case.
Coleman’s guilty plea comes just a little more than one month before the case was scheduled to go to trial. His case has been pending for four years.
On March 17, 2014, a confession by the defendant as to the details of the crimes was suppressed by the Circuit Court on constitutional grounds, according to a news release.
The Commonwealth was reportedly prepared to prove in spring of 2012 that Coleman had killed his father and step-mother – Robert Coleman and Sharon Coleman – with premeditation.
According to the release, Coleman was living with his parents near Wise, Va. and around May 25, 2012, while his father was gone, Coleman restrained his step-mother with duct tape on her hands and feet, and also placed a plastic bag around her head and secured it with duct tape.
He then moved his step-mother to a garage behind the home, where she died from suffocation.
According to the release, his father returned home a few hours later, where Coleman lured him to the back of the garage and shot him in the back of the head.
Coleman reportedly buried his father and step-mother in a shallow grave behind the garage, where they remained for several months.
Law enforcement received a tip of suspicious activity in August 2012.
Coleman allegedly assumed his father’s identity where he began receiving his father’s prescription drugs and applied to receive his father’s retirement benefits.
According to the release, he drove his father’s prized antique vehicle and an acquaintance of the victim reported this to law enforcement.
On Aug. 9, 2012, law enforcement agencies conducted a search of the home and interviewed Coleman.
Officers found the bodies of the two victims, as well as evidence, at the home, and Coleman confessed to the killings.
Coleman told police that “it had to be done. I snapped.”
According to the release, Coleman initially faced the death penalty, but in exchange for the guilty plea he was given two consecutive life sentences.
In the plea agreement, the Commonwealth agreed to amend one count of the indictment to take the death penalty off the table and to not prosecute a charge of abduction and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Under Virginia law, there is no chance of parole for Coleman.
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