Wife testifies against husband in '06 shooting in Lacoochee

DADE CITY — Sylvia Denise Grant heard the knock at the door and tiptoed toward the peephole, causing the floor to squeak a little. Her estranged husband was standing outside.

She sat back down on the couch and hoped he would leave. But then, she said, he kicked in the door and came at her with a gun.

Grant, 36, speaks in a deep, raspy voice now, a permanent injury from the events of May 2, 2006, when authorities say Joseph Coleman, now 56, flew into a jealous rage and nearly killed his wife.

Grant, who divorced Coleman in June, took the stand in his trial Tuesday. He is charged with kidnapping and attempted murder and could get life in prison if convicted.

Wearing a pressed gray suit and heels, she sat just a few feet from him and described her ordeal.

She and Coleman were married five years. But by May 2006, she had separated from him and moved into a house on Stewart Road with her sister and both their children.

But Coleman showed up there nearly every day, Grant said.

"I couldn't get rid of him," she testified.

The source of his rage, she said: He had heard rumors in Lacoochee that Grant was having an affair.

She had just dropped off her children at school when he burst through her door that morning. He tried to shove a gun in her mouth, then beat her in the face with it, Grant said, knocking out two gold teeth.

"How many times did he strike you in the face with the firearm?" Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner asked.

"Oh my God, I can't count," Grant said.

Then, during the struggle, it went off. It took a moment for her to realize she'd been shot. Blood was pouring from her neck.

Her husband, she said, told her to go lie down on the bed.

She knew she needed medical attention, so she got a towel and secured it around her neck. Then she asked him to take her for help.

"He said 'Find the keys,'" she said. "He made me find the keys, through all that bleeding."

They got into their van, with Coleman driving. Grant said she thought they were going to the fire station, but she said her husband revealed a different plan: to drive around until Grant passed out and then leave her somewhere to die.

So she bailed. She threw herself out of the van on U.S. 301. Some phone company workers nearby saw her, put her in their truck and drove her to the fire station.

From there, she was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Tampa.

Sheriff's deputies were alerted by radio about an armed and dangerous man in the area. Within hours, Coleman was found hiding in some shrubs in Trilby.

Coleman's defense attorney Chris Carver pressed Grant on whether she got into the van willingly — a way of poking holes in the kidnapping charge. Carver has not laid out his defense strategy for the jury.

The couple had a tumultuous relationship before the shooting in May 2006. Each had filed for domestic violence injunctions against the other. The week of the shooting, Coleman was set to face trial on aggravated battery charges against his wife.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Wife testifies against husband in '06 shooting in Lacoochee 11/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 7:41pm]

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