LARGO — A St. Petersburg woman whose testimony lies at the center of a horrific triple murder of a former Largo resident and her children in Illinois was ordered by a judge Thursday to testify in the trial.
Illinois authorities say Tara Lintz, 33, was having an affair with Chris Coleman in May 2009 when he strangled his wife, Sheri, and their two sons in the family's Columbia, Ill., home.
Sheri Coleman, nee Weiss, and Lintz were friends who attended Largo High School together. Weiss graduated in 1995; Lintz, the following year.
In court Thursday, Lintz offered three reasons why she did not want to travel to Illinois. She said she didn't want to miss work and didn't want to be bothered by the media.
She also implied she feared for her safety. Lintz has been denigrated on Internet message boards since her role in the case became public.
"I just want to stay out of harm's way," she told Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady.
McGrady said he would sign an order compelling her to attend the trial, which is scheduled to begin next month.
According to Monroe County, Ill., court documents, Chris Coleman told Lintz he planned to divorce his wife and create a new life with her. Instead, authorities said, he plotted to kill his wife and their sons so he could be with Lintz and not lose his job as a security manager for Joyce Meyer, a televangelist whose headquarters is in Missouri, near the Illinois border.
On May 5, 2009, Coleman said he went to the gym, then called police and asked for a welfare check at his home. Police found the bodies of Sheri and the boys — 11-year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin — in their bedrooms. Autopsies confirmed they were strangled.
Investigators quickly zeroed in on Chris Coleman, who had contacted police in the months before the murders to say he and his family were being threatened.
Detectives later learned at least one threatening e-mail was created on Chris Coleman's work laptop computer.
Sheri Coleman was born in Berwyn, Ill., and moved to Pinellas County in the mid 1980s. She attended Mildred Helms Elementary and Largo Middle schools. At Largo High, she was on the softball team.