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Illinois Father Asked Police to Check on Family Before Wife, 2 Kids Murdered

Illinois investigators say the husband of a woman found dead with the couple's two sons had asked for a police check at their house after a call to the family's phone went unanswered.

Maj. Jeff Connor, the deputy commander of the investigating squad, said Wednesday that police responded at the house outside St. Louis and found the bodies early Tuesday before Chris Coleman arrived.

Connor says Coleman called a police officer who had been looking into "prior threats" related to the family. Connor wouldn't discuss details.

The results of the autopsies on 31-year-old Sheri Coleman, 11-year-old Garrett and 9-year-old Gavin haven't been released. Authorities have not discussed a possible motive or identified any suspect.

Police had previous contact with Sheri and Chris Coleman related to "some interaction between an unknown individual and them," said Jeff Connor, deputy commander of the major case squad of greater St. Louis. He declined to elaborate.

Monroe County Coroner Julie Gummersheimer said autopsies were completed Wednesday afternoon but declined to discuss the results. She referred questions Wednesday to police in Columbia.

Neighbors in the well-kept subdivision of ranch-style homes said the Coleman family received threatening letters and their mailbox was tampered with in the past week.

Michelle Kunzelman, 30, said police knocked on her neighboring door last week and asked "if we'd seen or heard anything with (the Colemans') mailbox." Kunzelman said she heard nothing unusual Monday night into Tuesday morning from the Colemans' home.

Connor said Chris Coleman found the bodies Tuesday morning of his wife, 31, and their children, 11-year-old Garrett and 9-year-old Gavin. Investigators did not yet have a cause of death or a suspect in custody, and Connor asked for the public's help with tips.

"It may not be unusual to them, but it may mean something to us," Connor said.

Columbia is a fast-growing town of roughly 10,000 people southeast of St. Louis, across the Mississippi River.

Chris Coleman worked in security for Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo. In a statement posted on its Web site, the ministry called him "a very dear friend," and the killings an "unexpected and devastating tragedy. Words are not enough."

Neighbor Harold Rushing, 77, said Chris Coleman was visibly upset Tuesday morning, flailing his arms as two police officers restrained him by the shoulders.

Rushing said the two boys often came to his house to romp in the back yard with his dogs.

"They were just boys. They weren't troublemakers," Rushing said. "They were good kids, just energetic boys."

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