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Due to the graphic nature of these killers crimes, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions of mutilation, murder, sexual violence, pedophilia and child abuse. We advise extreme caution for children under 13. Harry Walters was having a perfect Friday. He was on vacation from his job as a construction worker at the morning Sun was beaming down on his porch. His wife, Marlene, had just brewed a fresh pot of coffee and the smell wafted through the hazy summer air.


Harry and Marilyn were friendly, sociable people and loved to make new friends. And that's exactly what they were doing this morning after a young couple on bicycles stopped outside their house.


The man introduced himself as Phil. He was polite and charming. He asked about the camper van the Walkers had for sale and the driveway. He and his girlfriend were new to the area. He explained how they wanted somewhere cheap to live.


For a while, Harry and Phil were getting along famously. The young man was intelligent and talkative. His girlfriend, Pam, seemed a little shy, but just as polite, smiling gratefully when Marlene passed or a cup of coffee.


After a while, Harry headed inside to dig out the title for the camper van. He'd be glad to finally have his driveway back, and he liked the idea of helping out a young couple who are just starting out. He remembered what it was like to be young and carefree.


Harry found the title in a filing cabinet and headed back downstairs to join the others, half distracted by the document.


He didn't even see the figure looming toward him until it was too late.


Hi, I'm Greg Polson.


This is Serial Killers, a Spotify original fun podcast. This is the second episode of our four part look at couples who kill. I'm here with my co-host, Vanessa Richardson. Hi, everyone.


You can find episodes of Serial Killers and all other Spotify originals from past for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts here on serial killers, we're usually looking at just one monster exploring what moved them to kill and kill again. But this month, we're exploring love in some of its more twisted incarnations, whether for money, sex or shared madness. These couples work together to kill and conceal, while from the outside they look just like two people in blissful, innocent love.


Last time we looked at Ray and Faye Copeland, who were convicted of killing farmhands on their Missouri property in the 1980s. In that case, it seemed likely that Ray was the mastermind of the evil plot and Fay was wrapped up in her abusive husband story. Today, we're delving into the murder spree of Alton Coleman and Deborah Brown. We'll explore the couple's separate, troubled upbringings, their twisted whirlwind romance, and how kinds of violent nature transformed the straight laced Debra into a vicious killer.


We've got all that and more coming up.


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Click Up is here to help you crash your goals and help save you one day every week. Guaranteed click up is free forever. Sign up today at click up dotcom slash Spotify. 360, the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, one year after the events of the Silence of the Lambs. She faces inner demons and horrific predators. Now it's her time to speak. The silence is over, Clarice. The new original series premieres Thursday, February 11, at 9:00 Central on CBS.


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We're all familiar with the idea of kismet, destiny, bringing two people together in a way that changes both of their lives for the better, but sometimes fateful unions between star crossed lovers aren't destined for a happy ending, and the consequences are devastating for everybody who crosses their path.


Can a romantic relationship change a person's fundamental nature or does it bring out impulses that were always lurking?


And does either answer change how culpable a person is for the actions they take?


Keep these questions in mind as we delve into the story of Alton Coleman and Debra Brown, whose murder spree made headlines over one long, bloody summer in 1984.


And like so many before them, the story of these killers begins long before they ever picked up a weapon.


As an infant, Alton Coleman was treated like trash in the most literal sense. Born in November of 1955 in Waukegan, a suburb of Chicago, Alton never knew his father. When he was six months old, his mother, Mary, dumped him into a trash can. This wasn't an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of abuse that Alton reportedly endured throughout his childhood. According to relatives, Alton's mother beat him with chairs, a baseball bat and her bare hands.


It's widely reported that Alton suffered head trauma early in life, possibly from his mother's abuse, which wasn't always physical.


Mary was a sex worker and reportedly entertained clients in front of her young son.


Alton was just five years old the first time he was arrested for stealing a watch from one of his mother's jobs.


At some point, Alton was taken in by his grandmother, who was also reportedly abusive. According to one account, she practiced voodoo and sometimes made Alten collect the ingredients for potions on its own. This seems harmless enough, except that collecting ingredients sometimes meant killing small animals.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his chaotic and dysfunctional home life, Alton struggled. When he started school, he reportedly what his parents often, which led to relentless taunting from his classmates.


Vanessa is going to take over and the psychology here and throughout the episode. Please note, Vanessa is not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, but she has done a lot of research for this show. Thanks, Greg.


Many true crime fans are familiar with the MacDonald triad, also known as the Homicidal Triad. This theory, which was first published in 1963 by psychiatrist John Marshall MacDonald, suggests that three key indicators may predict whether a child will grow up to become a violent criminal.


The three warning signs are cruelty to animals, starting fires and bedwetting past the age of five.


Alton's reputation at school could suggest that he was demonstrating at least one of these warning signs. But in recent years, the McDonald triad has become controversial. Research now suggests that these three signs are better used as indicators of a dysfunctional home environment or poor coping skills than a predictor of future violence. And there's no doubt that Alton's home environment was chaotic.


As he grew older, Alten remained alienated from his peers. Family, who knew him as a teenager, described him as a loner who kept to himself and said he was slow to show emotion.


After years of struggling. He dropped out of school when he was around 15. Without the structure and daily routine of classes, Alten displayed a criminal streak that became more and more pronounced.


Soon after dropping out, he was arrested for breaking windows in the housing project where he lived with his grandmother.


This marked the start of what became a lengthy rap sheet, and petty crime soon escalated into horrific violence. In 1973, Alton allegedly kidnapped, raped and robbed an elderly woman. The victim refused to testify about the sexual assault. So Alton dodged that charge. But he was sent to prison for two years for the robbery.


Over the next decade, Alton was charged with a series of sexual assaults and robberies. In many cases, he escaped prosecution. He was acquitted on rape charges in 1976 and 1980, took plea deals in another two and a number of other cases were dropped.


The details from many of these cases are sketchy, but it seems that Alton's charisma was at least partly to thank law enforcement who knew him at the time, described him as smooth as silk with an uncanny ability to charm a jury. He spun a good yarn in court, coming off as a reasonable and decent person. It seems the young man was quite.


The actor, but beneath the surface, Alton harbored violent urges that only grew in the years to come. He was reportedly obsessed with tying up young girls for violent sex, but his dark impulses were well hidden when he met Deborah Denise Brown.


To her, he seemed like a dream come true. Born in 1962, Deborah was one of 11 children. Her family was reportedly well respected in their Waukegan community, but that didn't translate to a happy childhood, just like her future beau.


Deborah suffered head trauma as a young child. The circumstances of this injury are unclear, but it was severe enough to impact her cognitive development. Deborah was reportedly borderline intellectually disabled. A clinical psychologist found that she never evolved to the level of emotional development consistent with her age. That could have impacted Deborah in a number of ways, possibly making it hard for her to succeed at school or to integrate with her peers. As she grew into an adult, she might have struggled to be independent or to feel confident in herself.


Deborah was also abused as a child, according to a psychologist testifying at her trial. She was subjected to frequent and repeated physical abuse, sexual abuse and a very strong sense of rejection and abandonment, all of which gave her a lot of common ground with Anthony, whose childhood was also marked by abuse and abandonment. We don't know exactly how 27 year old Alton and 20 year old Deborah crossed paths in the early months of 1983.


But the couple's connection was instant and powerful, perhaps rooted in their mutually troubled backgrounds. They felt understood by one another. Deborah was young and eager to please. While Alton might have craved an unconditionally loving partner to compensate for the fractured relationship with his mother.


Within weeks of meeting Alten, Deborah reconfigured her entire life around him. She ended an existing engagement, left home and moved in with her new boyfriend and its grandmother.


Deborah's loyalty to Alton was soon put to the test. In May of 1983, Alten sister Terry walked into the Waukegan police station with a horrifying story to tell. She claimed that Alton had tried to rape her eight year old daughter. But at some point, after making this allegation, Terry had a change of heart. She asked prosecutors to drop the charges, explaining the incident had been a misunderstanding. If this seems bizarre to you, you're not alone. As far as we can tell, Terry never offered any further explanation for the incident.


The judge in the case called Terrys changed story completely implausible. But without a victim or witnesses willing to testify, Alten was off the hook again around this time. He was also arrested for raping a 14 year old girl in north Chicago. The details of this incident aren't available. But by early 1984, Alten was on bail and awaiting trial for the crime despite the troubling pattern that was forming.


There's nothing to suggest that Deborah was fazed by the charges against her boyfriend, but even if she were, she might have felt powerless to do anything about it. A 1984 FBI memo described Deborah as virtually a prisoner in the Coleman house, noting that if Deborah left the house without him, Alton would beat her when the couple went out in public together. Onlookers noticed that she always walked a step behind him.


Around this time, Alton's thoughts were becoming darker. Years of abuse, neglect and simmering anger had turned him into a ticking time bomb of perversion and violence. And despite the charges he was already facing, he was determined to follow his worst impulses.


In late May of 1984, Alton struck up a friendship with a woman named Juanita Wheat in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He introduced himself as Robert Knight and told her that he lived just two blocks away.


This was a lie. Alton still lived with his grandmother in Illinois a half hour's drive south, but Juanita had no reason to doubt his word.


He came off as a nice man as he chatted to her while she hung out her washing. He even got along well with her children.


On May 29, when he'd known the Weitz family for a few weeks, Alten took Juanita's nine year old daughter, Vernita, on a ride to pick up some stereo speakers as Juanita waved them off. She had no idea it would be the last time she ever saw her daughter.


Instead of taking Vernita to pick up the stereo, Alten locked the car doors and drove her to walk. Keegan stopping at an abandoned building there, it's believed he raped her and strangled her to death afterward, Alten seems to have left her body in the abandoned building and headed home to Deborah.


The calculated brutality of Alton's actions here is striking. He spent time befriending Juanita, winning over her children, gaining the trust of the entire family. And all along behind his smile, he was plotting how to separate Vernita from her mom.


This wasn't a spontaneous attack, but a premeditated and coldly executed act of evil. Alton's criminals streak might have started out innocently enough. He was a troubled kid, getting his kicks by stealing watches and smashing windows.


But by 1984, he had become something else entirely a vicious and cunning predator. Back home in Kenosha, Wanita was growing frantic, she reported her daughter missing and helped police identify Alton as the chief suspect. On May 30, first authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.


But by now, Alton had slipped out of their reach. He'd borrowed a friend's car, supposedly to run an errand and never returned it. The next day, the police interrogated Deborah, but she insisted that she had no idea where her boyfriend was.


As the police searched in vain for Vernita, Altered made contact with Deborah. He asked her to run away with him, or perhaps given their dynamic, he told her to. Either way, she stood by her man.


Now, Alton had nothing left to lose. He was facing a charge that could land him on death row. It seems that the murder of Vernita was a threshold moment. It opened the door to even more violence and Deborah went with him.


Coming up, alterna Deborah's murder spree begins. Hi, it's Vanessa from Pakistan.


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It's why over one hundred thousand teams across companies like Airbnb, Google and Uber are already using click up to crush their goals. Save one day every week guaranteed click up is free forever. Sign up today at click up dotcom slash Spotify. Now back to the story. In June of 1984, 28 year old Alton Coleman was on the run from the law, already awaiting trial for the rape of a 14 year old girl he raped and murdered. Nine year old Vernetta White then fled his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.


His faithful girlfriend, 21 year old Deborah Brown, was by his side. Whether out of fear, love or a toxic blend of both, she lied to the police about his whereabouts and threw in her lot with her fugitive boyfriend. If he was going down, she was going with him.


They drove a couple of hours south stopping in the town of Gary, Indiana.


But even as the authorities hunted them, Alton and Deborah were on the hunt themselves.


And after living quietly in Gary for a few weeks, they found their next victims.


On the afternoon of June 18th, seven year old Tamika Turks was walking back from the candy store with her aunt, nine year old Annie Hillard, when they crossed paths with Alton and Debra, who, remember, Alton was charming and excelled at playing the part of an ordinary guy.


The girls probably weren't alarmed, especially since he was with Deborah. How could the sweet young couple possibly be a threat?


Deborah tried to entice the young girls to go with her and Dalton, they said no. At which point Alton peeled off from the group. But Deborah stayed with the girls, perhaps engaging them in light conversation to distract them at some point.


The trio ended up in the woods where Alton suddenly reappeared. He said he wanted to take Tamika and Annie to his grandmother's house, where they could play a little game.


Then he grabbed Tamika's shirt, cut it into ribbons with his pocket knife and used it to tie up and gag both girls.


Then Alton and Debra worked together, smothering and beating Tamika until she stopped breathing.


Then Alten raped Danny, and both he and Deborah choked her until she passed out and then strangled Tamika to death using a strip of fabric and left Annie for dead a few hundred yards away.


But Annie survived. Hours later, she regained consciousness and searched frantically for her niece, who was nowhere to be seen. Annie was able to stumble out of the woods where a passer by saw her bleeding and called the police when officers arrived at the scene.


They found the injured Annie and some distance away Tamika's body. It was a horrific scene, leaving many people to wonder what kind of monster could do such a thing. But the terrifying truth was it wasn't just one monster. It was too.


Later, Annie gave detailed testimony which made it clear that Deborah was an active participant in every step of this horrifying attack, not a passive accomplice, according to criminologist Elizabeth Aguri. And in a 2011 study from the University of Cambridge, female offenders and partnered homicides are commonly described in two categories. There's the compliant accomplice and the insider or potential mastermind who is the dominant figure in the partnership. Given what we know about her relationship with Alten, Deborah fits the definition of a compliant accomplice.


Someone transformed through abuse into a coconspirator. She was a victim of abuse both during her childhood and now as an adult woman, Cambridge researcher Ana Yoan Vellis, and wrote in 2005 that victimization can bring out the worst and lead people to commit acts for the soul sake of survival, of which they would otherwise have thought themselves incapable. Deborah's mother described her as a good girl before she met Alten. Now, just over a year after she met Alten, she was a vicious killer.


Could a significant change in her nature have happened so quickly? Perhaps, but it's worth considering whether meeting Alton's simply brought out what was always lurking beneath the surface.


Either way, their reign of terror was only just beginning. The day after Tameka's murder, Bernita Weed's body was finally found in the vacant Waukegan building, where Alten had left her three weeks earlier.


Her cause of death was found to be ligature strangulation, and Alten was indicted for her murder. But he was nowhere to be found. Aaltonen Deborah. We're now getting used to living off the grid, relying on the kindness of strangers who were charmed by their act. During this period, they befriended people on the road, introducing themselves with fake names, sometimes staying as houseguests for a day or two.


Their victims never saw this sudden betrayal coming.


Shortly after Veronica's body was found, alternate Deborah honed in on their next target at a church in Gary, Indiana, posing as Bostonians named Phil and Pam. They befriended a 25 year old named Donna Williams. Donna was a devout Christian, so Alton and Deborah expressed interest in joining the church where Donna volunteered.


Donna was last seen alive at her church that evening, setting up chairs for the service. She left a little before 7:00 p.m. explaining that she was going to pick up Alton and Debra, but never returned. This is a moment where we have to speculate a little based on what we know about the couple's later crimes, it's likely that when Donna arrived to pick up her new friends, they carjacked her probably using a knife or a gun. They made her drive them to Detroit, Michigan, about three hours away.


When they reached Detroit, Alton and Deborah took Donna to an abandoned building there. Alten raped her and strangled her to death, leaving her body where it lay.


Up to this point, the couple relied on their charm and benign appearance to lure victims, but after murdering Donna, they changed their M.O. For some reason, they abandoned the subtle approach for a while in favor of brute force.


On June 24th, Alton and Debra were in Detroit when they forced their way into a 28 year old woman's car at knifepoint.


They demanded that she drive them to Ohio, but the would be victim refused to cooperate, figuring she'd rather take her chances in a car crash over a kidnapping. She drove into oncoming traffic and was able to escape in the aftermath.


After she reported the incident to police, arrest warrants were issued for Alton and Debra, who were already on their way out of town. Notably, they changed their minds about going to Ohio and decided to stay in Michigan.


A few days later, Donna Williams abandoned car was found in Detroit with Deborah's ID inside. It's unclear if Aaltonen Deborah's various crimes were linked by this stage. But given that the FBI were called in to help with the escalating manhunt, it seems likely. The couple laid low for a few days after their thwarted kidnapping attempt, perhaps aware that they were being pursued, but Alten had a tried and tested strategy for evading capture.


According to police, he was a master of disguise, regularly dying his black hair, different colors and sometimes growing a mustache or a beard.


He'd also swap out his clothes in between crimes, dressing stylishly on one day and looking deliberately disheveled the next.


All of this gave Alton an immense sense of confidence. He believed he was smarter than the authorities. Always one step ahead. He had no real fear of being caught, and Deborah followed his lead.


According to Cambridge criminologist Elizabeth Aguri. In The Men in a serial killer duo are usually older and have more criminal experience compared with their female partner. For this reason, the man often becomes an authority figure in the dynamic, which certainly seems to be the case with Alten and Deborah. Deborah was a naturally submissive person, and Altan had years of criminal experience. If he wasn't worried about being caught, she wasn't either.


And so perhaps feeling decidedly confident would be changed things up again.


On June 28th, Alton and Deborah drove into Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where they committed their first home invasion.


They broke into the home of elderly couple Palmer and Maggie Jones. They brutally beat the Joneses with a club, stole 86 dollars from them and drove away in their car over the next few days. The couple returned to Detroit, where they robbed a total of four people, just as they'd done with Tanner. They befriended their victims beforehand, put them at ease, then stole their cash and car.


Unlike Donna, none of these victims were killed. It's possible that these were simply more opportunistic crimes. Their goal was to fulfill their immediate need for money and transportation as quickly as possible.


But Alten and Deborah couldn't restrain themselves for long. Their murder spree kicked back into horrific high gear on July 5th when they arrived in Toledo, Ohio, posing as fresh faced and devout newcomers to a church community. They met a local reverend who invited them to his home at the reverend's house. The couple met a woman named Virginia Temple, a recently divorced mom. Virginia was incredibly kind hearted, and she invited Olsen and Debra to stay with her. As far as Virginia was concerned, they were a sweet and devout young couple who just needed a bed for the night.


Alton and Debra probably kept up the facade for a while, but sometime in the next two days, they revealed their monstrous, true selves. They raped and strangled Virginia to death inside her home and did the same to her eldest daughter, nine year old Rachelle, after hiding the bodies in a crawlspace beneath the house.


The couple left now on a full spree. They wasted no time in finding their next victims.


Later that same day, Alton and Debra come their way into the home of a Toledo couple, Frank and Dorothy Duvan Dark, who were both in their 70s with his usual charm that the couple later describes as ingratiating. Alten asked Frank if he could borrow the phone.


Once inside, Alton and Deborah bound the Duvan DAX using appliance cords and stole cash and their car, but they left their victims alive and otherwise unharmed.


There's not much rhyme or reason to which victims were allowed to live versus the ones who were killed. In this instance, it's likely that Alten and Deborah were simply eager to get out of town as quickly as possible. Perhaps they knew it wouldn't be long before the authorities found Virginia and Rochelle Temple's bodies. So once they had the money and transportation, they were gone.


Their next stop was in Dayton, Ohio, where they befriended another reverend. They stayed for a few seemingly peaceful nights with the Reverend Millard Gaye and his wife, Catherine. On July 10th, the gaze dropped Dalton and Deborah off in downtown Cincinnati. And just a day later, the couple claimed their sixth murder victim as 15 year old Tonnie story and left school after a computer class.


She was intercepted by Alten and Deborah. They may have lured Tony into coming with them willingly, as they'd done with other young victims, or perhaps they forced her at knifepoint, as they had done more recently.


Either way, Tony was last seen alive that evening by a classmate who saw her walking with Alton and Debra around six p.m. Tony went with the couple to an abandoned building in the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati.


There, Alton rape Tony and the couple strangled her to death the same day authorities back in Detroit found Donna Williams body.


But even as the investigation and manhunt intensified, Alton and Deborah's vicious spree continued unchecked.


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Now back to the story. In July of 1984, 28 year old Alton Coleman and 21 year old Deborah Brown were deep into a violent crime spree that had taken them through five states in Ohio.


They had claimed their fourth, fifth and sixth murder victims and were only getting bolder with every day. They evaded authorities on July 13th.


Alton and Debra rode stolen bicycles from Dayton into Norwood, Ohio. They stopped on a quiet middle class street outside the home of Harry and Marlene Walters, a couple in their 40s.


When Harry answered, the door altered and Deborah asked about a camper that the Walcher said marked for sale on the driveway. The conversation flowed easily, and the four ended up sitting down for coffee on the porch.


Once again, Alton Smooth talking charm was on full display. A police commander in Norwood said at the time, quote, He has a way of getting next to people. He can talk his way into the home. He meets people on the street and he can discuss religion. He can discuss politics. He's very forward, very well-spoken, very calm and very deadly.


Deborah's role in these interactions is less clear given her young age and her reportedly limited intellectual development. It's likely that she kept quiet letting your charismatic boyfriend do the talking.


After chatting on the porch for a while, the Walters invited Alton and Debra inside as soon as Harry disappeared upstairs to find the title for the camper, the mood turned.


Alton bludgeoned Marlene over the head more than two dozen times, cracking her skull and mutilating her face and scalp. When Harry reappeared, Alton struck him over the head two and then stabbed him in the abdomen.


Deborah and Altan bound the Walters hands and left them for dead, stealing jewelry, money and their car. Marlene died from her injuries. Harry survived but was left with brain damage.


The crime scene altered and Deborah left behind at the Walters home was careless. Even by their standards. There were fingerprints all over the scene, which police quickly matched to Alton.


One strange detail was a bracelet found underneath Marlene's body, which belonged to Alton and Deborah's fourth victim, Virginia Temple. This feels too deliberate to be a mistake.


Perhaps Alton was now so high on the thrill of getting away with murder that he was taunting the police, leaving a calling card behind at the scene.


But this wasn't a smart time to get cocky. A few miles southwest of the Walters home, the investigation in Cincinnati was gathering steam. On July 19th, Tonnie stories body was found and again, Alton's fingerprints were identified at the scene here. Also, the couple seem to have left a calling card, this time a watch belonging to Dorothy Duvan Dabke. A frantic search for the couple began sensing the walls closing in on them. In Ohio, Alton and Debra drove the Walters car out of state and finally abandoned the vehicle in Lexington, Kentucky.


It's not clear why they did this. Perhaps the car ran out of gas or broke down, or perhaps even amidst their spree. The couple had enough sense to realize that driving their murder victim's car wasn't a smart move.


On July 16th, they kidnapped Olean Carmichael Jr., a 45 year old professor in Williamsburg, Kentucky. As Olean walked to his car, Alton and Deborah ambushed him, forced him into the trunk and drove the car back to Dayton.


But in a bizarre twist, police found the car the following day abandoned with Olean still inside the trunk. He was shaken but alive.


It seems that Alten and Deborah were getting desperate. There's no discernible logic to their actions in these final days, but it seems they did go back to Dayton for a very specific reason. After abandoning Colleen's car, they headed back to the home of their old friend, Reverend Millard Gaye, who they had stayed with just a week earlier.


But this wasn't such a friendly visit. This time, Alton and Debra arrived with guns. The reverend, recognizing the couple he'd helped, was angry.


He asked, Why do you want to do us like that like this?


Coleman replied, I'm not going to kill you, but we generally kill them where we go.


True to his word, Antin didn't harm the couple, but he and Deborah stole their car and began driving in the direction of Illinois.


On July 17th, the FBI added Kohlman to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list as a special Eleventh Edition. Escalating the manhunt that same day, Alton and Deborah made a stop in Indianapolis, Indiana, where they claimed their last victim, 77 year old Eugene Scott. They forced him out of his car and into a ditch near Interstate 65 where they shot and stabbed him to death.


They drove Eugene's car the rest of the way to Illinois, but going home was their downfall.


On July 20th, a casual acquaintance of Alton's recognized him on the street in Evanston and raced to call the police.


Undercover police tailed the couple to a basketball court at Mason Park as Alton and Deborah sat on the bleachers watching a pickup game. They had no idea they were surrounded as they got up to leave. Police swooped in and arrested them both.


Caught at last, Alterna Debra gave aliases and insisted that the police had made a mistake. But Alton, smooth talking, failed him for possibly the first time. The couple were taken into custody and their bail set at 25 million dollars apiece.


The case against Alton was pretty airtight. He had a long rap sheet and left fingerprints at many of the crime scenes. The evidence against Deborah was more circumstantial. A number of witnesses placed her with Alton and the victims, but there was no physical evidence against her and she had no criminal history.


But when the authorities interviewed Deborah, she confessed to the crimes, offering details that were later used against Dalton in court.


Ahead of her trial, a psychiatrist and a psychologist examined Deborah and both diagnosed her with dependent personality disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, dependent personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of needing to be taken care of and submissive and clingy behavior. People with this disorder can struggle to make everyday decisions without validation from other people and may feel helpless and unable to take care of themselves.


This diagnosis was central to Deborah's defense when the couple's first trial in Ohio began in May of 1985. Both were charged with two counts of aggravated murder for killing Tonnie and Marlene.


Dr. Saron, the psychologist who had examined her, testified that Deborah's IQ score of 75 qualified her as mildly intellectually disabled and said she was mentally younger than her age. Dr Kelly, the psychiatrist, testified about the diagnosis of a dependent personality disorder and how it impacted Deborah's relationship with Alton in his expert opinion. Deborah was, quote, under the domination and control of Alten at the time of the crimes.


With this testimony in mind, Debrosse attorneys argued that she'd been in a slave master relationship with Alton, but the jury didn't buy it. Alton and Deborah were both found guilty for the murders of Tonnie and Marlene.


During sentencing, something unexpected happened that speaks to the control Alton's still had over Deborah. Deborah claimed it was her, not Alton, who killed Marlene, and Alten agreed with her account. He claimed Deborah was all doped up at the time and killed Marlene while he was out of the room. Deborah even sent a note to the judge which reportedly said, quote, I killed a bitch and I don't give a damn. I had fun out of it.


But the judge didn't buy this version of events since Alton was facing the death sentence for killing Marlene and Debra wasn't.


It's possible that Deborah was trying to protect him by claiming responsibility.


Then again, maybe this was the truth. Debra's defense team painted her as a helpless victim of Alton's influence, even describing her as being under his spell. It's hard to discern whether this is an accurate reflection of the situation, given Deborah's intellectual disability. Perhaps it instead reflects society's discomfort with the idea that women can be ruthless killers.


Deborah was an adult when she met Dalton.


She was reportedly engaged to another man, so this wasn't her first relationship. And although an IQ score of 75 is low, it's not low enough for her to be considered intellectually disabled. And in any case, the Supreme Court has expressed wariness about using IQ scores to determine intellectual capacity.


Will never know the full truth about Alten and Debra's dynamic or how willing a participant Deborah was in the murders. She was reportedly abused by Alten and was probably afraid to disobey him in any way. It's possible that she was a reluctant accomplice and only went along with the spree to please him.


But this logic only goes so far over the course of seven weeks on the run. Deborah helped Dalton to lure victims, took an active role in assaulting and robbing them and may have taken part in their murders. That's not just a choice, but a series of choices. And it's difficult to explain these choices away. Meanwhile, Alten had no real mitigating circumstances for the murders. He was sentenced to death in both cases. Curiously, Deborah was given a death sentence for Tony's murder, but not Marlin's.


Neither fared much better in their trials in Indiana. Both she and Alton were found guilty of the rape and murder of Tamika Turks and sentenced to an additional 100 years and 40 years, respectively. Alten also received a death sentence in Illinois, making him the only person in the U.S. at the time to be on death row in three states.


He was executed by lethal injection in 2002 at the age of 46, according to prison officials. He showed no remorse for any of his crimes, but Deborah was ultimately given clemency. In January of 1991, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison.


This decision was made on the basis of evidence that Deborah was, quote, intellectually disabled in a way that had made her vulnerable to Alton's influence. She remains in prison in Ohio. To this day, though, her death sentence in Illinois remains active.


The unanswered question then is whether Deborah would ever have killed or even committed any crimes at all if she hadn't crossed paths with Alton Dalton, create evil and Deborah, or merely bring out the evil that already lurked in the end.


It doesn't matter what Deborah might or might not have done if she'd never fallen in love with Alton. Like any significant romance, the relationship fundamentally changed the course of her life.


No matter who Deborah could have been without him, their love turned her into a monster.


Thanks again for tuning into serial killers. We'll be back soon with Part three of our Killer Couple series, where we'll examine another killer couple with a warped power dynamic.


For more information on Alton Coleman and Deborah Brown, amongst the many sources we used, we found James Drew's article on the couple in the Toledo Blade extremely helpful to our research. You can find all episodes of serial killers and other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify. We'll see you next time. Have a killer week.


Serial Killers is a Spotify original from podcast.


Executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Anthony Vasek with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Bruce Kaktovik. This episode of Serial Killers was written by Emma dived in with writing assistants by Joel Kalyn Fact, checking by Hayley Millican and research by Brian Petrus and Chelsea Wood.


Serial Killers stars Greg Polson and Vanessa Richardson. Hi, it's Vanessa again. Before you go, don't forget to check out the new Parkhurst Limited series. Criminal couples from apocalyptic cult leaders to bank robbing bandits to married mafiosos. These couples give new meaning to till death do us part. Enjoy two part episodes every Monday starting February 1st. Follow criminal couples free and exclusively on Spotify.