On Thursday, the two women who arguably knew Keith “K2” Coleman Jr. the best finally broke the chains he’d had them in for years in Quitman County Circuit Court.
Chelsea Golden and Cierra Wheeler both lived with Coleman, oftentimes both at once, in a trailer with his father, his grandfather and his sister. Wheeler had known him since 8th grade, and said their relationship had always been fine until he brought Golden into the picture. Golden said when Coleman was mad at Wheeler, she felt like sometimes he took it out on her too.
Coleman is charged along with Jayme Lynn Tubbs, another alleged romantic interest, in the disappearance, shooting, and dismemberment of April Jones and Will Polk in October 2019. Authorities say witnesses told them that the two conspired to lure Jones to a rural site to kill her, and that Polk was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was, as Chief Deputy Peter Clinton said on the stand, “collateral damage.”
Golden and Wheeler’s testimony — the most important and compelling of Thursday’s court proceedings — told different angles of the same horrific crime, allegedly carried out by their children’s father. Coleman believed, testimony bore out, that more than $15,000 worth of crystal methamphetamine had been stolen from a locked room at an acquaintance’s house where he stayed with yet another love interest, Rachel Russell. He believed Jones and Polk were responsible.
On the night of October 9, 2019, Golden said he came to where she was lying on the couch with their son, who was three years old at the time, and told her he was “going to kill April.”
As Golden sat on the stand, at first her whole body shook visibly. Her voice was strained and shaky, and as she told her story, she stopped multiple times to hide her face in her hands and wipe her tears with the sleeves of her fleece, which she had pulled down over her hands.
She described to the jury how Coleman had demanded that she go with him to carry out the plan. When she refused, he pointed a gun first at her, and then at their child.
“He said if I didn’t go, he’d kill me and my baby,” she said.
Golden testified that she left the child with Coleman’s grandmother and the two drove down the road to a predetermined spot on the side of the road where Coleman popped the hood on the white Saturn she was driving.
Golden said he had the same gun he had pointed at her and the child, and that there was a .22 rifle that was in the floorboards of the passenger seat. She said she recognized it from his grandmother’s house.
As they waited there, Golden said, Coleman got a call from Tubbs, who said she and Dezimond “Cutthroat” Green were on the way to them with Jones, but that Polk had insisted on coming too. Knowing they were on the way, Coleman hid in the woods.
When Tubbs pulled up, she and Green and Polk got out of the car, and Coleman came out of the woods and dragged Jones from the backseat, she said. At that point, Tubbs got the rifle out of the front seat and cocking it, handed it to Golden. Tubbs told her to hold it on Polk in case he decided to run, she testified.
“Will’s running around with his hands on his head freaking out because he didn’t know what was going on,” Golden said.
Meanwhile, Coleman allegedly was beating Jones with the gun until he finally shot her and she ran. He shot her until she finally fell, and then turned to Polk, who said, “I’m not going to say anything.”
“I know,” Coleman said, and shot Polk in the chest.
Golden’s face contorted as she told that part of the story.
“Where was Will standing?” asked assistant district attorney Leslie Flynt.
“Will was right beside me,” Golden said.
As the story unfolded both on direct and cross-examination, Golden was asked why she went along with the plan when she had a car and a gun and could have driven away instead of staying once Coleman hid in the woods. She said she didn’t know how to use a gun.
“And I didn’t know where he was, and it was dark,” she said. “The bullet could have went way over there and he could have shot at me and I’d be dead.”
Flynt asked her what her feelings were about Coleman.
“There are so many emotions,” Golden said. “I cared about him but Ididn’t understand why he was never at the house, why he borke my jaw, why he was with my cousin, I didn’t understand why he had two women, why we all lived in the same house.”
Golden testified that Coleman had broken her jaw about a month before the incident with Polk and Jones. But, she said, while Coleman had been unfaithful, it hadn’t gotten physical until that period of time.
Throughout the testimony, Golden started off ducking her head and choking back tears. When she was asked to identify Coleman, she could barely look at him. But also as cross examination went on, she sat up straighter and her voice got a little louder.
Golden said Coleman told her how he had dismembered Jones and Polk, burning their bodies with kerosene. She testified that she watched him throw Jones’ head and hands in a bookbag into a swampy area behind his home. She watched him carry a plastic bag across the field, after which he told her he buried Polk’s remains on land adjoining his, because if someone was going to find either one of them, “he’d rather it be Will.”
“(Coleman) said (Polk) wasn’t supposed to be there,” Golden testified. “He had a little more remorse for him.”
When asked why she didn’t go to the police, Golden’s face took on an incredulous look.
“I didn’t want to die,” she said.
Wheeler and their firstborn son had gotten free of Coleman, the man she had loved since eighth grade. For about three or four months prior to Jones and Polk’s deaths, she hadn’t seen or spoken to him or Golden. She had moved to a new house and gotten a new job, she said, in spite of Coleman’s attempts to bring her back into the fold.
He had broken her nose once, she said. She testified to how he would “jump on” her and Golden when they didn’t please him. She was happy to be gone, until Coleman began to bring groceries to her house for his son.
She was able to maintain her distance until the night of Oct. 9, 2019, when Coleman called Wheeler’s phone.
“It was him asking how much do I love him,” she said. “I told him he already had two women, what more did he want? And he said Chelsea had alread proven her love to him.”
Later that night, Wheeler said, Coleman and Tubbs pulled up at her home. Coleman told her to get in the car, so taking her son with her since she was uncomfortable with the situation, she did. It wasn’t unusual for Coleman to pull something like this, she testified.
The carfull returned to Coleman’s home, where Wheeler said she saw Golden give Coleman a garbage bag. Giving Wheeler the garbage bag, which she said was fairly light, he told her to take it to Gates Lake and burn it.
When questioned as to why she just went to Gates Lake to burn it with no questions asked, Wheeler’s reply was simple.
“You don’t question Keith.”
Wheeler testified that she burned the bag with no accelerant and it took about 10 minutes to burn up. Coleman had told her not to leave there until she got his call, so she sat there for a while longer. When an hour had passed, Coleman called and told her to come back to the house.
When Wheeler arrived, she said she found Coleman and Tubbs wearing black hoodies. Tubbs had blood on her cheek.
Coleman called her to the back of the vehicle, where he set his phone face down and told her to flip it over.
“What did you see?” she was asked.
“Dead body,” she said. “It had a hand over its face and it was folded up. He told me it could’ve been me.”
Wheeler did her best not to react, and simply told Coleman to take her back home. At her house, he gave her a pair of gray Air Force Ones to put in the garbage, she said, then he told her to pop the trunk, and he put a bag in her trunk. She said she didn’t look to see what was in it.
The next morning, Wheeler testified, she called Coleman to come get “whatever he put in my trunk.”
“He said don’t rush him,” she said. “At the time I thought it was some drugs or something.”
When Coleman arrived, Wheeler got the bag out of her trunk, picking it up first by the top of the bag. It was heavy, so she went to steady it with her other hand, she testified. That’s when she said she felt something through the bag that felt like cartilage — like an ear or a nose.
“I asked him what he had done,” she said, adding that he said nothing, and grinned.
Wheeler eventually was let go from her job because Coleman would sit outside in the parking lot. He would come to the home where she was staying and threaten to shoot her. Soon, she was out of a place to stay as well. So she was forced to move back in with Coleman and Golden.
Coleman didn’t allow the women to work or go anywhere without him present.
The two women, practically sister wives, definitely unlikely friends, were able to escape Coleman at one point, Wheeler testified. They went to Meridian and had been there two or three weeks when Coleman allegedly sent Golden a picture of her father, leading her to believe he had been kidnapped.
“That’s the only family she’s got, so we went back,” Wheeler said.
Like Golden, when Wheeler was asked why she didn’t go to police about all she had seen and known, she said it was because it wasn’t safe.
“Wasn’t nobody gonna protect me from Keith,” she said. At some point she added, “I was in love. I’d been with him since I was in eighth grade.”
But she finally spoke with Chief Deputy Peter Clinton and Detective Darryl Linzy, she said. And she wasn’t afraid to testify.
“Because I’m safe now. Keith’s not getting back out,” she said.
Both women had been indicted for allegedly aiding Coleman when he escaped the Quitman County Jail in May of 2021. Both testified they had not been given a deal in exchange for their testimony.
When asked why she was testifying, Golden seemed resolute.
“Because the truth needs to be told,” she said. “I fear him, but the truth needs to be told.”
Court resumes Friday at 8:30 a.m. in the Quitman County Courthouse.