Paranoia and mixed conspiracy theories gripped surf instructor before child murders

In the days and weeks before Matthew Taylor Coleman allegedly killed his two young children with an underwater shotgun in Mexico, the Santa Barbara surf school owner was obsessed with hand signals.

He dumped images of celebrities on social media and even old childhood photos of friends, interpreting universal gestures such as the peace sign or the “OK” signal as evidence of an evil cabal secretly communicating their alliance, according to search warrant affidavits filed in the case. .

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Coleman, 40, and his wife had searched QAnon together, she told investigators. A central element of the sprawling conspiracy theory is the existence of a secret society of elites bent on evil. But the more Coleman searched for what he saw as “signs,” he became convinced that the alleged cabal had infiltrated his inner circle — his church, his friendships and possibly his own home, the court document says.

Specifically, he told investigators he believed his wife passed snake blood from the ‘lizard people’ to the children – Roxy, 10 months, and Kaleo, 2. He said he was the only one who could stop them from possibly spreading an alien species that would cause carnage on Earth, the affidavit states.

The latest affidavit, filed last week in federal court in San Diego, offers the most detailed account yet of the mix of conspiracy theories and heightened paranoia that friends, family and Coleman himself say torment him. in the head before the shocking murders last August.

The latest search warrant, which attempts to access Coleman’s personal and work Instagram accounts, is aimed at gathering evidence that could help determine his state of mind before the murders, including whether he suffers from a mental illness legitimate or fake, the FBI writes to the court.

Coleman admitted to the murders in detailed confessions in multiple interviews with law enforcement, according to statements in court records. However, he pleaded not guilty to federal charges of murdering US nationals on foreign soil.

Court records do not indicate whether a psychiatric examination was performed, which could determine whether Coleman is mentally fit to stand trial. His defense team also did not say in court filings whether insanity would be raised as a defense. If the lawyers go this route, they have an incredibly heavy legal burden and must prove that Coleman was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his actions due to serious mental illness.

His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Joseph Uscinski, a political science professor at the University of Miami and an expert on conspiracy theories, warned against blaming a person’s exposure and belief in conspiracy theories singularly. QAnon’s account of who made him make good headlines, he said, but mental illness or another individual trait is more likely to be at play.

“A lot of people are exposed to these ideas, but they don’t act that way,” said Uscinski, co-author of the book “American Conspiracy Theories.” “The question should be: what is it about this person that drives them to action?”

Signs and symbols

The Santa Barbara community of the Colemans struggles to confront the person they know with the brutality of crime.

Coleman, who attended Point Loma Nazarene University as an undergraduate, ran the Lovewater Surf School and was known as a doting father and husband rooted in his Christian faith. No previous mental illness was mentioned.

The affidavit does not say when he and his wife started researching QAnon, or whether Coleman had ever dabbled in other conspiracy theories.

Coleman told investigators he even heard of the anonymous messenger behind the move, “Q” himself, according to the affidavit.

However, many of the conspiracy theories that Coleman described in his interviews with law enforcement venture far beyond QAnon.

Coleman credits learning about the Lizards on Twitter and “that white-haired British guy” – which investigators say was likely a reference to a famous conspiracy theorist who has been accused of being a Holocaust denier. ‘Holocaust’ and promote anti-Semitic tropes in his books. The writings touch upon the themes of reptilian shape-shifting beings, the Illuminati, who intersect with Norse peoples and an evil global elite.

Coleman also focused on signs and symbols – a common thread in conspiracy theories. He said he derived special meaning from Strong’s numbers — an index of every word in the Bible — and hand gestures, according to the affidavit.

The interest in the gestures was apparently shared, at least in part, by his wife, Abby, according to investigators. She could not be reached for comment.

On August 3, a week before the murders, she sent her husband screenshots of Instagram memes from a far-right conspiracy theory account that has the motto: “Symbolism is the language of satanic elite”.

Screenshots cast suspicion on a famous conservative commentator waving his hand. “We need to interview everyone at this point,” the post said in part.

Coleman also allegedly accused one of his close friends of being involved in an amorphous plot against him based on a Facebook photo of him making hand gestures as a teenager.

Shortly after Coleman and the children disappeared, Coleman’s wife called the friend at the family home and showed him the Facebook photo. She then allegedly accused the friend of “being in on it” and eventually kicked him out of her house, according to the affidavit. The document does not describe in more detail what exactly she suspected.

The friend told investigators that Coleman made similar comments to him about photos of other people, calling them bad disguised as good and describing them as “compromised,” the affidavit states.

Matthew Taylor Coleman is seen in surveillance video recording himself at a City Express hotel in Rosarito with one of his children, Baja prosecutors say.

(Courtesy of Baja California Attorney General’s Office)

Tragedy in Mexico

Coleman disappeared with the children in the family’s Mercedes Sprinter van on August 7.

His wife called the police and was able to track his iPhone, which put him in Mexico.

He texted her around 3 a.m. on August 9, saying he was “starting to get some clarification” but was still confused and planned to continue “processing everything.” He mentioned burning his grandmother’s old Bibles because they might have a chip.

“I hope all this madness ends soon,” he wrote. “I love you.”

His wife replied around 9 a.m., telling him to take care of their children.

“We do this together baby. Praying for clarity over you and your mind this morning,” she wrote. “Everything you have believed and known to be true is happening right now. I’m partnering with you from SB. Let’s take back our city. The Gateway of Revival to the State of California, the Nation, and the World. You were created to change the course of world history.

By then, her children were already dead. Their bodies were found earlier in the morning by farm workers in a ditch near a highway in Rosarito.

Coleman was arrested around 1 p.m. while attempting to re-enter the United States through the San Ysidro port of entry.

He told investigators that the visions, signs and strange coincidences had begun to coalesce days before, and that while he was lying in Mexico – before the murders – he had seen all the decoded plays like the movie “The Matrix,” and he was the central character, Neo, the affidavit says.

Uscinski, the conspiracy theory expert, said Coleman’s “I” statements – making conspiracy theories less about a group of people in power and more about him and those around him – are an indication that others more individualized factors led to violence.

“These are serious mental issues that go just beyond belief, beyond who has power in society and what they do with that power when no one is watching,” he said. declared. “It’s more likely that the things that drive these behaviors are only part of humanity. … And that’s not very comforting.

Prosecutors in this case could apply the death penalty – a rare punishment in federal cases. The decision is finally taken at the highest level of the Ministry of Justice.

A team of public defenders in Los Angeles would have the opportunity to present a mitigating argument to DOJ officials before a final decision is made. This could happen as soon as June, once lawyers have had a chance to analyze the huge amount of evidence submitted so far.

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