Man arrested for alleged slaying of teenage mother, infant son

Saturday, December 28, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. -- A Marine killed his girlfriend and her infant son after an argument over how loud the television should be, then stuffed her body into a suitcase and put the baby's in the freezer, police said Friday.

Sgt. James Coleman III, 24, a native of Ohio with a history of domestic abuse, was arrested Thursday and charged with murdering 19-year-old Jessica Hine and 2-month-old Devonte Desean Coleman.

Hine's body was found in a suitcase in the woods on Monday. Police believe Coleman strangled her Dec. 7, kept her body in his apartment for five days and reported to work each day at MacDill Air Force Base.

Coleman said he killed the baby Dec. 13 because he was having trouble taking care of him, Detective John Yaratch said. The child had become ill, probably in part because Coleman had turned down the heat in the couple's Tampa apartment to slow the decomposition of Hines' body, the detective said.

Yaratch would not say how the boy was killed.

Coleman told detectives a disagreement over the TV escalated into a fight, police said.

"She was going to call the police, and he knew that was going to be the end of his career," Yaratch said.

Yaratch said police had been trying to catch up with Coleman to arrest him after Hine accused him of violence in November. He was also scheduled to be arraigned next month on domestic violence charges stemming from a September incident.

Hine's mother, Shirley Mason, said Coleman became angry in October after a DNA test determined he was not Devonte's father.

Coleman was jailed without bail for a court appearance Saturday. He did not yet have an attorney appointed.

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