In the early hours of Aug. 9, 2021, Matthew Coleman woke his 2-year-old son, Kaleo, and 10-month-old daughter, Roxy, in a room at the City Express Hotel, where they were staying in the Mexican seaside resort town of Rosarito. He bundled them into his van and drove them to a remote ranch a short distance away. Then he murdered them both by stabbing them over a dozen times each with a spearfishing gun.
This is what Coleman himself told FBI agents just hours later, when he was arrested crossing the border back into the U.S. He immediately tried to justify his actions by citing QAnon conspiracy theories, claiming he believed he had to kill his children to “save the world.”
A year later, despite this confession, the Department of Justice is still making up its mind about whether or not to seek the death penalty, and any possible trial in the case is still months away. A recent court filing reviewed by VICE News suggested that an update on the case won’t be available until October. The lack of progress on the case has left the community of Santa Barbara, where Coleman and his wife, Abby, ran a surf school, in limbo, unable to process what has happened.
In particular, the insular and often secretive church communities to which Coleman belonged have failed to address the heinous crime. Now, some members of those communities fear that if Coleman was radicalized within the church, similar acts of violence could happen.
“I really think that the church let this family down, let these children down, and it should be a clarion call to all the churches within the Santa Barbara community that if this can happen to a loving beautiful young family that was really entrenched in the cultural aspects of Santa Barbara, it can happen everywhere. And we need to be aware of the warning signs and I do not believe that it’s been addressed yet,” a Santa Barbara resident who knew the Colemans and attended some of the same churches told VICE News. The source was granted anonymity to speak openly about sensitive issues.