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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Santa Barbara Man Indicted in San Diego for Killing his Children in Mexico

Director of Media Relations Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726 or Kelly.Thornton@usdoj.gov

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – September 8, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Matthew Taylor Coleman of Santa Barbara was indicted by a federal grand jury today for taking his two young children to Rosarito, Mexico and killing them.

Coleman, 40, allegedly killed the 2-year-old boy and 10-month-old girl on August 9, 2021. The indictment filed today charges Coleman with two counts of foreign first-degree murder of United States nationals. By law, the charges are eligible for the death penalty. The Attorney General will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date.

“There are no words to describe the profound grief that envelops an entire community when a child is murdered,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The Department of Justice is determined to achieve justice for these victims and their loved ones.”

“The murder of a child is difficult to understand under any circumstances,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “I’m proud of the quick investigative efforts by FBI Agents, the Santa Barbara Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and our Mexican counterparts which led to the arrest of Mr. Coleman as he entered the United States, and I look forward to delivering justice for the young victims and their family.” 

Coleman previously was charged with the same crimes in a federal complaint filed in Los Angeles. Prosecutors intend to dismiss that complaint. Coleman is expected to make his initial court appearance on the indictment tomorrow in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. He will appear in United States District Court in San Diego, where the case will be prosecuted, at a date to be determined.

An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlined the investigation that started when Coleman’s wife contacted the Santa Barbara Police to report that her husband had left the couple’s residence in a Sprinter van, and she did not know where they had gone.

The next day, Coleman’s wife filed a missing persons report. Using a computer application, Coleman’s wife was able to determine that Coleman’s phone had been in Rosarito on Sunday afternoon, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, the same phone-locating service was used on Monday and showed that Coleman’s phone was near the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the affidavit. The FBI dispatched colleagues in San Diego to contact Coleman, who entered the United States in the Sprinter van without the children. When the children were not found, FBI agents contacted law enforcement officials in Rosarito and learned that Mexican authorities that morning had recovered the bodies of two children matching the description of Coleman’s children.

After further investigation, FBI agents took Coleman into custody at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Santa Barbara Police Department are investigating this matter. The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office provided substantial assistance throughout the investigation.

The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the Government of Mexico, to include the Fiscalía General del Estado de Baja California, and the Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Municipal de Rosarito, for their extraordinary efforts, support, and cooperation during the investigation.

After reviewing the case, the United States determined that the most appropriate venue was in the Southern District of California. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ko of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Butler, Joanna Curtis, and Billy Joe McLain of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California are prosecuting this case.

DEFENDANT                                               CASE NUMBER 21CR2627

Matthew Taylor Coleman                               Age: 40                       Santa Barbara, California

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1119 – Foreign First-Degree Murder of U.S. Nationals

Maximum Penalty – Death or life and a fine of up to $250,000

AGENCIES

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States Customs and Border Protection

Santa Barbara Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
CAS21-60908-Coleman
Updated September 8, 2021