Santa Barbara surf instructor Matthew Taylor Coleman was indicted by a federal grand jury today for allegedly driving his two children to Rosarito, Mexico, and killing them.
He is eligible for the death penalty.
He will make an initial appearance on the indictment in the United States District Court in Los Angeles Thursday. The case will be prosecuted in the U.S. District Court in San Diego at a later date.
The attorney general will rule whether the death penalty will be sought in the case.
“There are no words to describe the profound grief that envelops an entire community when a child is murdered,” Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a news release. “The Department of Justice is determined to achieve justice for these victims and their loved ones.”
Mr. Coleman, 40, allegedly killed his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter Aug. 9 using a fishing gun to pierce their chests.
He is charged with two counts of foreign first-degree murder of U.S. nationals, per the indictment.
A federal complaint filed in Los Angeles originally charged him with these crimes, but prosecutors intend to dismiss the complaint, according to the Department of Justice.
The complaint by an FBI special agent says Mr. Coleman believed he was “saving the world from monsters.”
He reportedly was inspired by QAnon conspiracies and told the agent he believed his wife passed “serpent DNA” to the young children.
“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.”
Investigation began when Mr. Coleman’s wife called Santa Barbara Police officers Aug. 7.
The family had planned to go camping but instead, her husband and kids had left in the family’s sprinter van.
She did not believe the kids or herself were in danger. An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint said she was worried because he forgot a car seat.
SBPD Officer Michael Chung followed up Sunday evening.
He instructed her to use the “Find My iPhone” application to locate her husband, and the phone had last registered to an open-air marketplace in Rosarito.
SBPD engaged the FBI and U.S. Border Patrol in the case, and they waited for Mr. Coleman to cross into the United States.
He reached the border at 1 p.m. Monday, and Customs and Border Protection officers noticed what appeared to be blood on his vehicle’s registration paperwork.
There were no other occupants in the vehicle.
Law enforcement in Rosarito found the bodies of two children that morning. Mr. Coleman later identified and initialed photographs taken at the scene of the discovery.
The FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Santa Barbara Police Department are continuing the investigation.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office assisted the investigation.
The Department of Justice is thankful for the Government of Mexico’s help, including the Fiscalía General del Estado de Baja California and the Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Municipal de Rosarito.
The United States selected the Southern District of California as the location of trial 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 the case.