James Marlow and Cynthia Coffman

Oftentimes names make it to my list from other lists.  For example I may find a list of women on death row and that leads me to other names of people and crimes.  The downfall I suppose of now trying to go through my list one by one is that I am going to find those names one after another.  I believe I came across this name, James Marlow, based on his association with white supremacy, just as the last case I blogged about.  The difference here is that James Marlow's crimes did not have anything to do with those associations.  

James Marlow and Cynthia Coffman are considered to be a serial killing couple. I suppose they qualify to be called serial killers.  In general to be defined as a serial killer one has to commit at least three murders, generally for nothing more than personal gratification and span within a period of a month or more. Oftentimes serial killers have significant "cooling off" periods but that is not always necessarily true.  Bundy, Ridgeway and Rader are well known for having periods of time in which they did not kill before starting up again. On the other hand Glen Rogers did not have this cooling off period and killed several women one right after another.  Marlow and Coffman fall more into this latter category.

Marlow and Coffman could not have had more different childhoods if they tried. While Coffman's parents did apparently divorce while she was young the family was deeply religious and fairly normal by the sounds of it.  It has been claimed that Marlow was raised by a single mother who was a drug addict that often gained income through prostitution.  Marlow began a life of thievery at a very early age.  The worse thing Coffman did was get pregnant by her boyfriend at seventeen years old.

Due to her religious upbringing Coffman felt forced to marry the father of her child.  Reports vary on how long she stayed married before she effectively left her husband and child in Missouri and moved to Arizona.  Some say she managed to muddle through the marriage for five years while other say it was more like two.  Once in Arizona she met a man named Doug Huntley.  They lived together, did drugs together and effectively went to jail together.  In May of 1986 Huntley and Coffman were pulled over by the police for a traffic violation.  They were arrested when drugs were found on them.  Coffman would only spend a few days in jail and her charges would be dropped but Huntley would spend much longer.  

While Doug Huntley was in jail his cellmate was James Marlow.  He bragged and bragged about Cynthia to James and apparently they met on one of Cynthia's visits to Doug.  James was serving some time for car theft but he would be released before Huntley and went to the apartment shared with him and Coffman.  Time went on and apparently Huntley got out of jail but ended up going back in for something and when he did Coffman and Marlow took off.

They first headed toward California and stayed with different relatives of his until shortly they wore out their welcome with all of them.  Then in July of 1986 they were in Kentucky committing a burglary and research indicates may have killed a man but there are not a lot of details.  On the way back to California they stopped in Tennessee and the two were married.  Soon after Coffman got a tattoo on her rear end that said "Property of The Folsom Wolf."  This was a nickname that Marlow had obtained in the 1980's when he had spent time there.  

On October 11, 1986 near Los Angeles Sandra Neary said she was leaving to go to the ATM.  She was never seen again.  Her car was found in a parking lot abandoned.  On October 24th her strangled body was found by hikers.  A side note to this story is that two months later, on December 30th police would be called to the apartment Sandra shared with her son Stephen and their two year old daughter.  Inside the bathroom lay Stephen's body with an empty syringe and vial.  Their girl was in her bed suffering from dehydration.  It was speculated that the little girl had been alone in the apartment with her fathers body for two to three days.

Four days after Sandra's body was found another woman, Pamela Simmon was reported missing after she too had said she was going to the ATM.  

On November 7th Corinna Novis vanished near a shopping mall ATM in broad daylight.  

On November 12th, Lynell Murray's boyfriend went to the police when she had missed a date.  He found her car still outside her work, a local dry cleaners, but had not found her.  The following day Lynell's body was found, naked and strangled in a Huntington Beach motel bathroom. 

In the meantime officers investigating Corinna's death had found her check book in a dumpster.  It was inside a bag with some papers with the names of James Marlow and Cynthia Coffman.  In another motel in San Bernardino it was discovered that the couple had been there and inside the manager found papers in which it looked like Lynell's signature was being practiced.

Now there was a man hunt.  On November 14th, the day after Lynell's body had been found a motel owner in Big Bear City contacted authorities and identified Marlow and Coffman as registered guests.  Yeah, the couple had never stopped using their own names.  A one hundred man posse was formed surrounding the motel but the couple was gone by the time they got there.  The area was searched and they were found a short time later hiking by a mountain road. They easily surrendered.  They were wearing clothes that were identified as being stolen from the dry cleaners where Lynell worked.  

Within hours Coffman was confessing and took authorities to a shallow grave where they would find Corinna Novis' body.  Fingerprints would later further link the couple to her as they were were found all over Corinna's car.  Coffman was also identified by a pawn shop employee as the person who pawned a typewriter that had belonged to Corinna.  

It took almost three years to bring the couple to trial and throughout that time they were no longer on good terms.  Each of them had attempted to blame the others for the murders.  Marlow would claim that Coffman controlled him and drove him to commit the murders, although he did not admit to them all. And Coffman would claim that Marlow had threatened her life if she did not help.

Their first trial was for the murder of Corinna Novis.  They were both sentenced to death.  Coffman would be the first woman to do so since the death penalty had been reinstated in California in 1977.  In the death of Lynell Murrays Marlow was once again sentenced to death while Coffman was sentenced to life without parole.  

There is dispute whether the couple will ever be put the death in the state of California.  They have not executed anyone since 2006 because of cases within the court over the three drug combination used.  In 2012 there was a motion on the voters ballot asking about abolishing the death penalty but it did not pass. In November of 2014 former governors of the state were pushing for a motion on the ballot that would speed up executions but I could not find if that passed. Regardless of the ballot issues it seems it still remains in the hands of the courts.  


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