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  1. #1

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    Cynthia Lynn Coffman - California Death Row


    Corinna Dell Novis, 20






    Cynthia Lynn Coffman


    Summary of Offense:

    Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow were sentenced to death on August 31, 1989 in San Bernardino County for the November 7, 1986 murder of Corinna Novis. Coffman was the first woman to receive a death sentence in the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.

    Coffman first met Marlow in May 1986, just after he was released from prison. Marlow, a career criminal, had been locked up for stealing his sixth wife's car. An earlier stint in Folsom prison had earned him the nickname of "The Folsom Wolf." Coffman and Marlow hit it off so fast that within weeks they were traveling the country together.

    In late July, Marlow and Coffman were married in Tennessee. As a wedding gift, Coffman received a tattoo on her butt that read "Property of the Folsom Wolf." The couple moved back West, sponging off relatives until they made it to California in October.

    On November 7, 1986, in Redlands, California, Corinna Novis disappeared from an ATM. Just five days later, Lynel Murray was kidnapped from outside the dry cleaners where she worked in Orange County.

    On November 11, Novis' checkbook was found in a dumpster along with some papers that had Marlow's and Coffman's names on them. A lodge owner in Big Bear City reported that they had recently checked in. Over 100 men joined a search party that eventually caught the couple while hiking through the mountains in clothes that had been stolen from Murray's Dry Cleaners.

    They were also sentenced to death in Orange County on May 8, 1992 for Murray's murder.

    For more on Marlow, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/...rnia-Death-Row

  2. #2
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    Born in 1962, Cynthia Coffman was the privileged daughter of a St. Louis businessman, raised by her parents as a devout Catholic. Abortion was unthinkable when she got pregnant at age seventeen, and she was forced into a loveless marriage, enduring five years of domestic captivity before she left home and fled west, traveling with little more than her car and the clothes on her back. She wound up in Page, Arizona, waiting tables in a diner, moving in with a local man after several weeks.

    In the fall of 1985, they were evicted from their small apartment after numerous complaints from neighbors of their drunken all-night parties. On May 8, 1986, Cynthia and her boyfriend were stopped for running a stop sign in Barstow, California. Police found a loaded derringer and a quantity of methamphetamine in her purse, but she was released on her own recognizance the charges subsequently dropped. Her lover wound up serving six weeks in the county jail, and it was during one of Cynthia's visits that she first met his cell mate, the man who would irrevocably change her life.

    James Gregory Marlow was doing time for the theft of his sixth wife's car when Cynthia walked into his wasted life. Born in 1957, he had been a dedicated thief from age ten, committed to Folsom Prison in 1980 for a series of home invasions and knife-point robberies. Marlow served three years on that conviction, earning himself a reputation as The Folsom Wolf, proudly wearing tattoos of the neo-Nazi Aryan Brotherhood. It was love at first sight for Cynthia and James, her boyfriend instantly forgotten when Marlow hit the street and they left California together in June. Marlow had relatives in the Border South, and the couple began working their way through the family tree, sponging room and board where they could, ripping off any obvious valuables when they were finally asked to leave. In time, it reached the point where Marlow's relatives could see them coming , turning them away with angry words or pocket change. At last, they were reduced to sleeping in the woods, where Cynthia contracted head lice and James was forced to bathe in kerosene to rid himself of biting chiggers.

    On July 26, 1986, Coffman and Marlow were linked to the burglary of a home in Whitley County, Kentucky, making off with cash, some jewelry, and a shotgun. Days later, in Tennessee, they were married. Cynthia celebrated the occasion by having her buttocks tattooed with the legend: I belong to the Folsom Wolf. That done, they drifted west again, in search of easy prey.

    On the evening of October 11, 1986, 32-year-old Sandra Neary left her home in Costa Mesa, California, to obtain some cash from the automatic teller machine at her bank. She never returned, though her car was found by police in a local parking lot. Two weeks later, on October 24, her strangled, decomposing corpse was found by hikers near Corona, in Riverside County.

    Pamela Simmons, age thirty-five, was the next to die, reported missing in Bullhead City, Arizona, on October 28. Her car was found abandoned near police headquarters, detectives theorizing that she had been snatched while drawing money from a curbside ATM.

    Ten days later, on November 7, 20-year-old Corinna Novis vanished on a similar errand in Redlands, California. The latest victim had been kidnapped from an urban shopping mall in broad daylight.

    Lynel Murray's boyfriend was worried on November 12, when the 19-year-old psychology student failed to keep a date after work. He found her car outside the dry cleaning shop where she worked, in Orange County, California, but another day would pass before her naked, strangled body was discovered in a Huntington Beach motel room. In addition to kidnapping and murder, there was also evidence of sexual assault.

    Police were praying for a break, and when it came, the case unraveled swiftly. First, Corinna Novis' checkbook was found in a Laguna Niguel trash dumpster, tucked inside a fast-food takeout bag with papers bearing the names of Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow. Around the same time, Marlow and Coffman were linked to a San Bernardino motel room, where the manager found stationery bearing practice signatures of Lynel Murray's name. A glance at Marlow's criminal record did the rest, and a statewide alert was issued for both fugitives.

    On November 14, 1986, police were summoned to a mountain lodge at Big Bear City, California, where the proprietor identified his latest guests as Marlow and Coffman. A 100-man posse found the lodge empty, fanning out through the woods for a sweep that paid off around 3:00 P.M., when the suspects were found hiking along a mountain road. Coffman and Marlow surrendered without a fight, both wearing outfits stolen from the dry cleaning shop where Lynel Murray worked. Within hours, Cynthia led officers to a vineyard near Fontana, where they found Corinna Novis, sodomized and strangled, lying in a shallow grave. Marlow and Coffman were formally charged with that murder on November 17 and held over for trial without bond. If any further proof of guilt were needed, homicide investigators told the press that fingerprints from both defendants had been found inside Corinna's car, and Coffman had been linked to the Fontana pawn shop where the victim's typewriter was pawned.

    Another thirty-two months would pass before the killer couple went to trial, and in the meantime they experienced a falling-out, each blaming the other for their plight. On one jailhouse visit, Cynthias lawyer asked if there was anything she needed from the outside world. "Yeah", she told him, pointing to her backside, "You can find someone to help me lose this damn tattoo!"

    The couple's murder trial finally opened in San Bernardino County on July 18, 1989. Both defendants were convicted across the board, and both were sentenced to death on August 30. Cynthia Coffman thus became the first woman sentenced to die in California since it restored capital punishment under a new statute in 1977.

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  3. #3
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    On November 15, 2006, Coffman filed a habeas petition in Federal District Court.

    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cal...v07304/378304/

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    25 years since murder rocked Redlands

    Today, Corinna Novis would be 45 years old.

    She might be a wife and a mother, she might be an insurance agent, she might be a world-traveler. She might still be living in Redlands, the place she began to call home in 1986.

    Instead, Corinna Novis' remains rest in her hometown of Gooding, Idaho, in the Pioneer Cemetery.

    She was murdered 25 years ago today, her body left in a shallow grave in Fontana after she was abducted near the Redlands Mall on Nov. 7, 1986.

    Her killers, James Marlow and Cynthia Coffman, have made their homes on California's Death Row, in San Quentin State Prison and Central California Women's Facility, respectively.

    "Her kidnapping was a huge tragedy, for the whole city, and for the Police Department," said former Redlands Chief of Police Jim Bueermann, who was promoted to lieutenant shortly before the kidnapping.

    To reflect back on Novis' life and death is to take a trip back in time to the Redlands of 1986.

    A city in love with preservation and history, Redlands looks much the same as it did 25 years ago. The buildings are nearly all still in place, yet businesses have come and gone, moved here and there.

    The Redlands Mall, which featured so prominently in Novis' case, now sits empty, a shell of the epicenter of downtown that it was when Novis was headed there for a manicure on the last day of her life.

    Cho's Liquors, at the corner of Colton Avenue and Orange Street, where she went for a pack of cigarettes in one of her last moments of free will, is now a tattoo parlor.

    First Interstate Bank, where Novis was forced to withdraw cash with Marlow in the passenger seat of her new Honda CRX, is now Union Bank, near the empty mall.

    And the popular Gay 90s Pizza Parlor, where the young woman was headed to that Friday evening, before going to Homecoming parties at the University of Redlands, is gone, too, just like Novis.

    It was a different time, a time before cell phones, when answering machines cost around $70, and a drive-through bank teller meant driving up to talk to a human and getting cash out of a tube.

    Novis began her Friday evening with plans.

    An insurance clerk at State Farm Insurance, she got off work at 5 p.m., and stopped at Cho's before heading to her nail appointment, after which she planned to meet friends at the pizza parlor before checking out the Homecoming activities at the U of R.

    "She was a small-town girl with small-town values," Nita Trenkle, a friend from Idaho, said in 1986. "She was just so trusting. Maybe she was too trusting. I don't believe she realized what was happening (when she was abducted)."

    But Marlow got to her first, abducting her outside the front entrance to the mall, and forcing her at gunpoint to withdraw money. He and Coffman then took Novis to accomplice Richard Drinkhouse's Fontana home, where Marlow and Coffman used coercion then sodomy to obtain Novis' bank card number.

    "She was just trying to help these people," said Bueermann.

    The pair then took Novis to a Fontana vineyard near Sierra Avenue, where they strangled her before burying her, still breathing, in a shallow grave.

    "She was alive and breathing, she was laying there breathing and her eyes were closed," when he left Novis, Marlow said in his 1989 testimony.

    Afterward, Marlow and Coffman went to Novis' apartment on East Central Avenue in Redlands to sell her answering machine.

    The pair's killing did not stop there. The two robbed and murdered Lynel Murray, 19, in Huntington Beach a few days later, on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 1986.

    "In all my years, I've not come across two more cold-blooded killers," said Tom Fitzmaurice, former Redlands Police Department Commander, who worked the case. "You just don't see people like these two. They had no feelings for other people at all."

    The two didn't hide their tracks well enough. Novis' checkbook was found in a dumpster near the beach, and they used Murray's name and credit card to check into a Big Bear motel on Nov. 13.

    "They were looking for someone to victimize," Fitzmaurice said, who spent three days interviewing Marlow. "These were not crimes of opportunity in any way, shape or form."

    The Friday after Novis was abducted, her car was found in the parking lot of Santa's Village, another 1980s relic, in the mountains.

    Marlow and Coffman were found and arrested just hours later. Redlands and Huntington Beach police departments and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department all worked together.

    "That case was certainly the epitome of the work the Redlands Police Department has been known for for the last 30-some years," Bueermann said.

    On Nov. 18, 1986, Novis' friends held a memorial service for her before her body was returned to Idaho.

    But it wasn't until March of 1987 that hearings for Marlow and Coffman began.

    The two were tried together, although represented by separate lawyers.

    Two years later, in 1989, both were convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping for robbery, burglary and sodomy.

    Both were sentenced to death, and both have yet to see that sentence carried out.

    "This was not going to stop. They were absolutely serial killers," Fitzmaurice said.

    "Hopefully, some day they will get their sentence," he added. "In my opinion, I hope they rot in hell."

    "We will follow them step by step to the gas chamber," Novis' father, Bill, said in 1989, after the sentencing. "I want to watch these guys take their last breath like they watched Corinna take her last breath."

    Novis' duplex apartment still stands near Redlands High School, now no longer the only high school in town.

    State Farm Insurance now has several locations in Redlands, and Gay 90s is now just a specialty pizza at the Gourmet Pizza Shop. The once-booming Redlands Mall only houses the CVS pharmacy now.

    Twenty-five years later, the Redlands Corinna Novis knew may not be the same one. But mention her name, and people old enough to remember just might.

    "I do remember it, vividly," said Karen Skyberg Garvin, who was a senior at Redlands High School at the time. "It was so terrifying that something like that could happen so close to home, at home, really."

    "If I recall, she drove a white Honda CRX," said Rhonda Stanton, a new mother in 1986. "To this day, when I see one, I think of her."

    "I feel sorry for people who never got a chance to meet Corinna; she was the type of person that people met and instantly liked," her mother, Donna Novis, said in 1989.

    Redlands Daily Facts archives contributed to this story.


    Corinna Novis Timeline

    Friday, Nov. 7, 1986
    5 p.m.: Corinna Novis, 20, of Redlands, departs work at State Farm Insurance.

    5-6 p.m.: Novis buys pack of cigarettes from Cho's Liquor, talks to unidentified man and tells him she plans to be at a University of Redlands party that night after she gets dinner.

    5:30-6 p.m.: Novis makes withdrawal from her account at the Redlands branch of First Interstate Bank. Uses drive-through teller. Man in passenger seat of her car is later identified as James Marlow.

    6 p.m.: Novis misses a nail appointment.

    8:30 p.m. Friend calls Novis, answering machine is on.

    10 p.m.: Friend calls Novis, answering machine no longer operates.

    8-11 p.m.: Novis misses dinner at Gay 90s Pizza Parlor with friends, and homecoming parties at U of R.

    Saturday, Nov. 8, 1986
    Novis misses U of R Homecoming football game she had planned to attend.

    Sunday, Nov. 9, 1986
    Novis is supposed to meet a cousin at the Ontario airport. She fails to show up.

    Monday, Nov. 10, 1986
    Novis does not show up for work. Employer Jean Cramer worries after she fails to hear from Novis and checks Novis' apartment. Cramer finds door ajar, telephone answering machine missing and thermostat set at 90 degrees.

    2:30 p.m. Cramer reports that Novis is missing to the Redlands Police Department.

    Wednesday, Nov. 12, 1986
    1:30 p.m.: Redlands police announce that a missing person investigation is being conducted to find Novis.

    First Interstate Bank teller recognizes Novis' photograph in the newspaper as customer who made a withdrawal Friday from the drive-through teller lane with a man in the passenger seat. He is later identified as matching Marlow's description.

    Redlands police begin to identify suspects, according to then Police Chief Robert Brickley.

    6:30 p.m.: Lynel Murray, 19, of Huntington Beach, is abducted from the Prime Cleaners dry cleaning store where she worked as she locks up shop. When parents report her missing two hours later, police check shop and find her car in the parking lot, the shop closed and the money from the cash register missing.

    8:15 p.m.: Marlow and Cynthia Coffman allegedly try to use Murray's ATM card to withdraw cash.

    Thursday, Nov. 13, 1986
    Marlow and Coffman are seen in the areas of Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach.

    Marlow and Coffman are traced to the San Bernardino area along with Novis' car.

    11:30 a.m.: Marlow and Coffman register at the Bavarian Lodge in Big Bear using Murray's name and credit card. Police set up surveillance around the motel a short time later.

    3:45 p.m.: A maid at the Huntington Beach Inn, located two to three miles from Prime Cleaners, discovers Murray's body in a hotel room.

    Redlands police arrest Marlow's sister, Veronica Koppers of Colton, and Richard Drinkhouse of Fontana, as accessories to Novis' kidnapping.

    Friday, Nov. 14, 1986
    Brickley holds a press conference to announce that Marlow and Coffman are the prime suspects in the Novis kidnapping and Murray kidnap-murder cases, and are believed to be heading towards Arizona. Brickley also announces that two arrests have been made of San Bernardino area residents as accessories to the Novis kidnapping.

    11:15 a.m.: Novis' car is discovered in the parking lot of Santa's Village in Sky Forest near Twin Peaks. The license plates on her car have been changed and are registered to a Stockton-area automobile.

    1:45 p.m.: A woman matching Coffman's description is seen at Heidi's Restaurant in Lake Arrowhead Village.

    2 p.m.: The California Highway Patrol reports a car over the roadside near Snow Valley, suspected to be the Stockton-area automobile.

    3 p.m.: Marlow and Coffman are arrested without incident as they walk down a Big Bear street after being spotted at a nearby lumberyard.

    Saturday, Nov. 15, 1986
    4:30 a.m.: Novis' body was found in a shallow grave in a Fontana vineyard, east of Sierra Avenue and south of the 10 Freeway, after Marlow and Coffman led police to the area.

    Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1986
    7 p.m.: Memorial services for Novis were held at the Cortner Funeral Chapel. Interment took place in her hometown of Gooding, Idaho.

    The San Bernardino County District Attorney Dennis Kottmeier said he would seek the death penalty against Marlow and Coffman.

    Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1986
    The San Bernardino County Coroner Brian McCormick said that final autopsy results determined that Novis died of both strangulation and suffocation.

    March, 1987
    The preliminary hearing against Marlow and Coffman began.

    November, 1988
    Marlow and Coffman are tried together, but represented by different attorneys.

    February, 1989
    Marlow testifies in his own defense, telling the jury that he didn't want to kill Novis, and that when he left her partially buried in a Fontana vineyard, she was still alive.

    Wednesday, March 15, 1989
    Marlow and Coffman were convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping for robbery, burglary and sodomy, and of being armed with a firearm during the commission of the crimes.

    The jury also found that Marlow and Coffman committed the crimes with the intent to kill Novis, special allegations that qualified them for the gas chamber.

    Thursday, June 29, 1989
    The death sentence is recommended for both Marlow and Coffman, making Coffman the first woman on death row since three members of the Manson Family were sentenced to death 20 years earlier.

    http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/news/ci_19278473

  5. #5
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    Can you tell me how to research an inmates status on death row in California?

  6. #6
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    Are you interested in this particular case or Cali cases in general?
    A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by CraigJ View Post
    Can you tell me how to research an inmates status on death row in California?
    You have to do it manually. Some states have a direct link where you can see an inmates current appeals status, but California you got to know the appeals process and do research. Its easier to track if they are in the Federal Habeas Corpus stage. Californias DOC website will only tell you if the sentence has been affirmed on direct appeal or reversed. Almost impossible to find the status during postconviction proceedings

  8. #8
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    I checked Justia and Coffman's case is still in the federal district court of appeals.
    A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

  9. #9
    bem17356
    I would normally make an analogy or historical reference at this point between Cynthia Lynn Coffman and Elizabeth Duncan but alas some of The Moderators frown on this, so I won't. I can only express the hope that Ms. Coffman is given an Execution Date within the next 5 years.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by iMxth3xbossx5000 View Post
    You have to do it manually. Some states have a direct link where you can see an inmates current appeals status, but California you got to know the appeals process and do research. Its easier to track if they are in the Federal Habeas Corpus stage. Californias DOC website will only tell you if the sentence has been affirmed on direct appeal or reversed. Almost impossible to find the status during postconviction proceedings
    Use the case search on the California Supreme Court website. It will cover both direct appeals and postconviction matters

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