It was August 2017, during the middle of Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, when Steven Coleman was shot in the head by his then-girlfriend, Cierra Sutton, who proceeded to dismember his dead body with a machete and spread his body parts around Baytown, dropping them in different garbage dumpsters. Moreover, she deposited the remaining torso in an area landfill.
Because of when the horrific crime happened, with all media and community focus on Harvey, many people during 2017 were unaware of the crime. However, the story was so insidious that it drew national attention from multiple media production companies.
But before the crime had come to light, Sutton reported Coleman missing to the Baytown Police Department. Yet, it wasn’t until his torso was discovered by a landfill worker that her story of care and concern for her “missing” boyfriend began to unravel.
Sutton was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 45 years in prison. However, the pain suffered by Korla Coleman, Steven’s mother, was only just beginning.
Adding to grieving the loss of her son, was grappling with the fact that Steven’s girlfriend, who accompanied Korla to the police station and helped Korla and Steven’s brother Chris pass out missing person fliers in hopes of finding Steven, was actually the one who took her son’s life.
However, that pain was only magnified by additional forces outside Korla’s control. While attempting to move forward with her life, the story of her son’s horrific murder was used by multiple television production companies and networks that produced shows that served to reopen her wounds.
TVOne, a cable channel, produced and aired a gruesome episode of “Fatal Attraction” about Steven’s death, making millions in profits off the tragedy. True Crime Daily produced a mini-documentary (https://youtu.be/DHqUeIXh2H4) that has garnered 2.9 million YouTube views. Before Korla Coleman knew it, inaccurate accounts of her son’s murder were everywhere, and consumed by viewers as facts.
“Our pain has always been America’s entertainment,” said local activist Deric Muhammad. “Here you have a man who was shot while sleeping, dismembered and massacred in the worst way. When television networks like TVOne, VH1 and others reenact these true crime murders for profit it further retraumatizes an already traumatized family. The family’s pain becomes the public’s entertainment. I think the American public should boycott watching such trash. These families deserve to heal in peace. Instead, all they receive is exploitation.”
Networks were profiting while her family suffered. Recently, the family was contacted by a producer at VH1 who stated plans to do yet another documentary about Steven’s murder.
Korla Coleman, who for years refused media interviews, recently broke her silence in a courageous effort to say to the profiteering networks, “No more.”
“True Crime is a billion-dollar media genre. America loves murder. The entertainment market for it is huge. But, what about the families and loved ones of the victims who are haunted by these repulsive accounts of their loved ones’ violent murders and harassed for the rest of their lives? How can they ever have a happy holiday? (Deric Muhammad)
On Nov. 22, 2022, SHAPE Community Center hosted a press conference attended by Korla Coleman, her son Chris, activist Deric Muhammad, attorney Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem, activist Arthur Reed, Anthony Muhammad and others. It was during this press conference that Korla broke her silence and spoke on the abuse she says she is experiencing by the continued airing of these media re-enactments of her son’s murder.
“It’s been five years since Steven Coleman’s murder and the details are still extremely fresh on his mother’s mind, as they would be. My question is what blood-sucking company would want to continue to re-victimize an already victimized family by seeking to profit by telling the story that’s already been told over and over again? We say as a community, hands off of the Coleman family,” said Muhammad.
Here are excerpts from that press conference from Korla and Chris Coleman and from Muhammad.
Mom’s message on son’s phone
I left a message on my son’s phone, “Two days, if you don’t call me I’m coming. I know where Houston is. Because I moved back to New Orleans, the worst mistake I could have done, and left my son. But he didn’t want to come back [to New Orleans]. He said that it was a lot of opportunity out here for him with his music. So, I rushed to Houston, to Baytown. They told me the detectives were not in. I had to wait until Monday. I rode around, looking for my son. I called a news station. I can’t think of which one it was… I asked her could she put my son’s picture on the news, because he’s missing. (Korla Coleman)
At that point, when I’m talking to the news lady, the person who killed my son, what I really want to say I can’t about her, she’s (Sutton) sitting beside me in the house. Her daughter is in the house also. She’s (Sutton’s) telling me she wishes her mom would have done for her brother what I’m doing for my son. I didn’t catch on at first. And I’m like, “What happened to your brother?” And she said, “My brother was murdered.” And I’m like, okay, that has nothing to do with me. I continued to get ready to go get the flyers to send them out for my son. (Korla Coleman)
Killer in the car
Her daughter was in the house. Her daughter at the time I think was 11 or 10 but she didn’t look it. She looked about 15; something like that. The house had no signs of blood. Nothing. I went through it. After that I went to go get the pictures, the flyers to put out, the news lady told me to send her. I rushed and did it; me and my son Chris. We got it. We had it sent to her. Now, the whole time the killer is riding in the car with me. She’s in the car with me; even pretending like she’s putting the flyers up for my son. She went with me to the police station; in the car with me and my two sons. (Korla Coleman)
Initial meeting with the police
As I get there on Monday… but before Monday, I’s going to back up a little more. Me and my son (Chris), we rode around all looking for Steven. I’m like Steven would never do this to his family, just walk away. Steven would never do that to his daughter who he loved; his own biological daughter. Her (Sutton’s) daughter was not his. She comes with me there (to the police station on Monday). The detective didn’t want to talk to her (Sutton). She (the detective) wanted to talk to me. We get in the back. She’s asking me about different people, did I know them. I told her “No, I didn’t know some of the people by their nicknames.” Some of them I did. I said, “Well, the girl, Cierra, can. She can tell you what time he left. And (the detective) said, “No, I don’t want to talk to her. I only want to talk to you.” I never, it still hadn’t hit me that this girl could have killed my son. Once I left there, (the detective) began to say they were calling people, asking them about Steve and his whereabouts. And they also told me, “People do leave, and they don’t come back sometimes. And then they’ll just show up after they [the police] done put out all their resources.” And I’m telling her, “I know my son. My son would never walk away from his job that he loved, that he traveled on; his music was his passion; his daughter Aniya—his everything.” (Korla Coleman)
Responding to a question from Deric Muhammad: How did it make you feel when you saw what TV One did?
I can’t even explain the words. I felt like I was going to pass out. I’m laying down across my bed watching TV. And there comes my son on TV with Jupiter Production and TV One. As I did my research, they’re all connected. Fatal Attraction, Jupiter Production, TV One and something called For My Man. That’s what I recently found out about also. They’re all connected. They’re (TV One, etc.) talking to two people that’s no relation to my son whatsoever. They’re telling nothing but lies, like Steven didn’t have a job. (However), my son worked for Exxon. My son traveled. He enjoyed going to different states with Exxon. They (TV One, etc.) said that my son was supposed to meet his daughter’s mom and didn’t show up. That never happened. That was a lie.
They said my son grew up in the roughest neighborhood. My boys never grew up in a rough neighborhood. I worked hard to take care of my sons, and the neighborhood they came up in was very decent. They said that my son got in trouble in New Orleans. If you want to do the facts yourself, you can check. My son had no record in New Orleans whatsoever. It’s like, they really tried to paint my son as a horrible person, a womanizer. Never took the time to call and ask me anything. And then they say, worst of all, he lived with the killer. It was her apartment. It was not. You can check that too. The apartment was for my son. She came to live with my son, what I found out, a couple of months after he got it because she claimed that she didn’t have a good relationship with her family, and she had nowhere to live. So, he took her in. Still didn’t want to put her out, from what I can understand, even when he told people if anything happened to him, she did it. (Korla Coleman)
Cierra Sutton had help
She didn’t do that by herself. She had help. Who it was, I don’t know. How could a gun be shot in the apartment and nobody hears it? This is an apartment complex and nobody hears a gun? She had a machete. This is the two cards she gave me (Korla pulls out cards, and shows them to the press); my son’s original bank cards that she used to go to Walmart to get stuff to dispose of his body, and gave [the cards] to me. And I never got rid of them. I kept them. My son was dismembered. My son’s body was moved. The things that she paid for with his bank card she used to dispose of his body.
She was never charged with tampering with a corpse. I see it on the news all the time. She was never charged with child endangerment. Her child was in there also when she did it. It’s no way. Blood in the bedroom, the bathroom, in the kitchen. If you see how this apartment was made, it’s open. There are no doors to block anything. When I talked to the district attorney lady, I’m not going to call her name because I don’t know if I can do that, and I asked her, I was told, and not only that, it’s in the article, two men helped (Cierra) move furniture out of the house. What happened with that? She was wailing up and down, crying, talking to somebody on the phone. At that time, I didn’t know that she had murdered my son. Who was she talking to at that time? Why did the little girl (Sutton’s daughter) say she heard noises? Why didn’t y’all talk to her? You know what she (Sutton) told me? Because she didn’t want to put her daughter through all of this all over again. No. She didn’t want her daughter to tell what really happened to my son—who helped. Because somebody helped her. (Korla Coleman)
TV One and other shows
As they [TV One] show all of that… and then there was another one. That one was called “Storm of Betrayal.” The next one, “It’s Raining Blood” by Matt Holland with Baytown’s Son. He spared me no imagination. He told detail-to-detail how my son’s arms, legs, head, everything was chopped off. Re-enacting with a machete and a knife, blood everywhere. I don’t know how much more I can take. And it’s been five years in August. I don’t miss a day or month going to bring flowers. I had to bury what they found. The rest of the remains—a landfill. A filthy, nasty landfill. She took my son, went around different dumpsters in Baytown, throwing different parts. (Korla Coleman)
The “True Crime” shows about Steven’s murder
What they do, it’s just disgusting. They take our family, other families, and they just exploit our pain and profit off of it. I got my niece. She doesn’t know the details of what happened. And we’re afraid one day she’s going to be on the TV (watching) like my mom was and see her dad. She loves her dad. She adores her dad. He was her everything. And the way they just do that, it violates my brother, it violates us. It’s just disrespectful. They show no regard for our pain and our hurt. I had to go to the library and make “Missing” flyers of my brother, then go walk around, posting them around.
They fabricate so much in the story. From the beginning to the end. Everything they say is, it didn’t happen. It’s all fabricated. I had to go make those flyers. I was, in the middle of the night, walking down alleys searching for my brother. I had to look in dumpsters, scared that I’m going to find my brother’s body. But I had to do it. On the show they even say that they contacted my mom and informed her that my brother was missing. And they said that my mom’s response was that she doesn’t know about my brother’s life in Texas. That she doesn’t have any idea about him, which is completely false. (Chris Coleman)
‘We’re very family-oriented’
We’re very family-oriented. I’m talking to my brother every day. They say that we didn’t hear from my brother for weeks. That we didn’t talk to him for several days or weeks. My brother was killed that Wednesday. I talked to my brother that Monday and Sunday, that Saturday, that Friday, for hours. We also texted. I have the text messages in my phone to show it. I saved our last text messages. We talked about my son, his godson. And we laughed and talked. Our last words to each other were “I love you,” which is something we always did. We never ended a conversation without expressing our love for each other and saying how much we love and appreciate each other. This is how we’ve always been. And for them to sit there and paint this picture, as if we don’t care; we don’t know anything about my brother; we don’t know what’s going on. That’s just not true.
I searched for my brother for days. I rode all over Baytown. I called everybody I knew out there. I searched everywhere out there, high and dry. They didn’t even… the killer was in the car with us while we’re searching. Like, do you now how that feels? (Chris Coleman)
Calling for help
I also would like to say, I called EquuSearch, the FBI, which told me that they (needed to) hear from the (Baytown) detectives in order to search for my son. And I asked the lady, I said, “Ma’am, do you have children?” And she said, “Yeah, I have two children.” I said, “Well, you know how it feels. I don’t want to wait on the detectives. I want to find my son. And if y’all can help in any kind of way.” Well, of course they couldn’t. They had to wait. (The Baytown detectives) never called them (the FBI). I also wrote the White House, trying to get them to see what do, how they do, how gruesome they do it. I also called the senators. I’m not going to say (their) names. Three, I talked to. They told me to send them the link. I sent it. I haven’t heard anything to this day. I came to the conclusion, it’s been almost a year now, calling and calling. False hope. That they only tell me stuff to get me off the phone. (Korla Coleman)
But all I wanted them to do is just look at it. Look at your children. Look at your family members. Look at your loved ones. Tell me would this be okay if that was them? It would not be okay. It wouldn’t be. (TV One, etc.) don’t mind saying stuff about my son like this because he’s not related to them. They don’t care. It’s a money thing. They bragged about the pandemic, how they made so many millions for their viewers. You know what they call it? Entertainment. “My Favorite Murder.” “The Crave.” That means everybody’s getting in on it. Because it’s all about a dollar. (Korla Coleman)
As I did my research, so many families have gone through and still going through this same stuff because the First Amendment protects them. But, I don’t believe the First Amendment protects lies. It’s one thing, because I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has given me this opportunity. I prayed for this. And the strength to be able to talk. Because it’s hard. And it’s one thing, I thank God we have the First Amendment because we do have freedom of speech. But when you tell lies, there should be a line drawn. What about the families? Y’all, that’s entertainment sitting down enjoyment. You’re enjoying this. And people really believe that we gave the okay. I had many people come to me asking “Why did you let them talk about your son?” And I have to tell them, “I never gave them the right to do that. They just do it.” You know what they say? “Are you serious? We didn’t know that they could do that.” Yes, they can. They said they can make the family’s worst nightmare come true and it’s nothing they can do about it. And you know what? They’re right. What can we do? (Korla Coleman)
We do understand that these networks have freedom of speech, and they have the First Amendment as a right. However, with the First Amendment right comes responsibility. And there should come some accountability. And there should also come with it some level of humanity; that you won’t put even more suffering on an already suffering family. (Deric Muhammad)
America’s fascination with murder
I am here as a mother of seven, as an attorney and legal advocate and a supporter of Ms. Coleman and her family. And for them to have to endure it, you see the face of this family, behind the murder, behind the sensationalized True Crime genres. No one is talking about the real victims after the fact, and that’s the families who have to continue to live this trauma over and over and over. When you look at other countries, they censor this type of media; this type of television. It’s only in America where it’s not censored, where it’s sensationalized, whereas Americans we’re fascinated by anything that bleeds. If it bleeds it what, it leads. And behind it is nothing but greed, and we’re taking about the billion-dollar industry of the True Crime genre. (Attorney Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem)
The ’True Crime’ genre and mental trauma
But no one’s talking about the mental health issues or the depression or the anxiety or the hurt and the pain that the families have to endure. And so today, when we saw what happened to our dear brother George Floyd, and Color for Change organization had the ability to petition the community to get cops off the air that had been on the air for 13 years. And it was because of the unity of the people to be able to do that. It was because of the community activists. It was because of grassroots organizations that we had the ability to take that particular “True Crime” program that glorified police brutality. And so, what’s happening now is that we have this particular genre that’s not only causing trauma and hurt to the families, but they’re educating future criminals. And no one’s saying anything about it. You have these corporations, these networks who are not held accountable by any regulations. (Attorney Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem)
Action being asked for
So, we’re asking the federal politicians, we’re asking the local politicians because local politics is what leads. We’re asking the state legislature to create some type of legislation that protects the victims’ families after the crime has occurred. Don’t allow corporations, don’t allow networks to come in to make a dollar. As you heard the family talk about, as you heard the mother and the brother talk about, they (networks) can say whatever they want to say. There is no fact-checking. There is no reliability on the facts. They can publish lies, untruths. And the families have to endure that.
He (Chris) talked about his nieces, his children, her grandchildren will one day see these lies that are told about their daddy, who really was villainized. He’s the victim, but now he’s villainized. So, again, there has to be some responsibility, some accountability. And so, as community activists, as leaders, as voices for the community, we have to do something. We have to protect our community. So, we are going to say something and we’re going to use our First Amendment rights to say something. But we have to do it collectively, and say it’s time out for this type of television because it is destroying the fabric of America. And it has already destroyed this family. (Attorney Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem)
Q: Why did you decide to break your silence now?
When my son came and showed me on his phone where Infamy was trying to get in touch with us in order to do a story on my son, that was it. I was already dealing with and calling around, trying to see if someone could help me before I talked to activist Deric Muhammad, to try and get something done. I was already calling the senators. I had already written a letter, and that was the breaking point that made me say, “You know what; I’m tired and I’m ready to fight back.” Through tears. Because this is not easy to sit here. I’m trying to hold back from crying. This is why I could never talk to the media too much. And especially when I found out through the media that he was dismembered the next day. And I called and asked why didn’t they tell us that. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Well, you just told me my son was murdered. He’s dead. And at that point, I said enough. I couldn’t do it (stay silent) anymore. I have to fight back. And I have people come up to me, this is all the time, “I’m sorry about what happened to your son, but why did you let them talk about your son?” I didn’t. This is what I have to tell them. I didn’t. “Well, why are you not doing anything about it?” “I am. I just wasn’t getting any answers back.” (Korla Coleman)
Q: Did the companies that tried to get in touch with you offer the opportunity to participate?
I had one, Jupiter Productions. You know what they told me? “We would like to talk about your son growing up.” That’s it. Nothing else. And I told him, “I’m not ready, but when I feel like I’m ready that’s all I’ll talk to you about. If you want to know about my son coming up, if you want to know about my son’s music, that was fine. When I’m ready, I’ll do it.” They didn’t do that. They, in fact, the day I was at my son’s grave, what I was able to bury, bringing flowers, they called and said they were in Baytown and they were about to do a story on my son. And I exploded, and told them, “Don’t you do anything. Don’t you dare say anything about my son. You don’t even know what really happened with my son.” They did it anyway. And I know if I didn’t do anything, it’s going to go on and on and on. And then my granddaughter is going to grow up [and] she’s going to see it. She knows nothing about what really happened. She just made (turned) 12. She was seven when it happened. We protected her from it. And really, I just talked to my youngest son. He didn’t know all the details. But I felt like it was time. I didn’t want to hide it from him anymore. He does a lot of crying about it. I can’t tell y’all what the nights are like for me. I could be laughing and talking one minute with somebody, and then the next minute crying. I’ve got to say this. When my son was missing I had great respect for families of missing people. I don’t know how they do it. I got on my knees and I told Jesus, “You see Steven. Where is he? You’re looking at Steven. Let them find my son. Please.” And at that point, through constantly praying, that’s when I got the call that somebody had found a part, not all, of my son. And I just don’t believe she (Sutton) did all that. Not by herself. She did it. But she had help. She had help. (Korla Coleman)
Q: Any final words you would like to say?
I just wanted to get a chance to tell the real story of what happened to Steven. And I wanted to because so many people have seen (these media True Crime productions) and they believe it. Steve was a people person. He loved to laugh. His job loved him. They gave him a big sendoff. But I didn’t attend. I didn’t have the strength. He loved to travel. The job sent him traveling. He loved music. Music was his passion. And he was almost there to the fame that he always wanted with his music. He wrote over 300 songs. And I was told by one of his friends that Steven was the first one that can write a song and sing it without looking at the paper.
He loved family. He loved his daughter. She was his everything. I shared some pictures with activist Deric, but I don’t want to show them because we’re on and I don’t want her face to be seen. And that’s another thing they (media companies) did. And I’m going to leave this final word. They showed a picture of my granddaughter with my son holding her. The picture was not blotted out. I just wanted y’all to know that my son was a caring person. He went home from work, and was intending on getting up for work. I don’t really know how she did it, but I don’t believe it was a gun, because nobody heard any gunshots.
I believe that she (Sutton) had somebody in there when he got there. And I believe they attacked my son so that nobody would hear anything. The neighbors say they didn’t hear anything. You’re going to hear a gunshot. You’re going to hear some kind of rumbling or something. And I know my son. My son, he was very clean. He’d go take a shower. He loved to take showers. How could blood be in the bathroom, the bedroom and the kitchen? How could (Sutton’s) daughter not see something when the apartment is open? (Korla Coleman)
As you can see, Mrs. Coleman and her family have waited for years for a platform for her voice to be heard. We (the activists assembled at the press conference) pledge from this moment forward to make certain that this family and families like this receive protection and not exploitation. They should be given an opportunity to heal in peace. They should be given an opportunity to come to grips with the horrific way that their loved one was taken from them without being pimped by networks and corporations who only want to make a dollar; dirty, damn dollar off of their pain. We will be reaching out to these networks in our own way, be it legal or be it just moral. Our cry, our plea and our demand is to cease and desist with these stories about Steven Coleman. Let him rest in peace and let his family heal in peace. (Deric Muhammad)