A man accused of killing his parents in their South Jersey home has told investigators the violence began with an argument over household chores.
The trial of Ryan E. Coles, 34, began last week in Gloucester County.
He is accused of killing Edward M. Coles Jr., 58, and Rosemarie Coles, 55, in their home in West Deptford Township in 2016. Coles, who lived with his parents, allegedly used his bare hands and a object to bludgeon the couple. Autopsies determined that they died of blunt head trauma.
The trial included testimony from family members and the presentation of evidence, including text messages Coles had with other family members. The prosecution also presented items recovered from the crime scene, including bloodied clothing, broken furniture and shattered glassware.
A video of Coles’ lengthy interview with two detectives conducted shortly after his arrest was also shown.
In this interview, Coles claimed that his parents molested him after expressing their anger at his inability to do household chores and that the fight turned into a fight between the three of them. He told investigators his mother told him to ‘plead self-defence’ as they fought and he claimed he did not realize during the interview that his parents were dead.
Detectives tried for more than 90 minutes to get Coles to provide a coherent explanation for his actions, speaking calmly and showing empathy, but their patience eventually ran out.
“You’re full of s—,” one says in response to Coles repeating the claim about what his mother said. “Ryan, your mother is dying in your hands. We have bloody fingerprints on the door…trying to get out.
“She’s not pleading for her life?” Tell you to stop? asks the detective.
Coles stands by his request and apparently laughs.
“Is that funny?” the detective asks, his voice rising. “Your mother died and you’re laughing.”
“Is this a prank?” he yells. “Your mother and father died at your hands and you will laugh. So maybe you are the monster and not a person who has lost control. She says to you: ‘It’s okay, kill me? Advocate self-defense? »
Coles looks confused and backs off from his answers.
“She told you to stop, didn’t she?” said the other detective.
“Yeah,” Coles concedes, admitting he felt bad about what happened but still insisting his parents were the abusers.
Coles claimed he was kicked in the head and suffered serious injuries in the confrontation, but detectives told him he had no evidence of defensive wounds on his body.
Coles apparently stayed in the house after the murder until his grandfather called the next morning to ask where the parents were. The grandfather came to the house and the bodies were found under the laundry, which Coles said he placed above the victims.
In text messages a few weeks before the murder, Ed Coles expressed his frustration with his son for not doing his own dishes and told him he would have to move out due to continuing disputes in the household. He accused his son of “trying to get under my skin” and of trying to get his parents to fight.
On the morning of August 25 – the murder apparently happened later that night – Ed Coles texted his son that he would need to find a new place to live because the couple were planning to move to a community 55 and over. . He told his son he needed to find a better job where he could work 40 hours a week so he could be on his own. “You have to aim for something better,” Ed Coles said of his son’s job prospects.
Ryan Coles replied that he was “working on it now”.
During the trial, defense attorney Lucille Bongiovanni questioned an investigator about the defendant’s psychological state and comments family members had made to police suggesting Coles had a mental illness.
This testimony included statements that police had previously been called to the home for domestic violence incidents involving Edward and Ryan Coles.
Coles opted for a bench trial, which means Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Kramer, rather than a jury, will make a finding at the end of the case.
The prosecution completed its case last week and the defense will have its turn from Monday.
Coles’ parents were high school sweethearts who married and raised two sons. The other son was not living at home when the murders took place.
Ed Coles was bandleader of the Bonsal Blues Band at the time of his death. He played clarinet and saxophone and had spent 42 years with the community band.
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Matt Gray can be reached at [email protected].